Thompson not ready to walk away

Weston Hodkiewicz
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Ted Thompson has spent nearly a third of his life punching a time card with the Green Bay Packers and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

The Packers announced Wednesday that the 10th-year general manager agreed to a multi-year contract extension that aims to keep Thompson in Green Bay beyond the 2016 NFL draft, the original expiration date for the five-year contract he signed in 2011. No further details were made available.

Since being hired to his current post in 2005, Thompson has overseen the hiring of coach Mike McCarthy, survived the Brett Favre saga, drafted an MVP successor in Aaron Rodgers and acquired 49 of the 53 players that played on the team's Super Bowl XLV championship squad.

Even after turning 61 in January, however, Thompson hasn't grown tired of the chase.

"The more you think about it, the more you think, 'How nuts are you that you'd walk away from something like this?'" said Thompson, who has guided the Packers to a 92-62-1 record in his nine years.

"It's important to me. It's not my family, but I've got a lot of really good friends here and co-workers that I enjoy coming to work with every day."

There was some question this offseason whether Thompson would finish his current deal. He looked worn out at the NFL scouting combine in February and didn't attend March's owners meetings for undisclosed medical reasons.

Thompson maintains he's feeling well and fully committed to the kingdom he's helped create in Green Bay. This past season was the first in which every player on the roster was acquired under Thompson's regime.

The Packers' production speaks for itself. Since the Super Bowl, they've won three consecutive NFC North titles, marking only the third time the Packers won three consecutive since the league went to a divisional format in 1967.

His management style is respected around the league. In the past five years, he's also graduated three of his personnel executives — John Schneider (Seattle), Reggie McKenzie (Oakland) and John Dorsey (Kansas City) — to NFL general manager jobs of their own.

"It was obviously a priority to keep him," Packers president Mark Murphy said. "He and Mike have a really strong working relationship. That's a key factor, as well. He's been able to put together a strong staff. His drafts in terms of players, I think people would realize what an outstanding job he's done there."

Thompson has endured some trying times during his tenure. He was faulted by most fans for Favre's messy divorce from the Packers in 2008, but his decision to stick with Rodgers put the franchise on course for one of its most successful stretches in team history.

His draft-and-develop preference over signing unrestricted free agents rubbed some fans the wrong way, but has positioned the franchise well under the salary cap to structure extensions with Rodgers, outside linebacker Clay Matthews and receiver Jordy Nelson.

Asked repeatedly over the past year if this current contract would be his last, Thompson has been steadfast in his commitment to the Packers. He joked Wednesday he hasn't felt the desire to "walk off into the sunset or go milk some cows," as some might expect.

That's because his heart remains in scouting and the never-ending search for overlooked gems. The 13 undrafted free agents who have made the Packers' roster over the past four years are tied for third-most in the NFL.

"That's what I am — I'm a scout," Thompson said. "That's what I do, that's what I enjoy. … You're always looking for that diamond, the so-called diamond in the rough that no one else can find."

There are a few things he hopes to do differently in managing his personal life going forward. Thompson said he wants to get back home to visit family more in Texas and maybe take in one of his nephew's football games on a Friday night.

However, he doesn't plan to relinquish any of his day-to-day duties or delegate the cross-country scouting trips he's known for.

"I was asked that question a lot, how long I was going to go? But I've felt good," Thompson said. "You always self-evaluate as you go along in life. How much longer do you want to do this? I have family back home in Texas and I've not done a good job of this but I'm going to make a more concerted effort to go back home and see them from time to time."

Now that Thompson's contract is taken care of, the Packers are turning their attention to extending McCarthy, who has two years left on his deal.

The relationship between the general manager and head coach remains paramount in today's NFL. It's been known to tear apart some front offices, but Green Bay has been tranquil under Thompson's watch.

"I think we have a combination that's working," Murphy said. "It's kind of a rarity in the NFL the continuity we've had. I think it's served us well. It's a big advantage, as well, I think."

At last week's annual shareholders meeting, Thompson told those fans gathered at Lambeau Field that he "thanks God every day (McCarthy) is the Green Bay Packers' head coach."

The organization's next move is to secure that partnership for years to come.

"It's been the plan the whole time," Thompson said. "The way the organization is set up, obviously, I'm not giving any trade secrets away, it's the way it's always been done here. The general manager kind of gets put away and then you do the head coach."

— whodkiew@pressgazette and follow him on Twitter @WesHod.

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