On Friday morning, the Green Bay Packers’ General Manager, Ted Thompson, spoke to the media in one of his rare press conferences. The Packers had an off day from on-field practices, which is the reason why head coach Mike McCarthy was not speaking.
Thompson’s presser touched on a number of topics, but the most prevalent of them revolved around former Packers quarterback Brett Favre, who will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame next weekend. The Packers are of course playing in the annual Hall of Fame Game a week from Sunday, and those two events were among the many questions asked of Thompson.
However, the presser began with a question to Thompson about the versatility of the Packers’ linebackers. The question was framed by asking about Thompson’s own experience as a linebacker, and how that impacts the way he views the ability to play multiple positions that players like Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers have:
You should never say my name and those two names in the same sentence, first of all. It’s part of the evolution of the game, I think. It’s part of the evolution of defense ... in some cases, you can never get all you want because it’s difficult to find a player with enough characteristics physically and athletically to justify that kind of switching around ... I played multiple positions at one time. I wasn’t very good at it.
Versatile safeties were next up on the presser, and Thompson broke down they hybrid linebacker/safety role:
Sure, there are teams that have done some of that in the past. It kind of depends on the personnel that you have ... it’s just like nickel or dime ... you want to put as many of your best players as you can on the field at one time ... you’re really looking for athletic mismatches.
Regarding his expectations for the Packers in 2016:
My thinking is always the same - we’re starting the new year and we’re playing for a championship and we’re trying to win a championship. That’s how it was last year and the year before and the year before ... everybody wants to do that, is to win ... this is a good football team and I think they know kinda where they are in the grand scheme of things. They’ve been in position and playoffs to compete at a high level. I don’t think it’s a mis-statement to say that we’d like to win the whole thing.
Having just signed Harvey Binford from the Arena Football League, Thompson was asked about how he views players who have taken non-traditional routes to the NFL, either through the AFL, Australian Rules Football, or even college basketball:
If you have the time and the player has the inclination and the athletic ability and the intelligence, I think it’s a doable thing. John Dorsey, we worked together here, he was always looking outside the box and I think that’s a good characteristic to have as a personnel guy. The actual fruition of it and whether it all works is a little bit more problematic. We’re not opposed to it but there’s a time and a clock that’s ticking especially this time of year.
Thompson then was asked about his time as a Packers scout, and thought back to the time when, shortly after being hired by Ron Wolf, the then-GM asked him to watch tape on Brett Favre:
(Wolf) wanted me to watch (Favre), so he left me in a dark room and I watched some of him. He comes back in and goes “what do you think?” And I said “what do you think?” He goes “I like him, I think I’m going to trade a #1 for him.” And I said “I think you ought to do that.” ... (In Atlanta) it wasn’t always pretty, but it was pretty when he got to the Green Bay Packers.
Here’s Thompson on what he actually saw from Favre on tape:
Unbelievable at times, and young at times. Everybody forgets, he was a young player ... it wasn’t like he had a whole lot of stuff to show (on tape). I hadn’t been around Ron very long but I’d been around Ron long enough that he wanted an answer that was tilted in a certain direction and I was happy to tilt in that direction. I wasn’t smart enough to think “are you crazy?”
Regarding the healing of the rift that seemed to exist between Favre and the Packers, Thompson said the following:
I think it’s important for the organization and the player to be in a good place. For me it’s a selfish thing. We’ve never had a cross word, still haven’t. Circumstances put us all in situations that we were uncomfortable with and I think that happens in life. Life throws you curveballs sometime. Sometimes you think you’re doing the right thing and you’re not ... we did the best we could at the time and Brett and his crew did the best they could at the time.
On Brett Favre’s first meaningful game action as a Packer against the Cincinnati Bengals in 1992:
He throws the pass to ... Kipchick? (Reporter: Kitrick Taylor.) Yeah, and wins the game, and he’s running around at the 40-yard line with his helmet off and he’s twirling his helmet like a baton and he throws it up in the air. I’m on the sideline watching the game and he’s our only holder left ... we had to kick an extra point and our holder had just thrown his helmet halfway across the field.
Finally, Thompson addressed the attempts of the team to have him and other members of the front office make it to Favre’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony:
We’re hoping to. People are working night and day trying to pull off the logistics of all of it. We’re certainly hoping to make it and I think we will, by hook or by crook. That’s the plan.