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.*
I'm often asked by fans what I do in the offseason or if I live in Green Bay year round. As I've noted here in the past, February and March are very busy months for me, with meetings and events at the Super Bowl, meetings to put together the annual budget for all aspects of the organization, preparations for the Annual League Meeting in March and attendance at the Combine.
I just returned from a week at the Combine in Indianapolis. While the Combine is still primarily an opportunity for each team's player personnel department to evaluate college prospects, the Combine has grown significantly over the years. So many people from different aspects of the NFL attend the Combine that it has evolved into the place where numerous League meetings take place. The timing (the Combine typically takes place in late February) is good, too, as League committees have had enough time after the season to provide analyses on various statistics related to the game. The Combine is typically a month before the Annual League Meeting, so there is time to put together proposals to be voted on at the meeting.
During my time in Indianapolis, three of the NFL committees that I serve on held meetings. The Competition Committee had the heaviest schedule with meetings held throughout the week with the Coaches Advisory Committee, General Managers Advisory Committee, various physicians groups and with leaders from the NCAA, as well as meetings with just the Competition Committee members. The owners' Health and Safety Committee met to review all of the injury data from the season, and also met with the Head, Neck and Spine Committee and the Foot and Ankle Subcommittee. The College Relations Committee met as well at the Combine, and a few of us also spent time at NCAA headquarters, which are located in Indianapolis. I was also busy later in the week attending the USA Football national conference. Finally, I try to sit in on a number of interviews we hold with potential draftees. So, when you watch the Combine next year, you'll know there is a lot more going on besides players running 40-yard dashes and doing various football drills.
Now, on to your questions:
A question from Merle
How much consideration is given to the character of the people the Packers draft or sign to play here? Or is their character brought out by some sort of teaching program?
Character is every important to us, Merle, in our overall evaluation of a player. Although all of our players are not perfect angels, we feel very good about the quality of the people in our locker room and the culture of the team. As I mentioned above, I sit in on many of the interviews at the Combine, and we ask all the players about their backgrounds, whether they've ever been arrested as well as their academic standing. We also do quite a bit of research on every player that we may draft or sign. I have also seen GM Ted Thompson take a player off our draft board because we felt he presented too much of a character risk. The draft is not an exact science, and teams must often weigh how much risk they are willing to take on players. The other issue is, how will a player change when he is suddenly making a lot of money and has more free time than in college?
Tim from Marion, IA
Certain things should be taboo to mess with and one of these should be the extra point. Until extra points are automatic, no misses, then start thinking about changing it, but until then have coaches get on their special teams and start blocking more of them like they used to.
Tim, you and I will probably disagree on this. The extra point had become almost automatic – 99.7 percent accuracy in 2014. I thought the change in the extra point last year (moving the line of scrimmage to the 15-yard line) was very positive for the game. The play became more competitive (94 percent of all extra points were made), and the rule made games more exciting. The AFC Championship game was impacted by a missed extra point, and we had a chance to beat the Lions at home at the end of the game because of a missed extra point. Last year's change was only for one year, so the rule will be voted on again this year. I anticipate that it will become permanent. I was a little surprised that more teams did not go for two points with the new rule.
Ben from Phoenix
I noticed that the number of concussions in the NFL increased significantly last year. Is this a concern for the NFL?
Yes, absolutely, Ben, this is a big concern for the League. There is no more important issue for the future of the League (and the game) than concussions. It is impacting parents and whether they will allow their sons to play the game. There has obviously been a lot of media attention on this issue, and we have made progress in recent years in reducing concussions, so it was disappointing to see the large (58 percent) increase in 2015. During the meetings at the Combine, we spent a lot of time examining the data on concussions and trying to understand why they increased. Like any injury, you will have more some years than others, but I do think the increase is partly explained by the increased amount of focus and attention on concussions. We have more doctors and athletic trainers looking for players who may have been concussed, and we added the medical timeout last year. We had twice as many players sent for screenings for concussions as in 2014. I also think with all the attention on concussions and concerns about their long-term effects, more players are self-reporting concussions than in the past. We had a number of players (especially linemen) report concussions on Monday and Tuesday after games. This is an issue that we will obviously watch closely, and hopefully we will see a reduction in the number of concussions in the future.
Rhonda from Suamico, WI
I noticed that the Packers recently moved to variable pricing. I think this is a good move, but isn't it unfair to Green season-ticket holders?
Thanks, Rhonda. This is something that we've studied for the last few years. The motivation behind the move to variable pricing is to lower the price of the tickets to preseason games to more accurately reflect the value of these games. I've heard many complaints over the years from fans about having to pay full price for preseason games. Overall, while season-ticket holders will pay the same as they would have (with normal increases), the advantage is that they will more easily be able to sell tickets to preseason games. The issue you raise regarding the fairness between the Green and Gold ticket packages is something that we've considered in our deliberations. Initially, the League mandated that teams have at least three pricing tiers in the variable pricing model. With three tiers (one preseason price and two in the regular season), we could not come up with a model that would be equitable for Green and Gold ticketholders. With two pricing tiers (preseason and regular season), though, we felt comfortable making the move to variable pricing. Although Green ticketholders will see a larger increase overall this year than in the past (and Gold ticket holders will have a decrease), going forward we think it will be better for our ticketholders overall. Also, the old system was unfair to Gold ticketholders, since one third of their games were preseason, while only 1/7th of the Green ticketholders' games were preseason.
Bill from Racine, WI
I read about the NFL's Super Bowl Homecoming Program to celebrate the 50th Super Bowl. Did any former or current Packers participate in the program?
Yes, Bill, quite a few of our former players participated in the program (including Jerry Kramer) as did Coach Mike McCarthy. I also participated, and really enjoyed the chance to return to my high school, Clarence Central in the Buffalo area. Under the program, all players and head coaches who participated in a Super Bowl (whether they won or lost), were given a Gold football to take back and present to their high school. There are just under 3,000 players who have played in a Super Bowl from approximately 2,000 high schools. It has proven to be a great program for the League. The presentation provides great publicity for the high school and its football program. It also provides an opportunity to discuss the benefits of participation in football, which is timely given all the media attention on the injury risks of the game. The schools are also eligible to receive grants from the NFL.