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At the quarter pole, players and officials adjusting to new rules

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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 the preseason, as well as the first three weeks of the regular season, officiating was a big issue across the NFL. Fans and members of the media were very concerned about how new rules (particularly the use-of-the-helmet rule) were being officiated, as well as the new point of emphasis regarding roughing the passer. (It should be noted that both of these changes were made to make the game safer.) After one quarter of the season has been played, though, there are signs that players and officials are adjusting to the new rules.

In the preseason, the use-of-helmet penalty was called often. Over the first four weeks of the season, though, the penalty was only called four times. While roughing-the-passer penalties are up significantly over last year through the first four weeks (39 versus 21) there were only five penalties called in Week 4. I believe that the players and officials have adjusted to the new rules. Our players are amazing athletes and have proven that they can adjust to new rules. Several years ago, when the league adopted rules protecting defenseless players, we saw the players adjust to the changed rules. Likewise, the officials have adjusted to new rules over time by determining in exactly what situations penalties should be called. Al Riveron, the NFL’s head of officiating, and his staff in New York have been instrumental in this process. The coaches also deserve credit for providing coaching points on how to play under the new rules.

The main purpose of the rule changes was to make the game safer (we do not yet have the injury data compiled), but I believe they have also contributed to improving the quality of play. After two games, the margin of victory is 9.9 points per game, which would be the lowest since 1932 (when scores were a lot lower). A total of 38 games have been decided by one score (eight points or less) – the most in NFL history through Week 4. Also, there have been six overtime games, the most since 2002. Finally, both points scored and touchdowns are at a record pace. So, while the rules changes are difficult for everyone involved in the game, all signs so far point to a safer, more exciting game.

Now, on to your questions….

Jim from Naperville, IL

I enjoyed reading the press release this week regarding the second phase of Titletown development. I’m interested in purchasing one of the townhouses. Whom should I contact and how much are the townhouses?

That’s great, Jim. I’m glad you’re interested in a townhouse in Titletown. Actually, I’ve heard from several people since the press conference on Wednesday unveiling our plans for the residential and office aspects of Phase 2. We will have approximately 220 residences – 70-90 townhouses and approximately 140 apartment units. You can go to www.livetitletown.com to express your interest in purchasing a townhouse (or renting an apartment). We haven’t set the prices yet for the townhouse (or the rent for the apartments), but we will have three different types of townhouses at different price points. The second phase will also include dining, retail and entertainment that will be announced at a later date.

Sara from Janesville, WI

Dear Mark, since a united bid from Canada, Mexico, and the United States won the 2026 World Cup, what would have to happen for Lambeau to get a game or two?

It was great to see North America win the bid to host the 2026 World Cup. It’s one of the best sporting events in the world. Lambeau Field did receive consideration, but the stadium cannot accommodate a regulation-sized field (the width would be too narrow) and therefore could not be used as a game site. There was some thought that Lambeau Field could be used as a training site for a team, but due to the World Cup schedule conflicting with our offseason training program, we could not serve as a host. We would be open, however, to hosting a “friendly” (that’s the difference between soccer and football – no friendlies in football).

Paul from Cumming, GA

I've been meaning to ask this question for a while. In June, Forbes Magazine released an article detailing the success of the Atlanta Falcons’ "Fan First" pricing approach for their stadium concessions. The long and short of it was that increased sales volume was able to offset the initial revenue lost by lowering prices. Fans were also more likely to spend additional time in the stadium and purchase other merchandise on site. As the saying goes, "It's a copycat league," so I'm sure the Packers and other franchises have watched Atlanta's experiment with great interest. If this low-price, high-volume sales model continues to succeed, could you envision it being implemented by other franchises as well?

Thanks for raising this issue, Paul. We also offer value-priced items, and have done so for three years now. They are located at the concession stands in Sections 118, 121, 331, 427, 440 and 750. Fans have used those concessions, but we have not seen a large increase in sales for those stands. Fans seem to enjoy the more creative options like the horse collar. It is also worth noting that the Falcons introduced the new concessions pricing when they moved into a new stadium with higher ticket prices and PSLs. This year we’ve introduced three grab-and-go concession stands that are designed to move fans through more quickly. We’ve been very pleased with the results so far. Fans have been able to make purchases quickly and get back to their seats to continue watching the game. We are looking to add more in the future.

Lee from Cedar Rapids, IA

What was the deal with the flag/banner at the game vs. Buffalo on Sept. 30, 2018? It wasn’t the American flag that should have been on the field.

We’ve received a number of questions about the banner last Sunday, Lee. It was not a replacement for the U.S. flag, but a supplement to the three U.S. flags on the roof of the stadium and the flag carried by the color guard on the field. We've used similar displays from time to time in the past when other pregame elements (in this case the University of Wisconsin marching band) take up a significant portion of the field. We certainly didn’t intend to disrespect the flag in any way. To avoid causing confusion, we will not be using such displays in the future.

James from New Richmond, WI.

A Hello Mr. Murphy. I’m very excited to see all the things going on with Titletown, and look forward to bringing my children, spouse, sister, and nieces to see it this weekend. I have been doing the 5K for the last six years (with the exception of last year), and remember they used to show a movie the night before or the night of the 5K. We got lucky enough to bring our oldest who was about 3 at the time to the 5K the year they showed “Frozen,” and I still have pictures (as well as lasting memories) of her with Elsa and Olaf. We had such a great time, but that was the last time they showed movies on the Jumbotron. I am just curious as to why that was phased out. I trust the brains at work within the Green Bay organization, and assume that there was good reasoning for no longer doing it. I am just wondering why did they stop doing that? It isn’t upsetting, just a bit disappointing. With that said I’m thinking (and hoping) the Titletown District will more than make up for it, but was debating it with my aunt and decided, I know just the guy who can answer that. Finally, I think you are doing a fine job, and can say I couldn’t be prouder to be a Packers fan, as you folks running the show, keep setting the bar higher and higher, and outdoing yourself with the constant updates and upgrades. Keep up the good work and GO PACK GO!

Great question, Jim. We did decide not to show movies in the stadium. The main reason was that the crowds were not large enough to justify opening up the stadium. We also encountered dangerous weather with thunderstorms and rain. The good news, though, is that Titletown will more than make up for this loss. We had five movie nights on Ariens Hill starting on Aug. 31. People sat on the hill and the screen was placed on the bottom of the hill. We averaged approximately 400 people for the free movies. If you go to www.titletown.com you can see all the different events that are scheduled in Titletown. These include game nights, campfire Fridays and yoga and Zumba classes.

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