Rolling the dice

Thompson and McCarthy gambled in assembling the Packers' roster,'s Bob Fox says.

I don't know if general manager Ted Thompson or coach Mike McCarthy have been to Las Vegas, Atlantic City or even Oneida Casino in suburban Green Bay, but both have taken calculated gambles in building the 2008 Green Bay Packers.

The biggest decision, obviously, was trading Brett Favre to the New York Jets. Not only did Thompson and McCarthy opt for Aaron Rodgers over Favre, but they decided to back up Rodgers with two rookies: Brian Brohm and Matt Flynn.

There were discussions with veteran quarterbacks before the draft such as Gus Frerotte, Quinn Gray and Daunte Culpepper. But after the draft, Thompson and McCarthy saw enough ability in Brohm and Flynn — especially Flynn this preseason — to go with a rotation of Rodgers, Flynn and Brohm.

Before the draft, Thompson gambled by trading defensive tackle Corey Williams to the Cleveland Browns for a second-round pick that was used to select Brohm. Williams had been effective in 2006 and 2007, especially in rushing the quarterback.

One reason why Thompson deemed Williams expendable was his belief Justin Harrell would be the force he envisioned when he drafted Harrell in the first round in 2006. Instead, Harrell has had two rounds of back surgery since April, and will spend at least the first six weeks of the season on the physically unable to perform list.

Add to that Johnny Jolly, who was having a breakthrough season in 2007 before injuring his shoulder. During the offseason, he was arrested on drug charges, though it appears the case won't reach trial until after this season.

That leaves Jolly, Ryan Pickett and Colin Cole as the only true defensive tackles on the roster.

The Packers rolled the dice at running back during their final cuts, when they waived veterans Vernand Morency and Noah Herron so they could keep undrafted rookie Kregg Lumpkin. While Lumpkin had an excellent training camp, Morency and Herron were assignment sure, especially on third downs.

Thompson threw some dice when he cut punter Jon Ryan in favor of Derrick Frost on Monday. Ryan has a big leg, but Thompson was looking for more consistency. Plus, Frost is superior at pinning opponents inside the 20-yard line.

The Packers enter Monday's opener against Minnesota with perhaps the NFL's youngest roster again, with an average age of 25.57 years. That may not be much of a gamble, as the Packers were 13-3 last season, won the NFC North and hosted the NFC championship game. But the NFL is a tough business.

Injuries are part of the game. No longer will the Packers be able to rely on Favre being under center, like he was for 253 consecutive regular-season games. Instead, they are putting their trust in Rodgers, who has had injury issues and is being backed up by two rookies.

Even with all of the uncertainty, Thompson and McCarthy have excellent poker faces. If the cards come out right, the Packers will have another successful season. If not, their credit allowance will be put on notice.

Bob Fox is a frequent contributor to E-mail him at

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