Murphy Takes 5 is a monthly column written by President and CEO Mark Murphy. On the first Saturday of every month, Mark will write about a topic of interest to Packers fans and the organization, and then answer five fan questions. Fans are encouraged to email Mark with their name and hometown at: MurphyTakes5@packers.com
In recent weeks, there have been numerous media reports about our offseason program. The media discusses the OTAs and IPWs, but seldom explains what they are. I’m also often asked by fans about the various aspects of this program, and I thought it would be helpful to provide some background and information on the program.
The players’ offseason program is covered in our collective bargaining agreement with the NFLPA. The offseason program was dramatically changed in our most recent agreement. In a move to improve player health and safety, the NFLPA and the NFL reduced the length of the offseason program (from 14 weeks to nine weeks) and reduced the number of practices. Former Packers center Jeff Saturday played a key role in reshaping the offseason for all players in these negotiations. The hope is that players will have less wear and tear on their bodies and enjoy longer careers. Also, by having more time off in the spring, it is easier for players to go back to school and finish their degrees, pursue graduate school, or gain work experience.
The Packers offseason program started April 15. We start with physicals for all players, and then go into Phase 1 of the offseason program. This first phase includes seven workouts over two weeks. The activities are limited to strength training and conditioning, and only strength and conditioning coaches are allowed on the field. The idea is to slowly transition the players back into football shape. During the first phase, classroom instruction is also permitted, and coaches can begin to install the offense and defense.
Phase 2 of the offseason program lasts for three weeks, and includes 12 IPWs or individual player workouts. During these workouts, coaches are allowed on the field. The on-field workouts may include individual player instruction, but no offense versus defense, and no pads or helmets can be worn.
The last three weeks of the offseason program make up Phase 3, which includes OTAs (organized team activities) and a mini-camp. We will hold 10 OTAs during this time period. The OTAs are really practices but with no contact, and players wear helmets, but not pads. I should also mention that most of the offseason program is on a voluntary basis for our players. We’ve had great participation in the offseason program this year. The one exception is mini-camp. All players are required to report to mini-camp. The mini-camp practices are really no different than the OTAs. Our mini-camp this year is next week, June 4-6. The practices on June 4 and 5 will be open to the public.
Since the new collective bargaining agreement was finalized in July of 2011, this is only our second offseason with the new program. Coaches are adjusting to the new schedule and learning how to best prepare their teams for the season. I know that Coach Mike McCarthy tweaked the schedule slightly this year. It is still too early to judge the impact of the new offseason schedule, but I’m hopeful that it will be very good for our players – both in terms of their health and safety, and in helping them make a smoother transition to the life after football.
Now, on to your questions:
Bob from Madison, WI
I read recently that Lambeau Field may host a Badgers football game. Is this something that the Packers would like to do on a regular basis?
Thanks, Bob. University of Wisconsin Athletic Director Barry Alvarez and I have been talking for a couple of years now about the possibility of playing a game at Lambeau Field. Since home games at Camp Randall are so important to the University and Madison, we’ve focused on neutral game sites. The thought is that Wisconsin might be able to convince a high profile opponent into playing the Badgers at Lambeau Field, while it is highly unlikely they would play them at Camp Randall. I think a couple of recent changes in the Big 10 and college football could help us in our efforts to host a college game. The Big 10 will soon move to nine conference games and appears likely to adopt a policy that football teams can only schedule games against opponents from BCS conferences. Also, with the new national championship format, strength of schedule will be a much more important factor in selecting the four teams for the semi-finals. We would like to host college games on a fairly regular basis. It would be great for our community, and would be a special treat for Badgers fans and players. I think the atmosphere at Lambeau Field would be great for college football, and would bring national attention to the University that would help in recruiting.
Kenny from Greenfield, WI
With the new addition going up, can we have a section for people who are not lucky to have season passes?
I’m often asked by fans how they can get tickets to a game at Lambeau Field. It is possible to buy tickets for single games through Ticketmaster, although you typically have to pay a premium. With the new South End, we will have a section on the fourth level for a limited number of group tickets that may be helpful to people like you who are looking for tickets. Subject to availability, families or companies that want 20 or more tickets together will be able to purchase tickets on a single-game basis. We think this will be a very popular option, since it is impossible to get that many general admission tickets together now. We are planning to promote this through Packers Everywhere, one of our social media programs. Look for more information on this new option as we get closer to the season.
Jameson from West Winston Salem, NC
With this year’s Super Bowl being played outdoors in NY, does that open up the door for you to pitch Lambeau Field as the host site for a future SB? Why or why not?
I recently read a column on ESPN.com that stated that Super Bowl L should stand for Super Bowl at Lambeau, and made a case for holding the 50th Super Bowl here in Green Bay. There was also a poll that showed interest in having a Super Bowl here. The owners, though, recently selected San Francisco to host Super Bowl L. It is still a real long shot for us to host a Super Bowl. The small number of hotel rooms and limited practice and media facilities are the biggest challenges. The weather in Green Bay in February is not a help to us either!
Mike from Sun Prairie, WI
Are the Packers or the NFL going to do anything to mark the 100 anniversary of Vince Lombardi’s birth?
ESPN is running a special this month called "The Lombardi Legacy" to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of his birth. It is first scheduled to air on June 6, and then again June 11, on Lombardi's birthday. It is tied into their selection of the Top 10 NFL Coaches of all time. I'm a big fan of ESPN's 30 for 30 series. The films in this series are really well done, and I'm sure this feature on Lombardi will be excellent.
Tom from Bloomington, IL
I read that there are renovations planned in regard to the players’ drive-in entrance. After the renovation, will there still be an opportunity to get autographs if a person waits patiently by a gate similar to in the past?
Good question, Tom. For those of you who have been to Lambeau Field recently, you may have noticed that there is a lot of construction work being done on the east side of the stadium. This is the second phase of work on the stadium, the Atrium Renovation. We are extending the steps at the Oneida Nation Gate to the east. We will build new football facilities (team dining area, player development office) under the plaza at the top of the steps. The player parking lot will eventually move from the north of the steps to the south, and will still be above ground. There will be a tunnel underneath the steps for the players to drive through to get to the parking lot on game days. We will replace the chain link fence around the parking lot with a more attractive wrought iron fence. Fans will absolutely still have an opportunity to get autographs from players. This interaction between fans and our players is important, and we want it to continue.