Packers General Manager Ted Thompson did not include his traditional position-by-position roster review in his "football report" at Thursday morning's shareholders meeting, but he excited a larger-than-usual crowd by announcing his expectations for 2011. "We expect to win," Thompson said.
Thompson was cheered heartily as he came to the podium at Lambeau Field. He thanked Packers President Mark Murphy for an introduction that praised Thompson's work in helping guide the Packers to the Super Bowl XLV title, then Thompson began his address to the team's "owners" by putting the 2011 season into perspective.
"We have a lot of challenges ahead of us. We understand we are a target of the other 31 teams. We have no illusion of it being easy. We expect to win," he said.
It was the theme of his address and he repeated those words later in his report. Thompson was making sure the team's shareholders were confident in the team's resolve to defend its championship.
Thompson referred to cornerback Charles Woodson's now-famous postgame address to his teammates – "one mind, one goal, one purpose, and one heart" – and said, "That served us well and we're going to continue to speak in those terms, but then he cautioned: "This will be a different team. This team will have to make its own mark."
Since becoming the team's general manager in 2005, Thompson has skillfully constructed a young team around a centerpiece quarterback and a head coach who is one of the top offensive minds in the game. Those seeds blossomed in 2010, as Coach Mike McCarthy guided his team through a rash of injuries, and his young quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, closed the deal with an MVP performance in a 31-25 win over the Steelers in the Super Bowl.
Thompson is facing a rather daunting challenge of his own. The Packers are at risk of losing several unrestricted free agents, a list of 11 that includes prominent players such as Cullen Jenkins, James Jones, John Kuhn, Brandon Jackson, Daryn Colledge and Mason Crosby. Who should they keep? Who can't they keep?
The answers to those questions will have to remain unanswered for at least another day; teams may negotiate with free agents but they may not sign them to a contract until Friday.
It was hoped Thompson would shine some light on the Packers' strategy for free agency, but Thompson elected not to comment.
"When the dust settles, we'll talk about all of that. We felt it was appropriate to hold back on those comments at this time. You can rest assured that we do have a very strong core coming back and we do expect to win," he said.
Yeah, there are those words, again.
Thompson reaffirmed his commitment to building through the draft and he spoke briefly on each of his 10 picks in this year's draft.
"We definitely believe building from within is the best policy," he said. "We want to win now but at the same time we have to have a plan for the future.
"It's always about building depth and building quality. Our men are proud to be Green Bay Packers and you should be proud to have them on your team," Thompson added.
The Packers are to begin arriving today at the team's training camp base at St. Norbert College in nearby DePere. The first practice of camp is set for 7 p.m. on Saturday.
Thompson spoke of the Packers' corporate structure and then said: "That's why this place is successful, because it puts football above all else.
"The family is back together," he said, referring to a new collective bargaining agreement between the league's owners and players, which ended a nearly five-month-long lockout this week and brought players back to their respective teams.
"Here, in this place, we're all in this together," Thompson said.