INDIANAPOLIS -- Despite the Packers losing a combined 43 years of experience with the release of DB Charles Woodson and the retirements of WR Donald Driver and C Jeff Saturday, Green Bay GM Ted Thompson is confident the team has a good core of players in place to pick up the team's all-important leadership baton.
“We do have a lot of veteran leadership that won’t be with us anymore. We are always concerned about that,” Thompson said at the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine. “But we have a strong leadership foundation, and we feel confident in the leadership we have in our locker room.”
The Packers also suffered a significant front-office loss with John Dorsey, one of Thompson’s chief lieutenants over the last decade, leaving to become the new general manager of the Chiefs under new K.C. head coach Andy Reid.
But more than anything, Thompson considers the stepping stone that the Packers’ front office has become to bigger and better jobs around the league business as usual.
“We have had some losses in terms of guys taking really good (front-office) jobs,” said Thompson, who has seen quality staffers such as John Schneider and Reggie McKenzie split the scene for GM jobs in Seattle and Oakland, respectively. “We’ve really encouraged that and have fostered what (former Packers GM) Ron Wolf started a long time ago. It’s always been a ‘next man up’ philosophy with us. The NFL is all about evolving.
“I’m sure the Ravens would like to hold together the team that won the Super Bowl and keep on going like the 1929-30 Yankees, but the NFL is always evolving, and you just can’t plan on that.”
Thompson was asked if he had any special advice for Dorsey.
“John Dorsey doesn’t need my advice,” Thompson said with a smile. “He’s going a million miles an hour and just trying to get up to speed. The Chiefs are in good hands, I promise you that. I talk a lot with former guys I’ve worked with like John Schnedier and Reggie McKenzie, as well as other people around the league.
“You’re always bouncing ideas off of people."
Predictably, Thompson was asked about what the future might hold for longtime No. 1 wide receiver/free agent Greg Jennings, who is widely expected to sign elsewhere this offseason.
Just as predictably, Thompson said that, in a perfect world, Jennings would be retained.
“It is our policy, and a good way to manage, if you’re able to retain your own players,” Thompson said. “We would like to do that, and that includes Greg.”
Thompson also had good things to say about two newcomers this past season that burst out of the woodwork to make valuable contributions – street pickup DuJuan Harris, the journeyman running back who added considerable pop to the team’s ground game, and undrafted rookie Don Barclay, who did a solid job at right guard replacing the injured Bryan Bulaga.
“DuJuan did a good job, and we’re looking forward to having him for a whole season. There’s a lot we still need to find out about him, but he did a very nice job for us,” Thompson said.
“Don did a very good job. He was forced into action and held his own. The value of that was that we got to see what he needs to work on in the future.”
Thompson finished off his interview with some thoughts about the NFC North.
“This division has always been tough,” he said. “Every division game is tough because it’s like brothers playing brothers. We’ve never gone into a game since I started (in Green Bay) in 1992 playing a divisional rival that we thought would be easy to beat.”