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Packers GM Ted Thompson wants to 'see how their eyes are' in preseason

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Ted Thompson can sit in his office and watch film of preseason games over and over, rewinding a play as often as he wants. At the click of a computer key or the touch of an iPad screen, he can toggle between the side view and the end zone camera angles.

But he can't look into a player's eyes.

That's why the Green Bay Packers' general manager prefers to view preseason games from the bench area.

Unlike in the regular season, when Thompson takes his customary seat in the press box next to team president Mark Murphy, you'll find the 63-year-old on the sideline Thursday night when the Oakland Raiders come to Lambeau Field. It's where he watched last week's game against the Cleveland Browns. And when the Packers go to San Francisco and Kansas City to close out the preseason, he'll also be at field level.

"I think there's a lot of things you can get reading people's faces as they're coming off the field, whether they have confidence or lack of," Thompson said. "Normally, it's the lack of to start with and then as you go along with the game, like it happened the other night -- I'm not going to point out any specific players, but there were some guys where all of a sudden they realized it's OK, it wasn't the end of the world and they were good enough play.

"I think that's a wonderful place to be as an evaluator, to see that moment when each guy, not necessarily comes of age because there's a lot of things to it, but he realizes he can play. That's a fun thing to do, a fun thing to see."

Thompson does it in practice, too. He often watches somewhere near coach Mike McCarthy or another member of the coaching or scouting staffs.

It's usually not the established veterans he studies but rather the younger players and those fighting for roster spots.

"To be able to watch them come off the field and see how their eyes are and see if they're nervous or see if they're having fun, the whole process of going through a game," Thompson said. "Because it's not a preseason game for those guys. It's a game.

"So I think it's a valuable tool; and it's just one of the tools, but it's a valuable tool in deciding how the team is going to be constructed. There's going to be a guy that makes the team off of that, and there's going to be a guy that doesn't make the team based off of that. So it's important."

At least one of Thompson's protégés, Kansas City Chiefs general manager John Dorsey, liked the idea so much that he adopted it as part of his own evaluation process.

However, Dorsey does it only in the preseason finale just before he makes his final cuts, when he's looking for something to sway him one way or the other.

"I think you can see things a lot clearer than you can from the press box," Dorsey said. "You can feel the game, feel the emotion of it. I get good clarity from it. I think there are times you can sense fear and get a sense of weakness that you wouldn't get from the press box or the film."