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Thompson: Safety no more, less important

May 01, 2014 -- 11:02pm
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The Packers might be in the market for safety help, but Ted Thompson wouldn’t say whether it’s a position of need.

GREEN BAY – As per his custom, Ted Thompson wasn’t about to bite on questions about a specific position during his annual pre-draft press conference Thursday.

The position, of course, was safety, which appears to be among the Green Bay Packers’ most glaring needs after Morgan Burnett had a mediocre year after signing a $24.75 million extension and the team was so disillusioned with 17-game starter M.D. Jennings that he wasn’t even given a qualifying restricted free-agent offer by the club – and promptly signed with the Chicago Bears the following day.

Thompson, who is about to preside over his 10th draft as the Packers’ GM, said he didn’t believe the safety position has become any more important than it was for his first draft, when he used a second-round pick on future three-time Pro Bowl safety Nick Collins of Bethune-Cookman.

The Packers, whose first-round pick is at No. 21 overall and whose second-round pick is at No. 53, could be interested in Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Louisville's Calvin Pryor or Washington Stat's Deone Bucannon, the top three safeties in this draft.

“You need good safety play to be a good defense, but you did 10 years ago or 20 years ago or whatever,” Thompson replied when asked if good safety play is more vital in today’s game because of the emphasis on passing and spread offenses. “I don’t know. I think it’s good to have that. It certainly gives you, as a defensive coordinator, more flexibility if you have more versatile-type guys. At the end of the day, you just try to take the best player.”

The Packers have had three multiple Pro Bowl safeties over the past two decades in LeRoy Butler, Darren Sharper and Collins, each of whom made their first Pro Bowls in their fourth NFL seasons. Last year was Burnett’s fourth season, although he suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee four games into his rookie year in 2010 and missed the remainder of that season.

The Packers wound up playing five different players at safety last year – Burnett, Jennings, Jerron McMillian, Chris Banjo and Sean Richardson – and coach Mike McCarthy said at the NFL Meetings in March that he intended to give cornerback Micah Hyde a look at the position this year. McMillian, a 2012 fourth-round pick, was so disappointing that the team cut him midway through last season. The Packers were the only team in the 32-team NFL that didn’t get at least one interception from a safety last year.

Asked if something was missing at the safety position in 2013, Thompson replied, “I just think we had a few too many bumps and bruises as we went along.”

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