By Chris Havel
Special to Event USA
Green Bay’s rookies get acclimated with individual and 7-on-7 drills in practice
GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Green Bay Packers’ past and present shared the spotlight at 1265 Lombardi Ave. this weekend.
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The Packers’ rookies were put through their paces in individual and 7-on-7 drills on Saturday at the Hutson Center. That night, former Super Bowl XLV winning GM Ted Thompson was inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame.
It was a celebration of all that it takes to build a champion, and a reminder of what’s involved in generating a new era of success.
Years from now the hope is GM Brian Gutekunst will receive the same honor as Thompson, with Packers president Mark Murphy, head coach Matt LaFleur, and players such as Rashan Gary singing his praises for resurrecting Titletown.
A fairly beaming Thompson marveled at the honor he received.
“I appreciate it more than you can ever know,” he said. “This means a lot to me, and I can say, ‘Go Pack Go!’ ”
Thompson, 66, is the 162nd member of the Packer Hall of Fame. He led the Packers to eight straight playoff appearances – a franchise record – as well as the Super Bowl championship.
Bob Harlan, Ron and Eliot Wolf, John Dorsey and Reggie McKenzie were among those in attendance. John Schneider, Mike Holmgren, Charles Woodson and Aaron Rodgers – Thompson’s first draft pick – all sent video messages.
Jordy Nelson, who was drafted by Thompson in 2008, was grateful to the former GM for making him a Packer.
“A great person,” he told ESPN. “I think you can tell by the people he brought into the organization. I think that was first and foremost – the (kind of) people he brought in was more important than the skill and the talent because he wanted the right locker room, the right guys in the community, the right leaders. Obviously, I’m extremely thankful for what he’s done for me and my family, giving us that opportunity. It’s great to be back to see him receive this honor and see him again.”
Thompson, who played at Southern Methodist University, was signed by Oilers head coach/GM Bum Phillips as an undrafted player in 1975. Phillips had briefly coached Thompson at SMU. Thompson played 10 seasons at Houston.
In 1992, Ron Wolf hired Thompson as a scout. He became a relentless talent hound and contributed mightily to the Packers’ ascension and eventual Super Bowl XXXI victory.
After a stop in Seattle, where he helped the Seahawks reach the Super Bowl, he returned as the Packers’ GM in 2005.
To begin the Packer HOF event, four Marines presented the Packers’ Lombardi Trophies in front of Lambeau Field.
Bart Starr Jr. said his parents hope to be in attendance at Lambeau Field for the Week 2 home opener against the Vikings. A video showed Bart Starr, at 85, throwing a football.
Earlier that day on the practice field, LaFleur began coaching up the rookies ahead of the veterans’ arrival in two weeks.
“We want to integrate (the rookies) into the drill work right away,” LaFleur said. “We don’t want to slow it down for the veterans. It will be great prep for what they’ll do in Phase 2.”
The Packers’ 2019 first-round picks – Gary and Darnell Savage – both played in the Big Ten. As defenders, however, they didn’t know each other before coming to Green Bay.
Already, according to ESPN, they are developing a relationship and concocting a game plan.
“I told (Savage), ‘Don’t worry, man. You cover. I’m going to make sure you get a couple of interceptions,” Gary said. “So we’re having fun.”
Gary, who wears No. 52, explained why he chose Clay Matthews’ old jersey number.
“Five minus 2 equals 3. I wore 3 in college. But Clay Matthews was a guy … I used to watch his game a lot. I’m a bigger type of guy, but watching what he used to do, his passion for the game, man I loved it. As soon as I saw it open, I had to take it.”
Matthews, upon seeing a mock-up of Gary wearing No. 52, noted that “the body isn’t even cold yet lol.”
Clearly, he was joking, as he posted a mock-up of himself wearing a No. 52 Rams jersey soon after he signed there.