Ted Thompson Press Conference Transcript No. 2 - April 25

Read the transcript of General Manager Ted Thompson’s press conference following the selection of NT B.J. Raji. - More Read the transcript of Thompson’s press conference following the selection of OLB Clay Matthews. - More

(This is tremendously out of character for you to move up like this. What went into the decision?)

Well, we thought a lot of him. We moved up last year too in a trade. I think it is a point, and we have talked about this before, the way you look at your board, so you have to kind of evaluate who you think you might get at your later picks against the player that you are talking about taking. We were really zeroed in on Clay. We think he's a really, really nice fit for our defense. He's a guy that has worked his way up. He was a former walk-on, 205 pounds, that wound up starting and playing for one of the better teams in America. He plays the game very well. He has obvious great genetics going for him, and I think he is going to have a really nice career.

(Was there a void in the second and third rounds that made it worth going up to get him?)

Yeah, I don't think it was so much that really as how much we thought of Clay. We really wanted to try to get him. We have thought about this for the past couple of weeks in terms of what strategies we would use to maybe try to get him at some point. People had him going anywhere from like No. 12 or so to No. 30. We didn't know where it would be. Actually, quite frankly when I was here before, I had no idea that we would be able to get back in a position that we would be able to take him. I didn't know.

(When did you start to feel so strong about him, the combine or Senior Day, and what does it say about a guy that he is willing to walk on at USC instead of going to another school where maybe he could have played right away?)

He was a legacy walk-on. His uncle went to school there and his daddy went to school there, so it probably wasn't a huge shock that he went to school there. But to answer your question, Sam Seale scouts the West Coast, as you guys know, and he liked those guys. That is a hard scouting trip to scout all of those guys at that place. Clay is one of those guys, Brian Cushing and Rey Maualuga got a lot of the press and there is actually another linebacker there that is a really good player that will be drafted, but the more you watch him the more natural he looks as a player. He's always on his feet. He has great hips and balance. He can use his hands effectively against offensive linemen and running backs. He can run. He had a great 40 at the combine. He can move in space. He can do the things that anybody looks for in a defensive player. And we did study the USC boys quite a bit just because there were a lot of them. Even when you are watching somebody else, all of a sudden you go, 'was that No. 47 again?' He just makes a lot of plays, and everybody makes their share of plays too.

(Are you sure he is not just a workout guy, and what convinced you of that?)

The way he plays. He plays the game remarkable. He's got some interesting traits that are not unlike his father, the Clay who played for Cleveland for a long, long time. He's got the ability to extend his hands and leverage against offensive linemen and stay on his feet in positions where most people wouldn't be able to stay on their feet. I just think he brings a lot to the table. He's accomplished certainly as a pass rusher and a run defender, but he's also athletic and can move and has a feel for space.

(How did this trade play out? Were you trying to get even higher?)

Our guys were calling and teams call each other all the time. Every time somebody's on the clock or right before they get on the clock, there's calling all the time. So there was some sniffing around, and most of the time these guys, John (Dorsey) or Reggie (McKenzie) or John (Schneider) will look at me and say they want such and such and such and such, and I'll just go no, you know. But this time I didn't say no. I said yes.

(Did you use a trade-value chart for this, and if so, was it an old one or a new one?)

I don't know. We have a couple three of them. One's a composite thing of different ones, and I think one's the original Cowboy one, and there's another one. We have Mike Eayrs who works in statistics and numbers, he does things like that. It wasn't a great trade, but it wasn't a horrible trade for us from a number standpoint. Again, it gets to how badly do you want the player.

(What do you think you did for your defense today?)

I think we added a couple of good players that should help our group. Again, our success is going to rest on our veterans and our core players. These young guys are going to come in and hopefully help us out.

(I know you can never have too many players, but you have a lot of outside linebackers now, don't you?)

I think it shakes out well. You need a bunch to run this defense. Those guys are invaluable. One of the beautiful things about the 3-4 defense is you can carry more on your 53-man roster, guys that are a little bit bigger and faster and taller than maybe on a regular 4-3 group, so we're looking forward to it.

(Do you see him more as a speed rusher on the right side or someone who plays the tight end?)

I think he can do either. I think he's proven, and if you watch tape on him, he's a very versatile guy.

(When you are dealing with a team that has as much talent as USC, how can you tell if a guy is that talented?)

Well, hopefully we have some ability to scout. I'm not trying to be glib, but you just watch. You watch and see how they play. I see your point, but just because someone comes from a place that's a good team, it doesn't make them have individual players that perform well.

(Did you and Clay's father play against each other and did that factor in at all?)

I don't know his father. Yeah, we certainly played against each other. He would have been on defense and I would have been on special teams, so I'm not sure we actually hit each other at any particular time. He was a really good player and I was just a guy. I played with his uncle Bruce in Houston for a number of years. I think one of those guys played 19 years and one of them might have played 20. I'm hoping Clay has that kind of career.

(There are a lot of positives to having a father and an uncle like that, but it doesn't always translate into stardom, correct?)

Right. Well, Clay is his own man. He's probably, through our interviews with him, and he can speak for himself, he wants to stand on his own two feet, and I think he's done a very good job of that at USC. I'm sure he's not going to rest on the laurels of his father and uncle. He's his own man. He came into USC and some of these guys that are getting drafted today were linebackers, high recruits and things, so he had to work his way up. He was their very best special teams player for the first two years at USC until he started playing more, so he's earned his way. He's earned his way.

{sportsad300}(Was there still much first-round talent left on your board?)


(Was there a half dozen?)

I don't know. I don't want to get that specific.

(Did you feel the first-round talent was starting to wane though?)

Well, I mean yeah, towards the end of the first round, it would be natural for it to, yeah. But there were still players up there. Hopefully we can get some tomorrow.

(Giving up what you did, where does this leave you for tomorrow with not having the third-round picks?)

We're looking forward to it. We've also been able to get players later on, so that's what we're going to focus on, and try to finish this thing out. But we feel like we had an opportunity to draft two very good players that are going to add to our group, and we felt like it was worth it.

(You spent your first two years restocking the roster by trading back? Was your plan to make more of a splash this year higher in the draft?)

No, I'm not concerned about the splash. There were some guys that we were eyeballing, Raji and Clay as an example. We didn't know how to go about doing it. We didn't know how things were going to fall. But there wasn't any particular plan. In the former years when we were building up, I told you we were trying to build up the core of our team. I think we've done some of that during the course of time, and there might eventually become diminishing returns on the draft. But we still believe the draft is the best way to build the team. I'm not changed from that, and I believe moreso today than before. So that hasn't really changed. And I didn't anticipate doing all that we did today. That's just the way the thing worked.

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