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.*
With Brett Favre's induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this summer, we will play in the Hall of Fame Game for the first time since 2003. Teams that play in the Hall of Fame Game play an extra (fifth) preseason game. The primary goal of the preseason is to get the team ready for the regular season. The biggest advantage of playing the extra preseason game is that you have extra playing time in games to develop young players (and get them ready to play in the regular season). The main concern relates to the risk of injury in the preseason games, as well as the injury risk from the wear and tear of additional preseason practices.
As Mike McCarthy put together the training camp schedule, injury risk was obviously on the top of his mind. First, he decided to excuse 15 veterans from participating in last month's minicamp. By excusing these players, they will have as much time off prior to the start of training camp as they have had in the last few years. They should come into camp fresh and ready for the season. He also decided to start training camp practices on July 26, four days after we could have started under league rules. In addition, he set up the training camp practice schedule with an eye toward giving players more time off between practices to keep them fresh throughout training camp. We will have several evening practices this summer for the first time in a few years.
The challenge facing all head coaches in training camp is to get his team (and players) ready for the regular season without exposing the players to too much injury risk. This challenge becomes even greater when your team plays in the Hall of Fame Game. Coach McCarthy is very much in tune with his players, and has been ahead of most head coaches in terms of keeping his players fresh during both the preseason and regular season. I'm confident that our preseason practice schedule will put us in a good position heading into the regular season.
Now, on to your questions:
John from Baraboo, WI
With the Packers playing in the Hall of Fame Game, will you do anything special with the shareholder meeting this year?
Nothing special is planned, John, but the meeting will be earlier in July than normal. The meeting will be held on Thursday, July 21, at 11 a.m. With a Thursday meeting, I'm hoping that many of our shareholders will take a long weekend and visit Lambeau Field and Green Bay after the meeting. Our players will report on Monday, July 25, and the first practice will be held on Tuesday morning.
Steve from Santa Clara, CA
Hi, Mark. Do you think the Raiders will end up moving to Las Vegas?
Great question, Steve. This will be one of the biggest issues facing the league over the next year. The Raiders' management would like to stay in Oakland (a strong and growing market), but only if a new stadium is built. Thus far, it appears very unlikely that they will be able to secure significant public funding for a new stadium. The Raiders also have the option of becoming a tenant in the Rams' new stadium in L.A. (if the Chargers decide not to choose this option), but I think the Raiders would prefer to be the only team in a market and have their own stadium. Las Vegas has come forward with $750 million in public funding for a new domed stadium for the Raiders. In order to move to Las Vegas, the Raiders would need the approval of three-quarters (24) of the league owners. Traditionally, the major issue with Las Vegas has been concern regarding the impact of legalized gambling on the team and players. While this is still a concern, the fact that online gambling is so prevalent now lessens the specific concern about Las Vegas. (Although I have to admit that I was concerned when I saw that a strip club in Las Vegas said they would offer free lap dances and limo rides to Raiders players if the team moved to Las Vegas.) I'm anxious to see the league office's analysis of the viability of the Las Vegas market. Las Vegas is growing, but would still be one of the league's smallest markets (fifth smallest) and its economy is primarily based on tourism. I think the key question will be whether Las Vegas has a strong enough economic base to support an NFL team over the long term.
Rich from Ripon, WI
I saw that you were in Ripon on the Tailgate Tour recently. What's it like to be on a tour like that, and do any other teams have tailgate tours?
Did you come out to our tailgate party in Ripon, Rich? I don't think other teams have tours like ours. For me, it really highlights the uniqueness of the Packers organization. We're community owned (so giving back to the community is a top priority), and we have a special bond with our fans. We have two main goals with the Tailgate Tour. First, to thank our fans for their support, and, second, to raise money for charities across the state. On the 11 Tailgate Tours, we've raised over $2 million for charities. The Tailgate Tour is one of my favorite weeks of the year. I love traveling across the state, seeing so many different parts of the state and our fans, and raising money for very deserving charities. I also enjoy having the chance to get to know our players and alumni better. (We spend about 16 hours a day together on the bus and at various stops, so I definitely get to know them well.) I especially enjoy watching the interaction between our current and former players. At the beginning of the week, they are at opposite ends of the bus and have little interaction, but, by the end of the week, they typically realize how much they have in common and develop strong friendships.
Jim from Milwaukee, WI
With the recent release of the Packers' financial statements, and the announcement of record profits, it did bring a question to my mind. What do the Packers do with their profits?
Thanks, Jim. I am often asked this question. Since we don't have an owner (or owners) looking to make an annual profit from the organization, we invest our profits in the team, stadium, Atrium or the player facilities to ensure that our team remains competitive and that our facilities continue to be among the best in the league. Our top priority is to ensure that football has enough resources to field a championship team. Although we have a salary cap, we want to make sure that we have money available for signing and roster bonuses for players. We also work to ensure that our salaries for coaches and scouts are competitive. Over the past five years, we've invested in a new sound system, new video boards, the South End Zone expansion, the Atrium renovation (new Pro Shop, Hall of Fame and restaurant) and new player facilities (weight room, CRIC – conditioning, rehabilitation & instructional center – hydrotherapy room and team dining area). Also, we recently started work on a two-year project to renovate our suites. In addition, in recent years we've invested a significant amount of money in purchasing land for the Titletown District, and we will make further investments in this project. Titletown will help the Packers in many ways, but especially by providing diversified, non-football income and helping to ensure that the local economy stays strong into the future. A very unique goal of the Packers is to ensure that we stay in Green Bay. For this reason, one of the organization's core values is stewardship. We want to leave all aspects of the organization in good shape for the future. Since we don't have a deep-pocketed owner who we can turn to in times of financial need, we established a corporate reserve fund several years ago. The fund now has $275 million in it and is managed by our investment committee. Finally, we are also very supportive of charitable organizations across the state. Last year our overall charitable impact was over $6.5 million.
Jessie from Green Bay
The Packers seem to be in sound financial shape. Since the team is in such strong financial shape, wouldn't it make sense to lower ticket prices to help out season-ticket holders?
Jessie, setting the price of tickets is one of the more difficult decisions that we make as an organization. As a community-owned team, we want to remain affordable for our fans, but we also want to be fair to the other teams in the league (under league policies, visiting teams receive 1/3 of the gate revenue). Due to this balancing process, for many years now (going back prior to my start with the organization) we have had a policy in place where our goal is to be at the league average in terms of ticket price. We actually adjusted this goal more recently to be just below the league average. We've also found that it is easier to meet this goal if we raise ticket prices annually. In 2009, we went three years without a ticket price increase, slipped to 30th in average ticket price, and had to increase ticket prices dramatically the next year to get to the league average. I'm happy to report, Jessie, that as a result of our move to variable pricing (different prices for preseason and regular-season game tickets), gold season-ticket holders paid less this year for their season tickets than last year. We will continue to monitor our ticket prices, but, with a number of new stadiums opening over the next few years, we will likely have to raise ticket prices to remain just below the league average.