Ted Thompson appeared amazed.
The Green Bay Packers general manager had just been told a remarkable statistic about his 53-man roster: That 51 of the players on it have never played a regular-season snap for any other NFL team.
“Um … I wasn’t aware of that,” Thompson replied. “Where do you guys get all this stuff?”
(For the record, ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert was the first to point it out.)
"I don’t know that that’s ever been brought up in a personnel meeting,” Thompson added. “We don’t think about that."
While the raw number might not be intentional – in case you’re curious, only fullback John Kuhn (nine games with Pittsburgh in 2006) and defensive tackle Ryan Pickett (75 games with St. Louis from 2001 through 2005) have seen regular-season action with other teams, although others did spend time with other clubs before coming to Green Bay – certainly the ethos behind it is.
And Thompson’s latest 53-man roster is reflective of that approach. They are Packers through-and-through.
Of the 53 players currently on the roster – Thompson emphasized that the roster could and likely will change before next Sunday’s regular-season opener at San Francisco – 34 entered the league as Packers draft picks (64.2 percent). Nine more signed with the Packers immediately following their respective drafts as undrafted free agents.
Eight of the team’s 11 draft picks from this year are on the 53-man roster (Datone Jones, Eddie Lacy, David Bakhtiari, Johnathan Franklin, Micah Hyde, Josh Boyd, Nate Palmer and Sam Barrington) while another, JC Tretter, is on the physically unable to perform list. (Seventh-round wide receiver Charles Johnson was cut but is being signed to the practice squad while the other seventh-round wideout, Kevin Dorsey, is on injured reserve awaiting an injury settlement.)
Coach Mike McCarthy amended the team’s draft-and-develop philosophy when he spoke to his new players at the post-draft rookie orientation camp in May, telling them that the Packers are now a draft-and-undrafted-and-develop team. Of the 19 non-Packers draft picks on the roster, 18 of them were undrafted coming out of college. Only Pickett, a 2001 first-round pick by the Rams, was drafted.
“When we put together roster changes and things like that, we try to evaluate literally what is going to be the best thing to help this team win. We think of it in terms of win now, win six weeks from now, win two years from now.” Thompson said. “We’re always thinking about what’s going to be best for the Packers organization and No. 1, the best thing in the guys in that locker room. When it comes out to be those numbers, it doesn’t affect me because we don’t bring that up. We don’t ever think about that.”
While Thompson may make a move or two in the coming days – “You never know what the next few days might bring,” he said – here’s a look at the Packers’ roster as it stands now:
Quarterbacks (2): Aaron Rodgers, B.J. Coleman.
While they have arguably the best quarterback in the league, the Packers are apparently willing to back him up with arguably the worst backup in the league. Coleman threw a pair of interceptions in the Aug. 3 Family Night Scrimmage and improved only slightly thereafter, with his one shining moment coming when he engineered a 13-play, 75-yard drive that ended in a 9-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jake Stoneburner at St. Louis on Aug. 17. He was primarily running scout-team offenses the final two-plus weeks of training camp, but now he’s the guy behind the guy – at least for now.
Asked directly Sunday if he is actively pursuing another quarterback to back up Rodgers, Thompson replied, “We’re actively pursuing everything there is in the National Football League. At every position, and I’m not just making this up, at every position we’re looking to see if we can get better.”
Thompson has backed Rodgers up with unproven quarterbacks before, having used rookie seventh-round pick Matt Flynn behind Rodgers in 2008 and Graham Harrell, who was released on the cutdown to 75, last year. At the time, neither had thrown an NFL regular-season pass, something Coleman has yet to do after spending all of last season on the practice squad.
“Playing quarterback is an interesting thing. I think I’ve said this before in here, you don’t really know until you know,” Thompson said. “You’ve got to be put in the fire and see how everything works. (With) the timing and the reactions and all the things that go into playing that position, it’s extraordinarily difficult position to play well.”
Asked about Coleman’s development specifically, Thompson said Coleman is “growing. He’s continued to grow and continued to get better and processes the information and that sort of thing. We’re all trying to get better.”
An NFL source confirmed that the Packers have signed former University of Wisconsin and San Francisco 49ers quarterback Scott Tolzien, who was the 49ers’ third-stringer the past two years, to the practice squad. McCarthy and Thompson were impressed with Tolzien at the Badgers’ 2011 pro timing day in Madison, but it’s hard to imagine he’s an alternative to Coleman at this point.
Running backs (4): Eddie Lacy, James Starks, Johnathan Franklin, John Kuhn.
Alex Green, a third-round pick in 2011, was released Saturday and claimed on waivers by the New York Jets on Sunday. Although he led the Packers in rushing last season (464 yards), he seemed to struggle with vision and finding running room after seeing gaping holes in Hawaii’s spread offense in college. By cutting Green, the Packers decided to give the oft-injured Starks another chance.
From the shoulder injury that wiped out his senior season at the University of Buffalo, to the torn hamstring that cost him the first half of his rookie season of 2010, to the knee and ankle injuries that limited him down the stretch in 2011, to the knee injury that sidelined him for the final four weeks of the regular season and both playoff games, Starks simply has never had a full, healthy season. With DuJuan Harris done for the year (knee), Starks must stay healthy to give the Packers another option behind Lacy.
“I think you have to be excited about James Starks’ camp. He has practiced every single day, something that has been important for him to do,” McCarthy said. “His availability has been the highest of his career. He runs very hard and he has contributed a little more on special teams than he has in the past, so there’s definitely steps James made through training camp.”
Thompson kept only Kuhn at fullback, and he figures to be the third-down back protecting Rodgers given how poorly Franklin performed in pass protection against Kansas City in the preseason finale. The team had four halfbacks coming out of camp last year (Starks, Cedric Benson, Green and Brandon Saine) and Thompson acknowledged that the position is lighter than he might have planned.
“You’d like to have as many as you could handle at every position,” Thompson said. “Again, you have to weigh this vs. this and another one of these vs. another one of that. You’re always a little bit light at some spot.