Although the 2004 NFL season has been finished for more than two weeks now and the last game played at Lambeau Field took place more than a month ago, by no means have the halls of the Green Bay Packers offices been a quiet place as of late.
For much of the past month, and continuing through the draft in late April, the team's scouting department has been logging office hours comparable to those the coaching staff puts in on a weekly basis during the season to put in that week's game plan.
Leading up to the league's annual Scouting Combine that kicks off this week in Indianapolis, General Manager Ted Thompson and his personnel staff have spent countless hours in the Packers' draft room poring over files and video footage of hundreds of college football players that will be available for selection later in the spring.
Danny Mock, the Packers' college scouting coordinator, explained the process that will lead the team to choose which players will be coming to Green Bay for their first professional training camp this summer.
He said that the process of scouting each potential draftee or free agent signing begins well in advance of the draft, even before one of the Packers' college scouts sees the player in practice or during a game during his senior year.
"Our first real look at the players for the coming year's draft will be in May," Mock said. "We belong to National Football Scouting - which is a scouting combine that now has 17 teams in it. What they do is they have 11 area scouts - they're the basic information-getters, data-getters working ahead of us. They're out at this point right now, all the way through the spring, gathering next year's list."
From there, the team's college scouts - under the direction of John Dorsey, Green Bay's director of college scouting - travel all over the country during the summer and fall watching an infinite number of collegiate practices and games and write evaluations on the potential prospects.
Mock said the Packers had compiled reports on more than 1,300 players that would be wrapping up their college careers and would be eligible for the draft this spring.
"Basically, you start with about 10,000 names back in the spring that are four-year eligible seniors playing at about 700 colleges," he said. "So we go from 10,000 to 1,337 reports - files that we have on players - to about 525 that we'll speak about. And then that 525 will be whittled down to around 250 on draft day."
That process of narrowing the field of potential candidates has been what the personnel staff has been working on in their meetings over the past month. Mock explained that each prospect is closely studied by the full group after an initial report by the scout who saw the player first-hand in the fall.
Each player is scrutinized as the personnel men evaluate the prospects one by one, position by position in anticipation of getting a closer look at them in Indianapolis.
"It's an open forum, because certain guys will point out certain things that others might not have seen, and it's a good process," said Mock. "It's an open process. It's not an exact science, that's for sure."
Once the week-long Combine is finished in early March, the process will begin again, factoring in all the new information gathered.
"We get new data, we get to see guys live, see their athletic ability, get more medical information," Mock said of the benefit of the league-wide scouting meeting. "That just adds to the pieces of the pie that are missing.
"Some of these guys we only have estimated heights and weights. Some of them could be estimated two inches shorter or taller than they really are. They might have gained a lot of weight their senior year. A lot of the verified stuff we have is from their "spring timing" as a junior going into their senior year, so the information is a year old. Guys in college still grow taller, get heavier from lifting weights and mature as a football players."
Of all the information there is to gather about a player that the team might not already have in their pre-Combine meetings, the Packers leave no doubt that they will do whatever they can to learn everything they can about these prospects.
The Green and Gold will be sending a full crew - approximately 45 people - to Indiana for the week of fact-finding. The entire coaching staff, the personnel staff, the medical staff and the video department will all be in attendance to learn all there is to know about the stars of tomorrow.
"That's about the norm - teams are going to have anywhere from about 30 to 47," Mock said.
In today's NFL, it is often said that there really is no off-season. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the year-round quest to find the prospects that will become stars down the road. In search of those stars, the Packers leave no stones unturned.