Among the highlights we'll save for the magazine are Thompson's transition from NFL linebacker to talent evaluator, the unexpected big thing he watches at practice or the Scouting Combine, and the agony and ecstasy of Sundays. We did touch on some more timely things, which we share below in question-and-answer format.
I know it's only June, but what's your early read on the team?
I think, like everybody around the league, you're cautiously optimistic at this time of the year — and we are here. But the proof's in the pudding. We have a lot of work to do — that sort of thing.
I realize you're not going to predict a Super Bowl, but considering the youth of the roster and you're coming off an 11-5 season, is there any reason why this team can't reach the Super Bowl this year?
Well, it's a tough business, Bill, as you're well aware of. It's a tough business and it gets tougher all the time and no team stays the same. That goes for us, that goes for all of our opponents. Everybody's trying to get better and everybody's competing. It's hard to get real cocky in this business because it's a hard business.
You must like what you've got though ...
We like our team. We like the makeup of our team and the people on it and that sort of thing. You never stop kind of having this wish list of, ‘I wish this,' and ‘I wish that.' But, I like our team.
Don't suppose you'd be willing to share that wish list ...
Well ... It changes every day, though.
Again, I know it's early, but what do you think of your rookies?
They seem to be fitting in pretty well. It looks like, as a group, they're assimilating with our fellas pretty well. I'm not in the predicting business in terms of who's going to start and who's going to do this and who's going to do that. But it looks like these guys should be able to come in and help the team.
One thing that my readers are always talking about is how you handle free agency. I'm sure that's your favorite topic, but could you share your philosophy?
We do lots and lots and lots of film study and work during the season leading up to free agency. The first thing you have to decide is your own potential free agents and whether they're core guys that you want going forward and that you want to pursue a longer-term deal with. And then, once you get to free agency, you identify guys that you think can come in and perform a role at a position that you think that you may need that type of player, then you go after him. We do a lot of visitations, a lot of recruiting, things like that. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn't. We're a little more active than most people think we are, but we don't always sign them.
At one point during the offseason, Coach McCarthy said the team hadn't brought in a single free agent. Did that change?
I'm sure we brought in some guys. I couldn't imagine that. But I've turned the page on that.
Free agency just isn't any good anymore, is it? This year especially, but it's not like when Ron Wolf was here and you could sign a Reggie White.
No, there's no question that guys like Reggie do not become free agents anymore.
Are teams stealing your playbook by staying below the cap and re-signing their top guys before they reach free agency?
(Laughs) I don't know if anybody is trying to follow me, but I do think — and I don't think it's just been recently, but over the past several years. I think it took some time for teams through the '90s, but I think once we got through that decade, I think the Reggie Whites certainly started coming off the board. I do think teams manage their caps and manage their own people.
With Tramon Williams finally locked up, is the next thing signing him to a long-term deal?
Certainly, that would be some of the things that we're thinking about. I don't normally get into talking specifically about any single player, but you're always trying to figure out where you're going down the road before you get to that curve in the road. The question is how you do it because you're juggling 50-some-odd balls up in the air. You'd like to get to a point where you can make every player on your team, especially the ones that you consider core players, happy and content. Unfortunately, I think that's harder than it sounds. It's always a struggle, but certainly the Packers try to make sure we take care of our own. That's one of the reasons we're very careful about throwing money around in free agency, because you want to make sure you take care of your own guys first.
Mark Murphy has been talking publicly about going to an 18-game regular season. Your thoughts?
That's one of those things that's above my pay grade, so I'll leave you guys to decide whether that's a good thing or not.
I know how you and Coach McCarthy love hypothetical questions, but maybe you'll like this one. How would your life change — or would it change — if you win a Super Bowl?
Well, I was a part of one in the '90s and I'll always treasure it. I think it would be very special for all of us here to be able to do that, to be able to add to the glory of this place and tradition o this place. I think it would be very special. I don't know if it would be life changing or not. I do know that it would be something that Mike and myself would greatly like to be able to do.
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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 email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.