There's always room for nitpicking, but team president/CEO Bob Harlan said that he is pleased overall with the hand the Green Bay Packers have been dealt in terms of their 2004 regular-season schedule.
Harlan spoke with members of the Wisconsin media in a conference call Wednesday evening, just over an hour after the NFL publicly released the regular-season schedules of all 32 NFL teams, and indicated that the Packers' 2004 slate has advantages for both fans and the team.
Chief among the fan benefits are a handful of games with prime-time exposure, from the NFL-maximum three games on ABC's Monday Night Football to a Sunday night game on ESPN. The Packers will also play a rare Friday afternoon game against the Minnesota Vikings on Christmas Eve.
"I happened to be here during the 70s and 80s when most of our games were played at noon on Sunday and everybody kept saying, 'Why aren't you on national TV?'" Harlan remembered. "I said, 'We simply aren't good enough.' And now we are.
"I think the schedule we've got this year is a great tribute to (GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman) and his staff and what they've done in football. And it shows the popularity of the franchise."
Beyond those fan perks, the Packers' 2004 lineup has some competitive advantages as well.
Although the Packers will have to finish the season with a pair of road games against division opponents -- the first time that's happened since 1985 -- those Vikings and Chicago Bears match-ups mark the only back-to-back road games the Packers have all season.
Meanwhile, the Packers also benefit from having their bye week right in the middle of the season, following their Week 8 game at the Washington Redskins (Oct. 31) and preceding their first meeting with the division rival Vikings (Nov. 14).
"I don't think it could come at a better time," Harlan said of the bye week, "and (Sherman) mentioned that, too, that he thought the bye week was an excellent placement."
Harlan met with Sherman after receiving an advanced copy of the schedule Wednesday morning, and said that he received a positive review from the coach.
"He said, 'It's a good schedule, very challenging,'" Harlan said. "He went over it and over it and he really didn't have a complaint, which I thought was excellent."
If there's a major disadvantage to the Packers' schedule, beyond facing division foes on the road for the final two weeks of the season, it's that only two of the team's final five games are at Lambeau Field, where the Packers have had dramatic success over opponents in Wisconsin's winter elements.
But Harlan said that on the whole the schedule is "well balanced."
The Green Bay Packers will open their 2004 season on the road against the defending NFC champion Carolina Panthers, September 13, on Monday Night Football.
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