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Packers' Thompson says he'll explore all offseason options

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By Tyler Dunne
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
January 22, 2014

MOBILE, Ala.--This is Ted Thompson in his element. All week in Alabama, Thompson’s eyes are glued to senior prospects. An 8-8-1 season in the books, full attention has shifted to the offseason.

To the draft. To maybe free agency.

Could this be the year the Green Bay Packers general manager tweaks his formula?

Outside the Mobile Renaissance Riverview Plaza after Tuesday’s Senior Bowl practices, Thompson reiterated that management would consider “every avenue” in improving the team. He expressed a shade of regret in how he handled the No. 2 quarterback spot, and the GM maintained that he was “proud” of his team’s response to injuries.

On to the offseason.

“I know it sounds simple, but we try to make sure we make the team better and we put the team in a better position than we were,” Thompson said. “So we’ll just work at it. You don’t know specifically what that entails, but we’ll search every avenue and try to do that.”

An 0-4-1 November is the enduring black eye on Green Bay’s 2013 season. Thompson’s team didn’t respond well, initially, to Aaron Rodgers’ fractured collarbone.

Thompson wouldn’t use injuries as an excuse. They’re part of the game, he said.

“We had our fair share,” Thompson said. “But we never have used that in the past, and I don’t think we’re using it now.”

Yet this would seem to be the right spring to pursue veterans who have been there/done that when adversity strikes. Midway through the season, Green Bay fielded an NFL-high 14 rookies.

Thompson refutes the notion that he snores through free agency. The GM did sign Charles Woodson and Ryan Pickett to big deals once upon a time…in 2006. Since winning the Super Bowl after the 2010 season, Green Bay’s marquee signings have been center Jeff Saturday and defensive tackle Anthony Hargrove in 2012 and tight end Matthew Mulligan in 2013.

If the price is right, maybe Thompson will add outsiders in March.

“If an opportunity presents itself and it helps us be better, then yes,” Thompson. “But I think doing it for the sake of doing it is a waste of time and energy.

“If we get the opportunity, if it presents itself and makes sense for the club with the way we put things together, we’re going to do it. We’ve done it in the past. We try to do it selectively.”

And one would think the San Francisco 49ers may be on his mind. This is the team that sent Green Bay packing in the playoffs for two straight seasons.

Colin Kaepernick, particularly, has become the team’s No. 1 nemesis. The 49ers quarterback has 1,203 total yards and eight touchdowns in three wins against the Packers overall.

Thompson insists improvement isn’t about trying to overcome one player or one team. “I don’t think you ever get into a situation where you look at one particular team,” he said. “You always try to keep it simple and do stuff that makes your team better. Again, if we have a chance to try to get better, then that’s what we’re going to do.”

He does admit to one error—his handling of the backup quarterback spot.

To recap, Green Bay entered training camp with Graham Harrell and B.J. Coleman vying for the No. 2 spot, panicked into signing Vince Young, and then released all three before Week 1. Veteran Seneca Wallace was signed, and he lasted one drive in his first start replacing Rodgers.

Scott Tolzien started. Then Matt Flynn. True, the gritty Flynn did squeeze out two wins to keep the team’s head above water, but scramble mode ultimately backfired.

“It was bad fortune, and possibly bad planning on my part,” Thompson said. “That’s the way it goes.”

Before figuring out who (if anyone) to sign from elsewhere, Thompson has decisions in-house. Asked about cornerback Sam Shields and defensive end B.J. Raji—the team’s key free agents—Thompson said, “There’s ongoing conversations. We’re working at it.”

A year ago, Rodgers signed a five-year, $110 million extension. Linebacker Clay Matthews inked a five-year, $66 million deal.

While it’s hard to argue with locking up a franchise quarterback and a player drilled to tattoo franchise quarterbacks, it’s a lot of money tied up in two players for a team with holes. Thompson does not believe the contracts will hinder Green Bay this year and beyond.

“We have done this for some time now,” Thompson said, “so we feel comfortable that we can do things from that point.”

Topic to topic, this was the theme. The same calm, measured Ted Thompson. He wasn’t defensive, nor combative. Green Bay has won the NFC North three straight years.

To any concerned fans, Thompson says the state of the Packers is “pretty good.”

“I was very proud of this team,” Thompson said. “We got some tough cards and we won some games. Lest we forget, we won some games in dramatic style and took a lot of heart. When this team could have shut it down, they didn’t. I think that’s the mark of a pretty darn good team.

“They didn’t blink. We had a couple tough outings for a stretch. But the way they hung in there and went on the road and beat some people and did some things, I think that’s impressive.”

Losing an MVP quarterback doesn’t help.

“But that happens,” Thompson said, “and I think our team stepped up.”

And then fell short against San Francisco. This offseason, Thompson and the Packers will try to close the gap, again.



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