Expectations Embraced

In his football report at Thursday's shareholders meeting, general manager Ted Thompson acknowledges, "This is a good team." He also jokes about the youth of his team and runs through his pre-training camp roster.

Every year, thousands of "owners" arrive at Lambeau Field for the Green Bay Packers' annual shareholders meeting. Most of them just want to hear about the football and don't want to be bored with such things as charitable donations and marketing updates.

If you're one of those "football-only" fans, this story is for you. General manager Ted Thompson led off the event with the football report. Thompson recalled last season's loss at previously winless Tampa Bay, which sent the Packers to a disappointing 4-4. Wholesale firings seemed about as likely as a trip to the playoffs.

"That was a very, very lonely flight," Thompson said about leaving Tampa, Fla., for a scouting trip.

The resurgent Packers wound up winning seven of their final eight regular season games to qualify for the playoffs. This year, several pundits consider these Packers to be Super Bowl contenders.

"I know there are a lot of expectations about this year," Thompson said. "I know we were talking to some of the board members inside and there's a lot of excitement. There should be. This is a good team. I think we have a lot of confidence in ourselves. But know this: The NFL is a very hard business. It's very unforgiving and it can trample you to death if you don't get up."

Thompson showed his typically dry sense of humor by poking fun at his usual apathy toward free agency — calling it the "infamous free agency system" — and his club's three-year run as the NFL's youngest team.

"One of my goals is try not to be the youngest team in the league this year, just so everyone will quit asking about it," Thompson said. "It's not on purpose. It's just the way it works out. When that changes, there will be — and I think you all understand that — there will be harder choices as this team matures."

Thompson then ran through the roster and gave his thoughts on each position group. Thompson joked that he wouldn't be too insightful, and he didn't disappoint.

Wide receivers: "We're very fortunate to have had the same group of receivers. Greg (Jennings), Donald (Driver), Jordy (Nelson) and James (Jones), that's a pretty good group for you to start with."

Tight end: "(Jermichael Finley) had a breakout season last year. It's a very important position in our offense."

Offensive line: The much-maligned ... offensive line. We have a group intact from the last part of last season when I feel like we played our best. Our team was a little bit more consistent when we were able to put our normal guys in the game. You can never have enough offensive and defensive linemen. We spend a lot of resources and time trying to develop these guys. It's a good group and I think it will be much-improved over last season."

Quarterback: "Aaron (Rodgers) was named to the Pro Bowl for the first time, which was a good thing. This is a good group. Matt Flynn's really come on as the backup to Aaron."

Running backs: "There's going to be a lot of competition for roster spots. We feel pretty good about this group."

Defensive line: Is "headed up by Cullen Jenkins, who is an outstanding player in Dom (Capers') new defense. He was an outstanding player in the old defense." Thompson was "very glad" that he was able to re-sign Ryan Pickett.

Inside linebackers: "Very strong position for this team." Thompson mentioned Nick Barnett, A.J. Hawk and Brandon Chillar.

Outside linebackers: Thompson singled out Clay Matthews' Pro Bowl rookie season. "Both of those linebacker groups we feel like are pretty strong. It will be interesting to see how the competition at the outside backer spot works out."

Cornerback: "Charles (Woodson) was named to the All-Pro team and was the NFL defensive player of the year, which is a great tribute." Thompson mentioned the athleticism of the group. Al Harris was singled out for his comeback, though Thompson didn't say whether Harris would be cleared for the first practice.

Safeties: Thompson only mentioned Nick Collins' second Pro Bowl selection.

Special teams: "The two punters (Tim Masthay and Chris Bryan) had a great competition in the spring. I think you'll enjoy watching them in training camp and the preseason, and we'll see how that works out."

Rookies: "I think it's going to be a pretty good group. We'll know better in two or three years. We're going to ask these guys to come in and help this team right away, so there's not that much of a learning curve. There can't be. You just have to be ready to go."

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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 and Facebook under Bill Huber.

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