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Packers make surprise first pick

GREEN BAY, Wis. - Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson didn't pick Tennessee defensive tackle Justin Harrell to address an urgent need. And judging by the reception Thompson received immediately after making Harrell the 16th pick in the...

GREEN BAY, Wis. - Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson didn't pick Tennessee defensive tackle Justin Harrell to address an urgent need.

And judging by the reception Thompson received immediately after making Harrell the 16th pick in the first round of the NFL draft on Saturday, he wasn't trying to win any popularity contests, either.

Thompson told a crowd of Packers fans gathered to watch the draft in the Lambeau Field atrium that he simply considered Harrell the best value on the board. Thompson figures Harrell might have been a top-10 pick if he hadn't missed most of last season because of an injury.

Thompson joked that it didn't go over very well.

"I was trying to get them to quit booing me," Thompson said.

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Maybe this will help win over the fans: Harrell wore Reggie White's No. 92 at Tennessee and wants to pattern his game after the former Volunteers and Packers great.

Harrell, who played through a painful ruptured left biceps tendon injury in the Volunteers' game against Florida early last season before having surgery and sitting out the rest of the year, should solidify the middle of the Packers' defensive line.

"I'm just proud of the opportunity," Harrell said. "Hopefully, when I get down there and start showing what I can do, they'll start accepting me. We'll turn those boos into cheers."

It was a surprise pick for the Packers, who could have taken a tight end, wide receiver or safety to address a more pressing need.

The Packers then traded down 16 spots in the second round, sending the 47th overall pick along with a seventh-round pick to the New York Jets for the Jets' second, third and sixth-round picks.

Green Bay already has four defensive tackles on its roster. They also signed Cullen Jenkins, who can play defensive end or tackle, to a four-year, $16 million contract extension in February.

A scouting report distributed by the Packers compares Harrell to Johnny Jolly _ a defensive tackle the Packers drafted in the sixth round last year.

"We like having a lot of good defensive linemen, and we felt like for the last month or so we felt very strongly that we'd like to add another young guy with our group," Thompson said.

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The pick came as a surprise to Harrell, too. Spending Saturday at home with friends and family in Martin, Tenn., Harrell said he wasn't even watching the draft on television when he got the call from the Packers.

"It was kind of a shock when they called me," Harrell said.

Thompson said the Packers' team doctors examined him at the NFL scouting combine and feel "pretty comfortable" that he has recovered from the injury. Harrell said he was ready to go.

"Everything's good," Harrell said.

Thompson called Harrell "a man's man," but said they didn't pick him just because he played through an injury in one game.

"I didn't want my last memories at Tennessee to be getting hurt against Air Force," Harrell said.

Cal running back Marshawn Lynch, a potential target for the Packers going into the draft, was taken by the Buffalo Bills with the No. 12 pick. With Lynch off the board, the Packers still have a significant need at running back after losing starter Ahman Green to a surprising offer from the Houston Texans in free agency.

Thompson said the Packers would have considered Lynch. And while Thompson said the team made some calls in an attempt to trade up, they couldn't get another team to bite.

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Green Bay did have a chance to choose Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn, a projected top-five pick going into the draft whose free-fall to the 22nd pick in the draft developed as one of the most compelling stories of the draft.

That's a vote of confidence for Packers backup quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the team's first-round draft pick in 2005 and heir apparent to Brett Favre. Rodgers broke his foot in the Packers' Nov. 19 game against New England.

Although Thompson's first-round pick elicited shrugs and a few boos from fans, he still has a chance to make a splash and help the offense.

Rumors have been flying for months about the Packers trying to trade with the Oakland Raiders for wide receiver Randy Moss, but no deal appeared imminent as of Saturday evening.

"I never address things like that, but it's a good question," Thompson said with a smirk as he left the interview podium.

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