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Fans sound ready for football

Annual shareholders' meeting an unofficial kickoff to new Packers season


GREEN BAY – Football is almost back, and the fans sound ready for it.

It could be heard in the moments cheers went up from roughly 7,000 shareholders who attended "the most unique business meeting in the entire United States," as Packers President/CEO Mark Murphy likes to say.

On a comfortable, sun-splashed Monday at Lambeau Field, the fans were treated multiple times to the highlight of the thrilling playoff finish in Dallas last January, and each time they saw Mason Crosby's kick sail through the uprights, they got louder.

Every time receiver Jordy Nelson and his various comeback player of the year honors were mentioned, the cheers got louder, too.

"I was told all I had to do was say 'Aaron Rodgers' and you guys would clap," General Manager Ted Thompson quipped during his football report.

The volume of 7,000 doesn't compare to 70,000-plus, of course, but the fans still obliged on the day that unofficially kicks off the new season. The first training-camp practice is still three mornings away, but the anticipation of what's to come is certainly in the air.

How else to explain the audible applause when Thompson mentioned the offense's two new tight ends, Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks, players only a handful of fans were able to see practice during OTAs earlier this spring.

Or how about the loudest ovation of all? During Thompson's review of the 2017 draft class, the picture of Wisconsin native and alum Vince Biegel sent a jolt of energy through the modest gathering, even with no knowledge yet whether Biegel's foot injury will allow him to begin training camp on time.

The notable negative reaction came when Murphy mentioned the Packers and Lambeau Field ranking No. 2 in the league in stadium experience, with the new No. 1 being Seattle. The boos were immediate, and the Seahawks happen to be the first regular-season opponent in less than two months.

Yeah, the fans want to get this going.

They sat through the annual review of financial numbers and committee reports, important pieces all to the full scope of the operation, but they don't dream about spreadsheets and graphs, they dream about Super Bowls.

Murphy had their full attention when he noted this season's Super Bowl will be in Minneapolis, just a short drive away. He then digressed into a cogent explanation of why Green Bay can't host the league's annual title tilt – available hotel rooms and weather concerns the legitimate logistical hurdles – but kept them thinking of the next best thing.

"We want to host every NFC Championship we can into the future," Murphy said.

That's a meaningful target for 2017, and it jibes with Rodgers' postgame comments last January in Atlanta, when the Packers came up one game short for the second time in three years.

The playoff cold seemed a long way off on an 80-degree summer Monday, but it didn't sound as if the fans would mind it being right around the corner.

"The Packers are the envy of every team in the league for the fan support we get," Murphy said, referencing the terms "unprecedented" and "unparalleled" to describe the fan base.

Added Thompson: "Nothing compares to the support given to the Green Bay Packers, and we'll never take your loyalty for granted."

Now they want it rewarded with the ultimate, and though the new season comes with no assurances or guarantees, they're ready to get it started. Can't blame 'em.

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