"It's not an easy thing to walk away from," Thompson said Wednesday at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis as he spoke publicly for the first time since Green Bay's 44-21 loss to the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship.
"It wasn't easy for any of us, certainly our players, to walk away from Atlanta because there's too much heartache and too much pain that's gone into trying to do something. This is something special people are trying to do."
That "something special" is getting back to and winning a Super Bowl, both of which have eluded the Packers since the 2010 season.
Back then, Aaron Rodgers was just 27 years old and in his third season as an NFL starter.
Six seasons and a couple crushing losses in the NFC title game later, the team's franchise quarterback is a grizzled 33 years old with not many opportunities left to win another Super Bowl in his celebrated career.
That's perhaps why Rodgers said dejectedly after the blowout loss to the Falcons, "We've just got to make sure we're going all in every year to win, and I think we can take a big step this offseason."
Thompson, who is 64 and thought to be closing in on retirement, didn't take those remarks from his prized possession as an ultimatum, however, with the start of free agency on the horizon March 9.
"It doesn't matter how old we are," Thompson said. "We're going to try to do the exact same thing every year -- we're going to try to get to the Super Bowl and win it. And, that's what we're going to try to do again this year."
Of course, Thompson's oft-criticized tried-and-true method for keeping the Packers as the team to beat in the NFC North is to replenish his roster through the draft and adding a few undrafted guys each year. Free agency is almost overlooked, save for the rare inheritance of veteran castoffs such as Charles Woodson, Julius Peppers and Jared Cook.
And, if Thompson doesn't think Rodgers' "all in" comment meant the team needs to be abnormally aggressive in free agency this offseason, then the general manager's only other predictable course of action will be what unfolds in the next week or so.
"Our best intention will be to sign as many of our own players as we can and keep it together," Thompson said.
What's more, Thompson sounded as though he's committed to getting many of the Packers' impending free agents under contract sooner than later, perhaps before free agency kicks off.
"Over the years, we've probably signed several right at the start of free agency, and my guess is that's what going to happen this year," Thompson said.
He will have plenty of money at his disposal, nearly $40 million with the league salary cap set at $167 million Wednesday.
The Packers have 11 players set to become unrestricted free agents with notables such as Peppers and Nick Perry at outside linebacker, Cook at tight end. Eddie Lacy at running back, T.J. Lang at guard and Micah Hyde at defensive back.
Head coach Mike McCarthy said Wednesday that the status of the 37-year-old Peppers' playing another season, whether in Green Bay or elsewhere, is to be determined.
"I think Julius just wanted to step away from it (after the season)," McCarthy said. "I know he would continue to like to play, just as far as the conversations that we had, but it was important for him to step away."
Meanwhile, McCarthy said he wants to bring back Lacy and Perry, among others.
"Nick's a hell of a football player. He's a talent," McCarthy said about Perry, who had a team- and career-high 11 sacks last season.
McCarthy said Lacy is rehabbing his surgically repaired ankle back at his college stomping grounds at Alabama. Lacy missed all but the first five games of last season because of the injury, which prompted McCarthy to turn receiver Ty Montgomery into a running back and then commit to the transformation going into next season.
Also on the mend is Lang, who had hip surgery a few days after the season-ending loss at Atlanta and backed out of what would have been his first Pro Bowl appearance. Whether this factors into the team's decision on trying to re-sign its dependable right guard, McCarthy said Lang probably won't be able to do anything on the field until training camp this summer.
"This is a business phase that we go through each and every year," said McCarthy, looking ahead to the new league year. "I'm hopeful that we can get them all back, but the reality of it doesn't always work out that way."
--Before anyone starts picturing arch-nemesis Adrian Peterson in green and gold, McCarthy likes the prospect of a more likely scenario for the Packers backfield. That of a tandem of Montgomery and Lacy.
McCarthy made it clear on Wednesday that he welcomes another season with Lacy, who's due to become an unrestricted free agent next week.
"We'd like to get Eddie back. He's our guy," McCarthy said.
The feeling appears to be mutual. Lacy has said in the past that he wants to remain a Packer and aired in recent days how the team is stepping up to try to re-sign him.
For now, the team's once-heralded No. 1 back is tackling more rehab for his surgically repaired ankle at his former college home of Alabama. Lacy suffered season-ending ligament damage to his left ankle after only five games last season.
The Packers went an unconventional route in filling the void by showcasing Montgomery, a wide receiver, as their top back the second half of the season. He led the team for the season with 457 rushing yards, averaging 5.9 yards per carry.
Lacy rushed for 360 yards but 5.1 yards per carry in his truncated season.
If Lacy is true to his word about staying with Green Bay, the likely scenario is for him to play on a short-term, incentive-laden deal that would allow him a chance to cash in if he can stay healthy and put up big numbers again. Lacy stood out with back-to-back seasons of more than 1,100 rushing yards his first two years in the NFL before injuries started to hamper him in 2015.
Going forward, expectations for Lacy would be tempered by having the capable Montgomery, who's expected to have a new uniform number when the players reconvene for the start of the offseason program in April.
"He's a running back, so he wants to change his number, and that's the way we're going," McCarthy said. "He'll spend the whole offseason clearly working at the running back position. Obviously, the ability to flex out and play receiver and those types of things will be his secondary responsibility."
The likelihood of a Montgomery-Lacy pairing would presumably rule out the Packers' even considering taking the slightest interest in Peterson. He's expected to become a free agent after the NFC North rival Minnesota Vikings said Tuesday they won't pick up the $18 million option on his contract.
The Packers, however, have depth concerns to address at running back. They released seven-year pro James Starks in early February. Christine Michael, a late-season acquisition who was the Seattle Seahawks' top rusher, is set to become an unrestricted free agent.
--Despite rumblings of a shakeup on the defensive side given the Packers' pass-coverage struggles last season that came to a head in the NFC Championship, the coaching staff stayed mostly intact.
The only subtraction came when associate head coach Tom Clements departed after the season ended to pursue what McCarthy termed "other interests." Clements' contract expired following an 11-year stint with the team, the first six years as quarterbacks coach.
"I know (Rodgers) is very appreciative of what he's been able to establish with Tom, both professionally and personally," McCarthy said.
McCarthy finalized a couple tweaks to the staff and made one addition this week.
David Raih, the team's assistant offensive line coach last season, was assigned to a new role of offensive perimeter coach. McCarthy called it a promotion for Raih.
"He's going to have more responsibility," McCarthy said. "He's going to work directly with all of our position coaches on the perimeter," as well as giving game-plan input to McCarthy and offensive coordinator Edgar Bennett.
Jeff Blasko, a coaching administrator with the Packers last season, will assist offensive line coach James Campen.
Tim McGarigle joins the staff as defensive quality control coach. A linebacker who played for the St. Louis Rams in 2007, McGarigle coached the linebackers at the University of Illinois last year.
--The Packers received a compensatory pick in the fifth round of the NFL Draft next month after losing cornerback Casey Hayward in free agency last year.
Hayward signed with the San Diego Chargers and led the league with seven interceptions.
Green Bay will have eight picks in the draft, including two in the fifth round.