Thank you all for coming out this evening. The schedule just came out, and I'd say we're very pleased and excited. I think to have five national TV games, obviously we knew about the opening game on NBC and the Thanksgiving game, but to have two Monday night games is exciting. And then the matchup with Dallas at home will be a nationally televised game at home. I think having five nationally televised games speaks well about the organization and what the league and the networks think about the national draw of the Packers. With that, I'll open it up for questions.
(They didn't do you any favors with three of the last four on the road and the bye after the fourth game, did they?)
Well, when I saw that, when I first saw the schedule, that's one of the first things you see. But I had an opportunity to talk to Mike, and I think you've seen his quote. I think when you look at the entire schedule, first of all having a chance to open with two games at home right away is something that is a positive. And then although the bye is early, the fact that after our Thanksgiving game we don't play until the following Monday gives you almost like a second bye later in the season. So I think the combination of having a bye early and then a bigger break than normal with five games to go in the season does give you a chance to set yourself up for a good run at the end of the season. But in the long run, you end up with eight home games and eight away, so it all tends to even out.
(Wouldn't you rather make teams come here in December?)
You want to be playing well, whether it's home or away. I think that's, how Mike's looking at it is, we can use the schedule the way it lays out to set ourselves up for the end of the season.
(Do you get to request when your bye is?)
Putting the NFL schedule together, I've got about a four-page memo here from the league office, all the permutations and requests. I think they said, what did they start out with? 35 million different schedule options? No, I don't think it was that many, but it was many different schedule options, and then they weed it down. It's a fairly complicated process, and the first priority is competitive fairness and equity across teams. I do think over time these things even out. It used to be, I think the bye could be as early as the second week, now the earliest it can be the fourth week. We have to adjust our schedule accordingly. I think again with the break we get playing Thanksgiving and then having a little break after that, I think we can use that to our advantage.
(Did you make any requests to the league?)
No. The one thing we did ask, but it's part of the normal routine now is we asked that we play at home the Sunday before Thanksgiving. But that's normal routine now if you're playing away on a Thursday that you're at home. So it really wasn't something they needed to act on.
(Are you in favor of moving the Thanksgiving games around instead of the same venues every year?)
It's something that we've looked at and talked about at the league level. I think with the NFL Network package now, it gives other teams an opportunity to host Thanksgiving games. I see both sides of it. Having played in Thanksgiving games at Dallas, I think it's the tradition of Detroit and Dallas. I think one of the concerns is does it give them a competitive advantage, those two teams, to always play at home and then always have extra time to prepare for that next game. But the statistics have shown that it doesn't have a significant impact on their performance. But I think that's something the league will look at. It's probably, quite honestly, driven by TV and ratings, and would the league benefit from maybe having some more variety in those games. But I do think traditionally those games rate well, have good ratings. I know one thing they do like division matchups, so for instance this year, to have us playing Detroit is going to be a pretty attractive game and I think should benefit the ratings.
(So you don't request that the Milwaukee games aren't night games?)
No, I think we talked about this last year. I talked to Bob. That hasn't been something we have requested for a number of years.
(How do you feel about four of your last five being cold-weather games?)
Well, that's something we are going to change. We should be a good...we're in Green Bay, Wisconsin. We should be a good cold-weather team. I am optimistic that our new practice field with the heating element and the field similar to what we have in Lambeau will allow us to continue practicing outside and to get to practice under conditions that we are going to play in, which should help us. Obviously there are many different things involved in it, but I do think as an organization long term, a goal is we are playing good football in cold weather. That should be a given for the Green Bay Packers.
(The field in Pittsburgh has been an issue the last few years...)
Yeah, Pitt plays there and then they have all kinds of high school playoff games. Yeah, I think they have worked on it and tried to correct it. It's actually the same surface that we have, but our surface in the Grassmaster system has really performed well for us, and particularly late in the season where we have had some trouble in the past and we have been very fortunate.
(When you look at the schedule as a whole, do you see it as a challenging one?)
Yeah, I think so. I also look at it too from a fan's perspective. I think having attractive games early in the season. Certainly starting out the season with two home games is something I think we can as we're working with our sponsors and looking at the gameday experience for our fans, I think we can do some pretty exciting things early in the season. I think having three division matchups early in the season...also, the other thing I look at, I think it's good to play in November rather than September as a northern team. Again, from a fan's standpoint, I know obviously our fans love to travel and probably travel as well as any other fans in the league. So to have games at Tampa and Arizona in the latter part of the season is pretty attractive. I think even reporters are going to like that.
(So you don't do what fans do tomorrow, go through game by game and say this is a win or this is a loss?)
No, I've done that and everything changes and that's the reality of the NFL. You look at last year and who would have thought that Atlanta was a playoff team? Certainly when the schedule came out I think a lot of our fans probably said, 'well, there is one, we're at home.' Things change, and between injuries and so many different factors. But I do like the way the schedule lays out. I think the opportunity to start well and then I think Mike kind of alluded to this in his comments, it really kind of breaks up into three parts: the early season before the bye, then the middle portion of the season through Thanksgiving, then the Thanksgiving break and the five games following that.
(Do you like how the early part of the schedule sets up with games against three teams with new coaches and a Cincinnati team that struggled last year?)
I go back to what Jason said. You never can really tell exactly how it is going to lay out. I do think having two homes to start the season and the division matchups I think are always important. To have three of those division games I think it is in the first five weeks and then obviously with the bye there too, I think it's something that we can use to get off to a good start. But, obviously we have to play and perform well.