When Reggie Wayne signed with the Patriots on Monday, it hardly was a case of adding insult to injury.
In the wake of Jordy Nelson’s season-ending knee injury, the Packers’ inquiry on Wayne was the equivalent of kicking the tires at the car lot. Or, for a better analogy, knocking on the door of the pretty girl’s house to say “hi” in hopes that maybe she’d say “hi” in return and add a flirtatious wink.
Really, anyone expecting the Packers would make a serious move on the 36-year-old Wayne hasn’t been paying much attention to general manager Ted Thompson’s team-building ways.
When Ryan Grant, who was coming off of back-to-back 1,200-yard seasons, sustained a season-ending ankle injury in the 2010 opener, what did Thompson do? Did he go to the running back scrap heap to find a veteran with some tread left on the tires? Or did he sign Dimitri Nance off the Falcons’ practice squad?
When right tackle Bryan Bulaga sustained a season-ending hip injury in 2012, what did Thompson do? Did he find an old veteran in street free agency? Or did he re-sign linebacker Vic So’oto and force the coaches to play musical chairs on the offensive line before settling on undrafted rookie Don Barclay?
When Bulaga — who had been moved to left tackle in 2013 as the centerpiece of the revamped offensive line — sustained a season-ending knee injury on Family Night, what did Thompson do? Did he grab the best available veteran to provide an instant starter? Or did he expect the coaches to get fourth-round rookie David Bakhtiari ready to play?
When Randall Cobb was lost with a broken leg during the 2013 season, what did Thompson do? Did he add a proven veteran receiver? Or did he promote Myles White, an undrafted rookie, from the practice squad?
Of course, you know the answers to those questions.
“All we do over there at 1265 (Lombardi Ave.) this time of the year is watch tape on other people and players and teams in the NFL,” Thompson told Mark Daniels on WNFL’s “The Fifth Quarter” on Monday night. “So, we’re accumulating the knowledge of players at all different positions. We’re not singling out the wide receiver position just because this has happened. We’re just going about our business the way we’ve always went about our business.”
That means while the scouts will look to the outside, Thompson ultimately will focus on what’s inside. Thompson used premium draft picks on Davante Adams, Richard Rodgers and Ty Montgomery and took a flier on small-school star Jeff Janis for a reason.
For a team with the singular goal of winning the Super Bowl, the pressure will be on those players to step to the forefront and capitalize on this new opportunity. The pressure will be on the coaches, too. Receivers coach Alex Van Pelt and tight ends coach Jerry Fontenot must get them ready, and coach Mike McCarthy, assistant head coach Tom Clements and offensive coordinator Edgar Bennett must adapt in a hurry to life without one of the NFL’s premier big-play threats.
“That’s the reason we’ll probably go at it at from several different levels,” Thompson said. “The NFL is about adapting and changing, and even during the course of the game. Your opponent will start playing the game in a Sunday afternoon and by the second quarter they will change and morph into something else. The beauty about the NFL is the players’ ability to learn and adjust on the fly, and that’s what we’ll have to do.”
For better or worse, this is Thompson’s way. In 1996, when the Packers were hammered by injury at receiver, Ron Wolf signed Andre Rison. Without him, they might not have won Super Bowl XXXI. In 2010, the Packers didn’t make a significant move at running back. Thompson’s look-from-within approach paid off in victory in Super Bowl XLV because rookie James Starks came out of nowhere late in the season.
“Life in the NFL sometimes is who’s the next man up,” Thompson said. “That’s what we’ll start focusing on. Certainly, we’re not in any position where we think we can necessarily replace Jordy. Jordy is a wonderful player, wonderful person in the community and everything else. He’ll continue to do that, but maybe we find two or three guys who can fill the role that he played.”
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.