During the season, when it comes to studying his craft, Thompson is a perfectionist. In practice he pays close attention to the elements of Sean Landeta's punting—the elapsed time from the snap to the kick, the hang time of the punt, the direction and distance the ball travels. Will Landeta boom it? Or will he drop it at an angle? As a gunner on punt coverage—one of two players who can release from the line of scrimmage before the punt—Thompson must be in sync with Landeta.
At home Thompson pores over videotapes on a 13-inch television monitor for an hour almost every night. He analyzes the kickoff and punt return teams of the Giants' next opponent from four different games. For example, the first time he reviews tape of the opponent's kickoff returns, he focuses on the man who plays the same position he does—L3, the player lined up three slots to the left of the kicker. The next time through, Thompson picks apart the ways the upcoming opponent blocks the L3 player. How do the blockers line up? Do they block straight on or from different angles? He also examines the tendencies of the return man. On the final run-through, Thompson visualizes himself as the L3 player on the tape, figuring out ways to neutralize the blockers.
"Film is so important because you can only work on mechanics in practice," Thompson says. "You can't simulate the true emotions or you'd get hurt. I have always believed that most players in the NFL are at the same talent level. The ones who are the best prepared are the most effective."