GREEN BAY - General manager Ted Thompson was on the final bus to the stadium Sunday and when he arrived he knew right away there was something wrong.
"As soon as I got off, there were people there waiting on me, to escort me down to the field," Thompson said Wednesday morning.
By now, most people know what happened at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio, Sunday night. A football game wasn't played because the artificial turf turned into melted caramel in the spots where paint had been laid down.
Thompson said he knew as soon as he saw the damaged area that it was bad.
"Well, my thought was, ‘Eeee, yikes,'" Thompson said. "But none of us are experts or none of us know exactly what it means, you know, it’s just I don’t know how this came to be. But it was a ‘Eee, yikes,’ kind of thing."
It was also a big disappointment for Thompson and his coaches and scouts. This was the tradeoff the Packers were going to get for having an extra week of training camp: a fifth game to evaluate their young players and cut down the odds that they would be cutting the wrong players for the 53-man roster.
The starters were barely going to play if at all and this should have been an opportunity to see young players like receiver Geronimo Allison, Blake Martinez, Jason Spriggs, Kenny Clark, Joe Callahan and a host of others play in a real, live game. By the time the Packers get to their first exhibition game Friday at Lambeau Field they will have practiced for three weeks without tackling anybody.
Asked if he can predict player outcome equally in four games as five games, Thompson said he hoped so.
"I’m hoping the latter, that four games is enough and it doesn’t make a difference," he said. "But I said last week that part of the value of having that fifth game, in my opinion, was the ability to evaluate a little bit closer and that’s something that we weren’t able to do. But we’re back to where everybody else is; we’ve got four games."
The Packers do have an extra week of practice, but Thompson didn't seem too excited about that.
He said he relishes the opportunity to be on the field during the preseason so he can not only evaluate talent but view how the players approach a game. There is a lot to be learned from a sideline view he said.
"I think it's a marvelous exercise," Thompson said of preseason games. "It's the reason I go down to the sidelines when I can. To be able to watch them, and I do this in practice, watch them come off the field and see how their eyes are and see if they're nervous and having fun.
"And the whole process of going through a game, because it's not a preseason game for those guys, it's a game and they're playing ball and they've played ball all their lives. And here we go again. I think it's a valuable tool. It's just one tool, but it's a valuable tool in deciding how the team is going to be constructed."