GREEN BAY — Jace Sternberger was a boom-or-bust pick in the third round of the 2019 NFL draft. On Tuesday, the Green Bay Packers decided he was the latter and moved on by releasing the 25-year-old tight end after a pair of disappointing seasons.
Sternberger was coming off a two-game substance-abuse suspension, so the Packers had to decide whether to add him to the active roster or release him. Sternberger’s suspension ended following the Packers’ 35-17 win over the Detroit Lions on Monday night.
The team could decide to bring him back on the practice squad, given the NFL’s relaxed eligibility rules, but that appeared very unlikely on Tuesday. Sternberger, too, might be best served by starting over elsewhere.
“That’s always a tough decision whenever you have a competitive room like that,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said. “It was one of those deals where we appreciate everything Jace has done.”
Unfortunately for the Packers, he didn’t do as much as a team would expect of a player of his draft status.
The Packers knew Sternberger, who started his college career at Kansas, where he redshirted one season and caught just one pass the next season, was thin college experience and were betting on his potential. He spent his third college season at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M, a junior college, before moving on to Texas A&M, where he caught 48 passes for 832 yards (17.3 yards per catch) and 10 touchdowns in his only season with the Aggies.
After the pick, Packers co-director of player personnel Jon-Eric Sullivan called Sternberger, who was one of the 30 players the Packers brought to Green Bay for an official pre-draft visit, a “late-bloomer” but raved about his potential.
Even though Sternberger was the sixth tight end taken, Sullivan made it clear that the Packers were high on him and that they didn’t rank Sternberger far lower than Iowa tight ends T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant, both of whom went in the first round.“I don’t think there’s pressure for him to come in here and be Superman, but we definitely think he has the skill set to do that if needed. He’s got a very exciting skill set. He’s a guy that we feel like is an ascending player. We were really glad to get him. He was a riser at Texas A&M. He was a late bloomer, is what he was. Didn’t have much of a career at Kansas, moved on to junior college and then burst onto the scene (in 2018).”
Sternberger played in 18 regular-season games in Green Bay, catching 12 passes for 114 yards and a touchdown while playing just 262 regular-season offensive snaps. He caught three passes for 15 yards and a touchdown during the 2019 playoffs but was a healthy scratch during the postseason last year after being cleared from a late-season concussion.
The Packers clearly liked their other tight ends (Robert Tonyan, Marcedes Lewis, Josiah Deguara and Dominique Dafney) better than Sternberger, who needed a strong training camp to alter the depth chart. That didn’t happen, and it was a bad sign when tight ends coach Justin Outten was less than effusive in his praise for Sternberger following Sternberger’s 34-yard catch in the preseason opener against Houston.
“That one play doesn’t really describe the player,” Outten said. “It’s more consistently what you’re putting in day in and day out. With his consistency, it’s kind of been sporadic. Whether it’s still getting used to the playbook or feeling around the line of scrimmage, he’s still having some up-and-down days. With the extra reps that he’s getting, he’s got a handle it a little bit better in a sense of more video and doing the extra things outside.”Jones gets chain back
Early Tuesday morning, Packers head athletic trainer Bryan “Flea” Engel went through the end-zone grass at Lambeau Field and successfully tracked down running back Aaron Jones’ lost necklace pendant, which contained ashes from Jones’ late father, Alvin Sr. Jones wore the locket while scoring four touchdowns and believed he lost it during the second touchdown.
“It says a lot about Aaron Jones, but I think it also says a lot about ‘Flea’ and what kind of guy he is,” LaFleur said. “He means so much to us — both of those guys do — and obviously I think Aaron being in the stadium for the first time without his father, that was a pretty big deal. For him to go out there and perform and have four touchdowns, I think that was a pretty big moment for him.”
LaFleur clarified Tuesday that he started second-year guard Jon Runyan at left guard instead of veteran Lucas Patrick against the Lions because Patrick was fresh out of the concussion protocol and scarcely practiced during the week. “Runyan practiced all week and we felt comfortable with him. We felt it was probably best for Lucas long-term as well to only use him if absolutely necessary, just to kind of let him rest another week,” LaFleur said, reiterating that the two will compete “on a week-to-week basis.” … LaFleur said defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery, who missed Monday night’s game after testing positive for COVID-19 despite being vaccinated, will “hopefully” be back to work this week.
A sincere gentleman: Former Packers GM Ted Thompson's influence felt on and off the gridiron
Starting off on the right foot
Opening a door
Support goes a long way
An amazing mentor
What a weekend
Taking a back seat
All Ted cared about was getting good players and winning games. He was about the work, not the trappings of the position. And that is too rare these days.— Drew Olson (@DrewOlsonMKE) January 21, 2021
Lending an ear
I’m saddened to hear the news of Ted Thompson’s passing. I can’t say enough good things about Ted. I always enjoyed the lunch room conversations and sideline chats we had and I will always feel indebted to him for taking a chance on this unproven kid. RIP TT 🙏🏼— Clay Matthews III (@ClayMatthews52) January 21, 2021
Actions speak loudest
At Pro Day, Ted Thompson came out of the stands to cheer us on during the 60 yd shuttle. This simple act to encourage & cheer on a bunch of nervous guys stressed about running a good time meant everything. It spoke to who he was, & what he meant to the success of the Packers.— Drew Meyer (@drewmeyer5) January 21, 2021
Don't hold back!
It's amazing to think that about 10 years ago Ted Thompson and Kevin Green we're celebrating a Super Bowl Victory and now have since past away. 2 takeaways. 1. Go for your highest aspirations because at least you will leave this life with no regrets. 2. Our time here flies fast.— Brady Poppinga (@BradyPoppinga) January 21, 2021
Earning their respect
One for all!
My sincere condolences to the Thompson family. Ted was a great man and great GM for the Packers. I’ll always remember my draft day phone call. He asked me if “I’d have his back?” And I responded with saying “Not only his back, but Aaron Rodgers back too.” #RIP #ThankyouTed— David Bakhtiari (@DavidBakhtiari) January 21, 2021
Leaving his mark
His legacy lives on
As much as I ever complained about Ted Thompson during the tail end of his tenure as GM, I have to give him credit. He had a huge hand in building the @packers team that will take the field for the NFCCG on Sunday. Many of those key players were drafted by him. RIP #GoPackGo— Corey David Witcher (@coreyw7878) January 21, 2021
Set up for success
Ted Thompson is reason #Packers are in this title game. For the late-tenure frustration from fans, Thompson aligned #Packers for 15 years of contention with very first major decision. Every good Packers memory these past 15 years, it started with him.— Ryan Wood (@ByRyanWood) January 21, 2021
How many GMs can say that?
Putting team first
Ted Thompson and S Mike Reinfeldt became best friends when they played for the Oilers. Mike recommended Ted to Packers GM Ron Wolf for an entry-level scouting job. Ted was a Houston businessman at the time. He thought he'd give it a try for one year. The rest is Packers' history.— John McClain (@McClain_on_NFL) January 21, 2021
Man behind the scenes
Condolences to the Thompson family. Ted set the foundation for so much of the success I was able to see and be apart of in the Packers organization. Much respect— Ryan Grant (@RyanGrant25) January 21, 2021
Dark day in Green Bay
Thoughts and prayers to the Thompson family. Terribly sad news out of Green Bay. RIP Ted.— TJ Lang (@TJLang70) January 21, 2021
Laying the foundation
Not far off
Trust in his gut
I'm saddened by the news of Ted Thompson's death. No one worked harder at scouting. He was a scout's scout. Admired how he made the call to draft Aaron Rodgers. Don't know of another GM who would have had the guts to do that.— Gil Brandt (@Gil_Brandt) January 21, 2021
Grinding it out
Thank you Ted Thompson. Thank you for giving me my first opportunity to make an opening day roster. Thank you for believing in me for 9 years and allowing me to grow as a player. Lastly, thank you for bringing me and my family to Green Bay. You changed our lives! RIP TED— John Kuhn (@kuhnj30) January 21, 2021
Giving a kid his shot
Thank you Ted for taking a chance on an undrafted kid from Arkansas. Had an amazing 10 years and truly honored to have that chance. RIP to one of the Greats!— Brett Goode (@BGoode61) January 21, 2021
Looking out for others
Sorry to hear about the passing of Ted Thompson. He gave me my first opportunity to scout in the league after getting to know him during my time with the @packers. The team building and evaluation lessons learned from him and #GoPackGo have served me well. RIP, Ted 💛💚— Bucky Brooks (@BuckyBrooks) January 21, 2021
Showing up for veterans
Former Green Bay media member John Maino shared his thoughts on the passing of Ted Thompson. John is an advocate for local veterans and servicemen & women, and Ted appreciated that. Ted helped out as well, with little to no fanfare about donating his private box to local vets. pic.twitter.com/b3CqxEqxw4— Kyle Cousineau (@KCousineau09) January 21, 2021
An expert eye for talent
Time to make him proud
Crack a smile!
Unbelievable 💔!! Thoughts and prayers go out to the Thompson family! Ted was one of a kind!— Tramon Williams Sr. (@HighRizer22) January 21, 2021
Thank you, Ted, for seeing the value in an undrafted free agent 15 years ago! I'm forever grateful. Ted was My Guy! RIP, #TedThompson pic.twitter.com/vJ41lyFYXP