GREEN BAY – While Ted Thompson did what he thought was the smart, right thing for the franchise when he released two-time Pro Bowl left tackle Chad Clifton and three-time Pro Bowl safety Nick Collins in a three-day span, it clearly took its toll on the Green Bay Packers general manager emotionally.
Thompson, who’s not one for public displays of emotion, got choked up Friday evening when asked to articulate what Clifton and Collins meant to the organization. Clifton, with the team since 2000, was released after his surgically repaired back prevented him from passing his physical, while Collins, with the team since 2005, was released when the Packers decided they weren’t comfortable with him resuming his football career on their watch after undergoing single spinal fusion surgery following a career-threatening neck injury last September.
“They are the epitome of our franchise,” Thompson began. “Chad Clifton came in as a second-round pick and has played for a very long time at a position that’s of premium value in the National Football League, the left tackle position. He’s battled through some injuries, but rarely did he miss time up until this past year. You can’t know how comforting it is to know that you have your left tackle and you don’t have to worry about it.
“Nick Collins came from a small college – Bethune-Cookman – by NCAA standards. There were people that doubted him when he came in. He did nothing but impress us, started from Day 1. In a very shortened career, I think he went to three Pro Bowls, would have been many, many more. Both are good men, both are good family men.”
That was when Thompson’s emotions got the best of him.
“They’re what we’re looking for,” Thompson concluded quietly. “That’s what we’d like these young men that we drafted today to be.”
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