Below is a partial transcript from the press conference that Green Bay Packers General Manager Ted Thompson held with the media on May 1st, 2014. The press conference was streamed live at Packers.com, and the GM discussed a number of topics regarding the draft, free agency, and plans for the 2014 season. He opened up the press conference by saying the following:
We've been working really hard, appreciate you guys coming out. We're excited about going through the draft process and we're looking forward to it.
Ted then gave the following responses to the following topics.
What do you do with two extra weeks (before the draft)?
A lot of our stuff started two weeks later, it also gives us a lot of extra time. We always use the time up, and we always get to a point 3,4,5 days before the draft where everybody...has nothing to do.
Discussing whether he would prefer that the draft be earlier in the year like it has in the past:
I don't have any say in the matter. (If you did?) Oh, now, stop it. We work in a pretty popular league, the NFL does a good job promoting aspects of our league...sometimes those of us who are working in it, you can watch a few too many episodes of "who's the best player in the draft' and it starts to wear on you...we understand why the NFL does what it does.
Thompson was asked to discuss the signing of Julius Peppers and what it feels like to surprise people by signing a big-name free agent:
People that say we don't use free agency are wrong, we've always dabbled in free agency. Sometimes you can spend a lot of time trying to and nothing comes of it and nothing comes out publicly...This happened fast, it happened very quietly, it was one of those rare things where things were put to bed and done and everybody was back home before anybody knew about it. Frankly, it was pretty refreshing to do it that way. He's a pretty good player, obviously (we) have followed him throughout his career, and we're excited to see him in a Packers uniform...There's no evidence of any decline in his play in our opinion. He's still got the same athletic traits he's displayed (in the past).
Discussing whether or not he will address specific needs on the team in the draft:
We feel like the draft is a long-term investment and we don't get too carried away with what our perceived needs are at the moment. If you can marry those things up, that's fine, but if you stretch to try to fill a "need" somewhere then you end up messing up a couple of spots. So we try to stick to the best player available, and that helps it for me to keep it more simple.
Ted was asked if the team's past injuries affect his draft thought process:
We've had some bad luck...I think it just happens, you know. I'm sure it happens with other teams, but but we've had our share of injuries and we're doing a lot of different kind of research and studies and working with our guys to try to find a better way and Mike is working on his schedule for training camp and he's revising it to better reflect our desire to try to limit our players a little bit.
Is the team's starting Center on the roster right now?
I think that's a jump, you can almost go through every position...based off of the previous question, you never know how it's going to turn out. Just try to accumulate as many players as you can.
Are there positions that don't merit a first-round pick? Do you subscribe to that theory?
I don't subscribe to that theory. There are different theories on drafts, different theories on free agency. There was once a theory that at the very start of free agency in the NFL in the 90s, the theory was that you pay the guy that throws the ball, you pay the guy that knocks down the guy that throws the ball, you pay the guy that blocks the guy that knocks down the guy that throws the ball...whether it be one of those spots or not, it goes back to what we talked about earlier, you take the best guy available.
On whether the spreading out of offenses means that defenses must have better safeties now:
You need good safety play to be a good defense, which you needed 10 years ago, 20 years ago, whatever...It's good to have (good safeties), it certainly gives you more flexibility, more versatile type guys...at the end of the day as far as the draft is concerned, you try to just take the best player. You have your dark moments in the draft when they call out names you wish they wouldn't call out...sometimes if we need to pat ourselves on the back, we'll repeat it, "let's just take the best player, just take the best player."
Is this draft better than other years and does that make having more early picks more beneficial this year than other years?
It's good, if we could we'd have more, more is better, it gives you better odds but it wouldn't be any different if it was this year or the year before. I never get in the business of trying to evaluate a draft class (as a whole against other classes)...quite frankly, I don't think the NFL wants us to try to evaluate a draft.
Do you plan for certain scenarios to happen in the draft?
When you're picking in the 20s, I think you just let it come to you...I try to stay open to the possibility of anything happening. You go through the ideal circumstances and the less-than-ideal circumstances and come to grips with it.
On whether last year's safety class was poor and played into the fact that the Packers did not draft a safety:
No, I just think we had a few too many bumps and bruises as we went along (in 2013).
On draft analysts or columnists saying they have "inside information" on what the Packers will do in the draft:
I know for a fact that they don't have any inside information, because sometimes I'm the only inside information, and I'm not telling anybody.
Do you get anxious waiting for the draft to start?
We're ready to go but we've been through this for a long time. They used to have this on Saturday and Sunday and it used to start at 9 Central time on Saturday...on the day itself next Thursday waking up like an early guy like I do and then waiting all day for it, it'll be like when you play a night game sometimes when you wish you could just start playing. The draft is a living, breathing thing and you have to enjoy it.
How to handle unexpected events:
Ron was marvelous at this in terms of projecting leadership. You have to understand the chair you sit in...I have to project a certain confidence and understanding and certain amount of wisdom.
On the Packers having the most winning seasons of any NFL team since 1992:
It's remarkable that this organization has been able to be successful for such a long period of time. From a draft standpoint, you don't worry about that. If you're picking at 32 -- bless my heart I wish we were -- you're still picking...if you keep your eye on the ball, there's still players to be had. There's always college FAs that make teams and turn out to be good players.
With Mike McCarthy saying that he wants to have four quarterbacks in training camp, Ted was asked if he had plans to draft another QB for him to work with:
We kinda work out the whole 90-man roster thing, we try to start buttoning that up at least in theory during the draft itself and even a couple of days before in terms of what would be ideal...it just depends...it never works out exactly like you'd think.
That's a lot of words to say "we'll take the best player available", but it's Ted Thompson's mantra and he will stick to it.