Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson conducted his pre-draft news conference on Wednesday. Here are some highlights from the session:
On whether the draft process has changed:
No, you kind of adjust specific responsibilities as you go along but thereís certain items that you have to do and when you go through it in a room with 20 or 25 people, there has to be some order and progression and everybody knows where theyíre supposed to step in. If weíre looking for a hand measurement or a 40 time or something, we know whoís in charge of that and they get that out so thereís no delay in our process.
Without John Dorsey, anyone there to overrule you?
Thatís a good question. Thatís pretty sharp. Weíve always had that and we always will, and those people that weíve put in those positions are mandated to question and to challenge from time to time Ė not for the sake of an argument but to make sure weíre doing whatís right for the organization. Yeah, those three guys did that a lot. We have other people here that are doing that as we speak. Weíll have our meeting with our defensive coaches this afternoon; we met with our offensive coaches all afternoon yesterday. The coaches have their say, the other guys have their say and the people that ask the tough questions do their stuff, so itís good. Sometimes itís uncomfortable but itís good.
Talk with Dorsey much leading up to the draft?
I speak to John fairly often Ė on the weekends, especially, because he knows our schedule so he knows exactly when weíll be ordering Subway sandwiches for lunch and that sort of thing. John Schneider and Reggie McKenzie, those guys are good people and theyíre in the same position I am where youíre fussing over what youíre going to do and thinking of a million different scenarios that can happen and hoping you can get it right, because we all care about the places weíre working at.
What played into trading three picks to take Clay Matthews?
Itís the risk-reward ratio that you work with at any time during the draft. Do we take this guy here or do we take a chance on him being there a little bit later? Do you take this guy now thatís really talented but maybe a knucklehead? Youíre weighing that risk-reward. Itís all a matter of that and you donít know how itís going to work. That was something we felt was important and worthy at the time.
What did you see in Matthews?
As an organization, we liked him and we liked the things that he would bring to our defense. He played that position in college. I know he wasnít a starter up until his senior year but when you watched his senior tape, it was good stuff. So, that was a pretty easy thing compared to a lot of things we do.
When do you trade up?
When you think itís when you think you see value. Thatís the reason sometimes weíll go backwards when we see value later in the draft and numbers at positions where we think thereís value. Itís a trade-off. You know that youíre giving up something if you trade up and you know that youíre giving up something in terms of an opportunity to take a particular player in you go backwards.
How many picks would like you to ideally have?
Itís like Ron (Wolf) always said itís kind of like baseball, youíre not going to get a hit every time you go to the plate, but if you have more swings you have a better chance at getting a hit. I think in general philosophy Iíd rather have more than less, but at the end of the day Iíd rather have more quality than anything. But quality and quantity both is a nice thing.
Do you separate your existing roster from draft board?
We try not to. We certainly have those conversations in terms of how a particular play fit in our scheme or whether it be offense, defense, special teams, whatever. At the end of the day, I do separate it. Weíll make that call and draft that player, weíre trying our best to draft the best player.
How much of a role have your coaches had in draft prep?
ďTheyíve been at it since prior to the combine. Watching tape or selected players that our personnel guys do and that sort of thing. They have other responsibilities to go around. They canít spend a lot of their time on personnel, but they do really good work. Itís interesting to see it from a different set of eyes, from a different prospective because coaches look at things a little differently than scouts.
Would you let a coach filibuster on a particular player?
Well, itís not a democracy. We have discussions and everybodyís opinions are heard. There are people in our personnel department that think we should do one thing and somebody might think another or a coach might think this or that. At the end of the day, itís my call and we try to take the best player. Iím not saying that to say Iím such an overlying decision-maker. Itís just thatís my job and my responsibility.
Did injuries last year increase the urgency of finding depth?
I donít know if itís anymore. Yeah, we had a lot of injuries, but if he hadnít had a lot of injuries weíd be looking for depth and quality, and young guys to join our team.Ē
Do those injuries change how you evaluate guys coming out?
We do our best in medical examinations. We actually have a grade like all the other teams do. You weigh that in terms of the draft, but often times a playerís injury history has very little to with the net result durability of his pro career. You have guys who have never been in a training room and they get to training camp, and get hurt in a preseason game and who knows? Injuries are injuries and thatís part of the business in the NFL. But yes to answer your question, Iím sorry to be so long about it, but we factor in durability issues, yes.
On the draft being the team's lifeblood:
I think itís important. Weíve always said, weíve never swayed away from this: We believe in drafting and developing players. We think that is the best way to build your team over the long term. That doesnít mean we wonít sign free agents or do different ways of acquiring players and going to college free agency and that sort of thing, but we do believe that continually every year you need a new class of players and young men to join your team in order to sustain over the long term the ability to win and compete in the NFL.
Does that put greater pressure on you to not be wrong?
Pressureís what you make it. Iím a single guy, I donít have children to worry about. Itís not that much pressure. But you want to do right.. Iím not trying to make light of this. Itís important. And we gnash our teeth over it and we try to do the best we can to make the right decisions. But at the end of the day, we donít worry about things and we donít fuss over whatever.
A philosophy on changing the board?
There is. As we go along, we have our meetings prior to the combine and we kind of set the board initially, we come back from the combine and we move guys all around. We go to the pro days, we move guys all around again. we come back in, and we wind up moving guys back to where they were when we first watched film in January. It doesnít happen in all cases but itís shocking how many times it works out like that. At the end of the day, our mantra is to ĎKnow what we know.í If we donít know something, admit we donít know it, and thereís going to be this gap of information that we donít know about this player. But what we do know, thatís what weíre going to trade on.
How influential are the Combine and pro days?
I think theyíre important. There are people who certainly test better who quote-unquote Ďimprove their stockí with the pro days and in Indianapolis. And there are other times when guys donít test very well and lower their value. At the end of the day, does it decide who can play in the NFL? No, it doesnít. But you like to see numbers and statistics athletically that equate to guys that have done it on a high level in the NFL. So thatís what youíre looking for in all that.
Is there a risk in putting so much money into two players?
Rarely if ever do I speak of money, but in a general sense, I would say this: We understand the restraints and requirements of the salary cap. We understand, we think, how to build a team and go forward. And other than that, I really wouldnít have a comment.
Is there a danger in staring at the board too long?
Weíll put this thing to bed pretty soon, in fact maybe a little bit sooner than normal. And then start working on the other aspects, just contacting other teams and making sure they know what our telephone numbers are and all that sort of stuff. But yeah, at some point, you have to put it to bed because youíve got to trust the work that youíve done and live with it the way it is. you donít know how the draftís going to go. When youíre picking as late as we are Ö everybody focuses on the first round. You guys know Iím just as keen on all the other rounds. But you donít know how itís going to go. So you donít want to gnash your teeth over that first pick too much. You just do what you do.
Have you seen examples where GMs talk too much?
No I think itís all guess work. I think teams are sophisticated enough to lay traps for you and drop a dime on somebody somewhere and all of a sudden the Baltimore Ravens and Ozzie Newsome are going to do this. Odds are, heís probably not. But then you start thinking, ďWell, maybe itís double deal here.í You think that heís trying to get you but then he really is going to. You canít believe everything you hear.
ďWith the draft and as much work as people do on them, I think they do a good job of evaluating players and deciding where they can slot them but I donít think it affects any particular team in terms of how they rate and value players as theyíre getting ready to draft.Ē
So you don't lay traps?
Iím not smart enough to do that. You have to be pretty smart to a double spy.
Have you ever said too much before a draft?
Iím sure I have but I probably didnít do it intentionally. Iím sure I talked too much from time to time.
Benson videos seem to indicate he's healthy ...
Yeah, I wouldnít comment on it. Heís an unrestricted free agent. He has the injury thing he has to get past. But weíll see.
Johnny Jolly update?
No, nothing to report there.
Charles Woodson coming back?
Uh, I wouldnít care to speculate on things like that.
Are area scouts and film study the most important stuff you guys do in draft prep?
I think the study from the game tape and being able to watch them practice and see how they move around in person. I think thatís more valuable than going to a pro day or the Indianapolis Combine and watching people run around. It doesnít mean that we donít try to gain some knowledge from that process of the pro day and the Indianapolis Combine. I think the closer you get to the draft, the more you go back to the football thing.
Have an idea whoís at No. 26?
I donít. I donít know that yet. And Iím not going to know that. Probably when I first came back here in 2005, I was a little cockier that Ďyeah, I know whatís going to happení and all that. But as you get older, you start to lose that edge a little bit. Or you fool yourself into so much that you realize youíre making mistakes and you didnít know. So I try not to predict. I try to just make sure that these guys on our board are in a position to pick. But If heís there, weíll consider picking.