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Ted Thompson Press Conference Transcript - Feb. 22

The annual NFL Scouting Combine began this week in Indianapolis, and the Green Bay Packers have their usual contingent in attendance. That includes General Manager Ted Thompson along with his entire pro personnel and college scouting staffs, who will be evaluating and interviewing many of the roughly 300 prospective draft picks throughout the weekend-long event. - Press Conference Transcript | Audio


(Can you talk about the challenge of picking 30th versus 5th two years ago?)

When it comes to drafting, obviously when you're picking 30th as opposed to fifth two years ago, you have to sit there and watch a lot of good players be selected. But that's part of it. I think most teams would rather be at 30, or even better 31 this year. But we're OK with that. The thing that's interesting, we talk about the first round, but it sort of multiplies as you go along. Every round you have to sit there and wait 30 times. So it's a little more difficult.

(Is the guessing game more difficult, figuring out which players will come off the board?)

Those of us in the profession, we don't like to refer to it as a 'guessing game,' but I understand your point. History tells you that every time you pick, no matter where you're at, there's a good player to take. Now, the margin of error is less when you're picking at the end of the round, every round. We have a good staff, we understand the challenges in front of us, and we'll see how it goes. But if we do our job, I think we'll be able to pick a good player every time.

(Where are you at now at tight end without Bubba?)

Well, we have Donald Lee, and we have Tory Humphrey, who was on injured reserve all year.

(In terms of need, is it a need position?)

I don't know. It'll be something that we'll look at, like we do at all positions. At this particular time, we don't really get that wrapped up or focused on that. But we'll address those things as we go around.

(In the first round, would you mind using a pick like you did with Rodgers, a guy who might not play right away but would be an option down the road?)

Sure. That would be an option that you'd look at. You never turn down good football players, and we're very happy that Aaron's on our team. I think he's going to be a really good quarterback, and I think it's an investment in your team and investment in your future.

(Can you talk about the thought process with tagging Corey Williams?)

Well, we thought it was a very simple thing. We think Corey is a very good young player, he's been very durable, he showed a lot of versatility this year, he's a good teammate and good in the locker room, and we just felt like this was an avenue under the collective bargaining agreement that we had a chance to be able to retain his services or at least have some control over being able to keep him. We just felt like it was the thing to do.

(You have a lot of money invested in defensive linemen. Do you care what percentage of your payroll goes to which position?)

No, I think it's a reflection of the position, No. 1. I think if you're fortunate enough to have some good players in the defensive line position, I think, or in the offensive line position -- anything with the big guys -- I think it's difficult to find guys that can play and play effectively. We've talked about this before: We like the group maybe better than some people if you picked it apart and individualized them. We like the group, we like the ability to be versatile, play different positions, and rotate guys in and out of the game. So we felt like that's been helpful to our team.

(What's the latest on Brett? Do you see something happening before free agency starts?)

I wouldn't want to speculate on that. But it's, it's Brett's call. He more than probably anybody I've ever been around has earned the right to be able to decide. Any player can, but I think certainly he has, as we have said over the last several years, he has the right to be able to make this choice. We've been in conversation with him, and he understands as he's always done, he understands the needs of the team and he doesn't want to put the team in a bad spot. He's working through that.

(When did you last speak to him personally?)

A couple three days ago or something.

(Have you ever put a deadline on his decision?)

No, I never have. Even in past years, when people thought we did, no. But there are things that one must do depending on that decision, and he's aware of those things.

(The junior running backs coming out, how much do they help this running back class?)

Well, on the surface and off tape, it looks like it's a pretty good group overall and certainly some of the juniors are very high-profile players, so yeah, I would think it would have helped. You don't really know the juniors at all because you haven't scouted them, you haven't asked coaches about them, you haven't met them, even when you go to the school, you don't even pay attention to those guys because you're so focused on doing the seniors. So this is the first opportunity we'll have had all the teams to get to know these guys, to see 'em and look at 'em and see how they react with other players. So this is hugely important for us to get to know these guys.

(How do you balance a senior's experience versus a junior who has less tread wear?)

Yeah, I don't think it matters, I think at any position you're always weighing the pros and cons of a senior who's had another year of experience, another year of maturity, as opposed to a younger fellow, a junior that's coming out early. I think as a rule, the NFL as a whole, I think we would all prefer, people like myself, and people in the league office, probably would prefer everybody would stay in and then you would have a shortfall (in the draft) the first year but then after that, everything would be back the same. I think we'd all be a little better off, but these guys have to make those decisions based on their own situations and family environment and things like that.

(With the CBA possibly opening in November, do you take that into account in your decision-making, in terms of planning for the future and the length of contracts?)

You have to be aware of your surroundings, and I don't want to get too specific about it, but certainly...I don't think it's going to affect anything from a personnel standpoint too much. But you have to be aware that there are different scenarios as we go forward. We've been for some time now talking about it, planning for it. But it will be uncharted water as well, so we'll all learn as we go along.

(How do you feel about the running back group you have?)

I like our running back group. I felt good about it during training camp, and then all of them started getting hurt and I didn't feel quite as good. Then some of the guys got back healthy, we made the trade for Ryan. I didn't know how it was going to turn out. As it turned out, over the course of the season, Ryan became the more established starter - quote-unquote starter - and Brandon and Vernand and those guys became more role players and special teams players and things. We like that group. We like the possibilities of that group getting better and evolving as a unit. Then we have some other guys that were injured that will be coming back. Like every position, we're looking to try to get better, but we feel pretty good about the group.

{sportsad300}(In terms of franchise-building, what were the key decision you made when you came in that enabled your team to come back so quickly?)

I don't know. We did this collectively. I either get a lot of credit or a lot of blame, but there are a lot of people involved in the decisions we make. We felt like it was important to identify our core veteran players, and make sure they would be with us going forward. We've done that, we've extended contracts, we've gone to those guys. We didn't want this to be, well, Thompson is coming in now and he's going to get rid of all the other guys and he's going to get all his guys. That's not the way we feel, because the Packers were a good team and they had some very solid veteran players. So we focused on that. We also felt at the same time that the organization needed to add several more young core players to the team, and we felt like the best way to do that was through the draft and accumulate some more picks and use those picks because you're not going to hit on every one. But we feel like we've been able to make some inroads in adding core young players that some of them may have started right away and look they're going to be starters. Some of them are special teams players that might hopefully eventually evolve into becoming starters. Then you have that group that keeps going on. Once you have your veterans that graduate and retire or do whatever, then you have people to step up and play. Especially getting through a 16-game season in the NFL, it's hard to trot the same guys out there every week. So we felt like we needed guys that could step in and play two or three games and the team go on as normal. For the most part I think we've done that. I think that's a credit to Mike McCarthy and his staff, and first and foremost it's a credit to those players. It's a credit to our veteran players for being leaders, and it's a credit to our younger guys for standing up next to these grown men and playing hard.

(You've traded down a lot in your three drafts. Might you take a different approach with better depth now?)

I don't know. Every time it's your turn to pick the situation can warrant that. It could also be a scenario -- and I say this all the time, I don't know if we've done that yet -- but we could move up. That would be a change, but we could do that. I think we have a good group, and we've added a lot of young guys, so we don't feel like we're going to be stressed to have to do anything, so maybe we sit there and pick at all of our picks and things like that. It just kind of depends on where you are in the draft and how your board looks at that particular time.

(With the depth improved, would you potentially change your philosophy and take a player based on need versus the best player available?)

No. I don't think you can do that. This would be an exaggerated situation, but if you had a guy you think has got a chance to be a Pro Bowl player eventually as opposed to a guy that's just going to kind of get you by, but it's a position where you're really hurting, I think it's a bad decision, not only for the long term, I think it's a bad decision for the short term. Because you never know where your need is going to be. You might go into training camp thinking that you're completely solid at a particular position and get two people hurt and all of a sudden you've got a dire need at that spot. I just think for us, it works best if we kind of stay true to what we're thinking.

(Can you talk about the evolution of the guard position since you took over in Green Bay - at first you released Rivera and Wahle, then brought in young guys who have had some growing pains - and how it's working now?)

Thanks for bringing that up. That's a sore subject with some. Yeah, we had two established, very good players at guard when I got there in 2005, in Mike Wahle and Marco Rivera. They were both at the end of their contracts. Mike's was a different thing. Mike had a huge roster bonus that we had to make a decision on. Quite frankly, we didn't have a lot of flexibility at the time to be able to do much, and we lost some. Our first year, 2005, I didn't do a good job of getting those guys replaced. We made a concerted effort in the offseason of 2006 to add some guys. We felt like the draft was very, very strong in the offensive line, and we were able to draft three guys that year, and then we've added another guy or two since, and then we have Juice Coston from the 2005 draft. Overall, we feel very good about our offensive line. Once again, it's sort of a combination of the young guys that have stepped in and played as well as our two tackles who are the more veteran established guys. Certainly Scott Wells has stepped in and taken over for Mike Flanagan at center and done a good job. We feel like we're getting better. We think we can get a lot better yet. We try to do that a lot in the offseason, with our offseason program. We have a good coaching staff in the offensive line. I think we're getting better. But it didn't start out as well as I would have hoped.

(How do you assess the group of offensive linemen in this draft?)

I do think this is a very strong group in the offensive line. Not only early in the draft, I think it will be strong and I think teams will have opportunities later on in the draft as well.

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