'Fairly Tough Decisions' Await with Cut to 53

Making roster cuts is the worst part of the job for general manager Ted Thompson — decisions made more difficult by the abbreviated evaluation process. How will the Packers get from 80 players to 53 by Saturday? We take our third and final stab at it.

Donald Driver, Chad Clifton and Scott Wells.

Those are the only players who were members of the Green Bay Packers before Ted Thompson was hired as general manager in 2005. Those three almost certainly will be on the team when Thompson sets the Packers' 53-man roster by Saturday evening.

Picking that roster began late due to the lockout, adding to the challenge of selecting the players who will attempt to defend the Packers' Super Bowl championship.

"We've gotten to know all of our players pretty well," Thompson said earlier in the week. "A fair number of them have been with our team for more than just the spring. Certainly, we have some young guys who we're still getting to know, but we study that pretty hard in terms of how they assimilate with their teammates and get along, and compete, and all the things that you look for."

Bill takes a closer look at some of the top roster decisions in the aftermath of Thursday's game.
The Packers had only 20 practices — one planned workout Aug. 12 was scrapped because of the team's visit to The White House as the reigning Super Bowl champion — and their Family Night scrimmage at Lambeau Field on Aug. 6 lasted just 20 minutes because of a thunderstorm.

"Just the practice totals alone, when I look at the first year (in 2006), I thought, 'What the hell was I thinking?'" coach Mike McCarthy said. "I'm sure a lot of us (as coaches) made that mistake. The reps aren't what they used to be. Our practices are shorter. I think we're practicing smarter."

Injuries took a toll on the Packers last year, and while the problem hasn't been nearly as severe this summer, they'll factor in the decisions looming for Thompson and McCarthy. Among them: whether there will be any lingering impact to the injuries that put the top five receivers in street clothes for Thursday's preseason finale and whether they can afford to keep outside linebacker Frank Zombo on the roster while he mends from a broken scapula.

There are some good problems to figure out: There are five tight ends, seven wide receivers and at least six cornerbacks worthy of roster spots. There are some not-so-good problems to solve, too, primarily the lack of depth behind the starting offensive line.

"Making personnel decisions, you work to be in position where they're hard to make," Thompson said. "That's your goal as an organization and personnel people, you want competition and you want decisions to be hard. It looks like we'll have some fairly tough decisions like normal."

And some very tough waits for those players sitting firmly on the roster bubble.

"I felt I made my statement with my performance in the preseason," said center/guard Evan Dietrich-Smith, who didn't make the final roster last season and spent time in Seattle before returning for Green Bay's run to the Super Bowl. "I'm going to let them take it from there. If they feel I'm the guy, then I'm the guy. If not, then I can't sit here and say I didn't try my best. There's still 31 other teams that are looking at that tape. If it doesn't work out here, there's still other places, other options. But this is where I want to be. This is definitely what I want to do – I want to play for the Green Bay Packers."

"I'm a DB so I'm confident," said cornerback Pat Lee, a 2008 second-round pick who has failed to play to expectations. "I'm not going to think about it."

With the challenges laid out, here is our third and final 53-man roster prediction.

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport.

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