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Equipment Staff Makes Sure Team Is Fit For Success


Brett Favre throws a beautiful touchdown pass to Javon Walker, Ahman Green bursts off left tackle for a long gain, Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila notches another sack. Certainly there's a good chance that any of these events will take place during a Packers game, but it's unlikely many fans remember the people who make it all possible.

That's where the Green Bay Packers equipment staff comes into play.

Sure, everyone pays attention to the great players and the highlight reel plays, but what often gets lost in the shuffle is the work of the equipment staff. Without the helmets, shoulder pads, and footballs that the equipment staff provides, there would be no game.

Whether it be practice or a game, the equipment staff makes sure the Packers have everything they need to be successful. Whether it's making sure the players are always safely equipped or have the right clothing to be comfortable, the equipment staff plays a huge role in the organization.

Simply put, the equipment staff is responsible for what the players and coaches, as well as other Packers employees wear on and off the field. Yet there are plenty of other duties that they are responsible for and most of it is done behind the scenes.

According to Gordon "Red" Batty, equipment manager for the Green Bay Packers, preparing for the games is one of his staff's most important responsibilities. The road games, in particular, involve a great deal of preparation.

"We're traveling with approximately 10,000-12,000 pounds of equipment, depending on the game and the weather conditions," Batty said. "So every week it changes depending on whether we are playing in indoor stadiums or outdoor stadiums. Usually though, we are traveling with approximately 15 trunks, and 10 of them being about the size of your refrigerator with all kinds of different containers inside with polyester parts and pieces including gloves, facemasks, and shoes."

That's just the player's side of the equation, however. Not to be forgotten are the many other staff members that accompany the team on road trips.

"One part that is often overlooked and not understood is all the support staff -- from the coaches, to the trainers, to the video department, to the equipment guys, to the security staff -- that part alone, you could probably pack for 50 people," Batty explains.

To get an accurate idea of how much work this must be, consider that the physical part of the packing takes place on Thursday night. It takes all day Friday and by Saturday morning everything is finished in time for the staff to leave at approximately 1:00 p.m., the common time for departure.

The equipment doesn't always accompany the team on the airplane, however. According to Batty, who is in his 11th season with the Packers and 32nd overall in the equipment field, there are occasions when the equipment takes a different mode of transportation.

"We wouldn't truck the equipment to San Diego and we certainly wouldn't truck it to Tampa Bay but if it's in the proximity of 1200 miles, we are probably going to put it on the truck," Batty said. "But we truck it everywhere in the division for sure, and Indianapolis and Tennessee for sure.

"It's a two-truck process. The equipment keeps getting bigger and bigger and every department keeps adding and increasing their needs. Obviously, you can't reject that. You have to be sensitive to the fact that they need all their equipment, but the airplane doesn't get any bigger."

Although it definitely takes a great deal of effort to prepare for road games, Batty insists they don't pose a challenge quite like the home games do.

"Home games are actually a very big challenge for everybody," Batty explained. "You obviously have the football responsibility, which is your main focus, but you also have many small distractions. You have to be able to limit those distractions because everybody knows where you are, everybody knows where the stuff is, and everybody wants something.

"On the road, it's a different program, just the way everything works. I enjoy going on the road in terms of that aspect of it all. It's nice to play at home in front of the fans. That's awesome, no doubt about it, but as far as the road goes, it's smooth sailing."

Fortunately for the equipment staff, there are plenty of helping hands.

"I have myself and a staff of four full-time people, (Tom Bakken, Bryan Nehring, Tim Odea and Kevin Nelson)" Batty explains. "I have eight laundry guys and on game day I have 45 people under my direction. That can consist of ball boys, chain guys, visiting locker room attendants, referee attendants and a wide range of people. These people are all part of the equipment staff."

It may sound as if the equipment staff has its hands full only on game days, but that couldn't be further from the truth. They stay plenty busy throughout the week as well.

Batty said that there are three equipment checks a week: One on Monday morning after the game so they are ready for practice. Another on Friday morning to get them ready for the game, and one final equipment check the morning of the game.

What about keeping the trademark yellow helmets in such good shape? Certainly, they have to be repainted every week to remain shiny during the season, right? Not exactly.

"There's no repainting of the helmets at all," Batty said. "That process was done once at the beginning of the year. It's a light metallic paint, but we have to clean the paint with alcohol and a rubbing pad. That usually takes all of the marks off."

The biggest challenge regarding the helmets comes on Friday night, according to Batty. There are seven stripes and decals on every helmet and every one of them has to be checked. If they are cut or torn they have to be replaced. Batty said that on average 15 to 20 helmets a week need this work done and it takes about three hours to complete the job.

Batty said that his staff has no problem with the helmet striping, or deciding on what clothes the players are going to wear during the game.

"All the clothing they are going to wear in the game, we do that on Sunday -- the gloves, the socks," Batty explained. "It's so simple though. It's routine, it's like brushing your teeth. It's not even a challenge."

That doesn't make any of the equipment staff's duties less important, however. The players' safety is obviously something that is taken very seriously.

"The safety aspect is always important," Batty said. "They have to be safe in order to play and they have to be able to perform up to their ability. If they have a hang-up in any way from their helmet all the way down to their shoes, they aren't comfortable. That's what my staff and I take care of and we take a lot of pride in it."

That's probably the biggest reason there haven't been any huge mishaps before the game or during it. The equipment staff has a system and follows it strictly, which eliminates any last-minute hang-ups.

"We do a great, great thorough check-off before we leave for the stadium," Batty said. "Every room, every trunk is checked. If you get down to the last five pieces and you know something isn't on the truck, you take care of it. So by the time you get to the stadium, by that time, everything is ready to go. Knock on wood, it will continue to be that way."

A simple walk through the Packers locker room is a great indicator of how much the players count on the equipment staff. Darren Sharper has a ripped t-shirt that needs replacing. The equipment staff is right around the corner and Sharper is on his way again with a new shirt.

It's instances like these that Batty enjoys the most. He said that no two days are the same.

"You don't know what is going to face you on any given day and that's the beauty of this place," Batty explained. "It always keeps you on your toes.

"It's an exciting place to be, naturally. The environment is incredible, the Packers organization is first class so it's a joy for the staff to come here and deal with the players needs."

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