It’s the worst day of the year for Packers General Manager Ted Thompson.
“I literally get physically ill every year. I get a crick in my neck or a cold. It’s a draining thing. Everybody suffers,” Thompson said of a day to which he refuses to refer as cutdown day because he won’t use the word “cut” to describe something that’s so devastating to so many young players.
Once upon a time, Thompson was one of those players. Much of a 10-year career with the Houston Oilers was spent as a special teams player living on the cut line, ah, make that the release line. He knows the anxiety. He feels the pain of the players to whom he now has to break the news that the season will continue without them.
“Being a player, I was always sort of on the cusp. I had a lot of friends that would not make it and I would still be there. I think it’s important to understand the anxiety of all the players,” he said.
“It’s hard for coaches, too. It’s a hard thing to say goodbye to guys who’ve worked their tails off. I think it’s important for the Packers to treat the guys who come here to make this team in a first-class manner. We try to do it coming in and going out.”
Two days removed from the worst day of his year, Thompson, a secretive man who generally resists sharing with the media much about himself or the team he runs, wanted to reassure Packers fans that this most recent roster reduction was done with all sensitivity for the young men that were released.
“We’ll have one of our guys in personnel – Reggie McKenzie, Elliot Wolf, Tim Terry or John Dorsey – call and notify the player that we need to talk to them,” Thompson said in describing the process by which the Packers inform players they’ve been released.
“When they get to the building, we have them sit with those people and they inform them of the process. Each player will sit and talk to their position coach; talk about life, talk about football. Each player will talk to the coordinator on their side of the ball, and then Mike McCarthy sits and visits with each player,” Thompson said.
“We’re never going to grab a player out of a meeting or walk a player out of the dining room or anything like that. It’s done discreetly and with respect.”
Thompson would not reveal the nature of those conversations, but it might involve giving a player encouragement for returning to the Packers as a member of the team’s practice squad, or that the team will consider them for a futures contract and a second chance to make the team the following season.
“I can’t speak for other teams, but we try to let the guys have the opportunity to say what they want to say. It’s important for everybody that leaves here to know we appreciate what they’ve done for us,” he said.
Thompson employed the same system for easing players through release while Thompson was running the Seahawks’ personnel department, prior to rejoining the Packers.
“We did it that way when I was here working under Ron (Wolf). I don’t think we’re better than anybody else at it. We just want people to respect who we are and what we’re trying to do, even on the dark days when we have to let people go,” Thompson said.
“It’s the worst day of my year every year, as it is for the coaches and all of the personnel staff. This was a good group of guys. You grow attachments to them. You see them grow, you see them get better. Sometimes you just run out of time.”
Good group? How about a great group?
Ten rookies made it onto the Packers’ roster. That’s 10 rookies, three of which are undrafted players, on the roster of the reigning Super Bowl champions.
“The varied backgrounds of these players are enormous. Players from educated families, others from no families and basically come from nothing and they made it and persevered. They’re good guys,” Thompson said.
“These guys will be OK.”
He might’ve been reassuring himself. Additional coverage - Sept. 5