Thompson sheds little light on Packers' draft

Stu Courtney
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General manager Ted Thompson is notoriously tight-lipped when it comes to revealing information about the research and thought processes that go into the Green Bay Packers’ draft decisions. That hasn't changed.

Green Bay Packers GM Ted Thompson speaks to the media about the team's first round pick of Kenny Clark of UCLA.

After the Packers selected UCLA nose tackle Kenny Clark with their first pick Thursday, Thompson met with the media, as he customarily does after each day of the draft. Midway through the session, Thompson was asked whether he had attended Clark’s pro day.

“I did not,” Thompson replied, before catching himself and adding with a smile, “I can’t believe I volunteered that information.”

Such is the nature of the bob-and-weave that Thompson conducts with reporters during the draft. Media members press the Packers GM to learn as much as possible about how decisions were made, such as selecting Clark over other enticing candidates in the first round or making a trade to move up in the second round and draft Indiana tackle Jason Spriggs.

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Often, Thompson deflects the questions. But sometimes, he pulls back the curtain a bit and offers insights into what the thinking was inside the Packers’ draft room (Thompson said the Packers don't use the term "war room").

Regarding Clark and at what point the Packers targeted him, Thompson said, “It was especially when it started getting close. Because you sit there for two hours and you don’t even want to look at the names because you think you’re going to jinx something.

“But then as you started getting closer, you look up there and go, ‘What? Wouldn’t that be nice.’ But I can’t talk about it and I never mention it to anybody else in the room. So you don’t want to jinx yourself and all that. It’s silly.”

Thompson admitted the Packers’ brain trust was nervous during the second round, watching the board and wondering whether Spriggs would fall to them or whether they would need to take action. Ultimately, they made a deal, sending fourth- and seventh-round picks to the Indianapolis Colts to move up nine spots.

“We were sweating it,” Thompson said Friday after the second and third rounds. “Looking at the board, it just didn’t look like the board was going to hold up all the way. So we felt like, you know, we’re always making phone calls, always talking to teams, and there came an opportunity, and it might have been a little bit conservative on my part, but I felt like I’d rather have him than risk losing him.”

Then came this bit of give-and-take: Asked if looking at the board meant the draft was running out of players worthy of being second-round picks, Thompson said, “No, I’m looking at people that I really want at that particular spot, that we really wanted at that particular spot.”

Thompson was asked if he had been worried about an NFC North rival taking Spriggs before the Packers’ pick came around.

“Uh, I was worrying about all things at all times,” he replied.

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So that’s a yes?

“Could be,” Thompson said. “It’s a tricky business. You don’t know ... you’ll go 12 names and you have little or no interest in them, and I’m being facetious here. We know them all, have some interest in some. But then all of a sudden, a guy will get traded, and it just surprises you.”

The move up for Spriggs was out of character for Thompson, who is renowned for trading back to horde as many draft picks as possible, and the Packers GM conceded as much when asked if it was indicative of the team having a stronger roster now than in years past.

“I don’t know, it could be just me, that I’ve changed and adapted over time,” Thompson, 63, said. “I will say this, and it’s probably always been this way: When the players are valuable at our pick and it’s somebody that we’re really zoned in on, it’s hard to get me off of it. The way that happens, you can get me off of it if there are a number or multitude of players and we don’t have to move too far, that I know I’ll still get the same quality of player.”

Thompson was asked if could breathe easier after drafting Spriggs, in light of having three starting offensive linemen (tackle David Bakhtiari and guards Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang) coming out of contract after next season.

“I breathe pretty well, most of the time anyway … I’m just kidding you,” Thompson said. “I’ve been at this too long today. I’m a little goofy. Well, it’s always good to add another player that we think can play in the National Football League and compete at a very high level. So yes, we’re glad to have him.”

On the subject of breathing well, Thompson was asked in the final question of the session about how he was breathing at the inside linebacker position (“Pretty well,” he said) and whether he’d like to add some competition at the position when the draft resumed the following day.

At that point, the typical Thompson reticence returned.

“I would never discuss what we’d like to do on a draft day like this,” Thompson replied before bidding his inquisitors adieu. and follow him on Twitter @Stucourt.

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