Mark Murphy Press Conference Transcript - July 30

Read the transcript of President/CEO Mark Murphy’s press conference from the Lambeau Field auditorium following the annual shareholders’ meeting on Thursday.

I thought the meeting went well. Obviously I thought the weather kept some people away, but we thank the people that came. I think we had about just under 7,500. Given the weather conditions, I thought that was a really good turnout. I thought the meeting went well. We covered a lot of different topics, so I was pleased. It's still only my second one, but nothing in the NFL quite like it. It's so unique and it really kind of hits home how special and unique this organization is when you stand up there and see that many of your shareholders coming out for a meeting like that.

(When you brought up Brett Favre and the organization's response to that situation, you received a warm applause. What did you think about that?)

Yeah, I viewed that the same way. Obviously I think people realize it was a difficult situation. What I mentioned, on the one hand we are balancing a legendary player that had meant so much to the organization and being fair to him, but trying to do what is in the best interest of the organization.

(Does it matter to the Packers that he apparently is staying retired?)

No. I think we have said that if he wanted to come back and play, not many people at the age of 40 have even the ability to think about playing football, so if he wanted to do it, fine. No, that doesn't really affect us. Our focus is on our season. We feel good about the team, and also I mentioned I think we all feel very positive about Aaron and what he can do for the Packers in the future.

(You said the Favre situation was one of the team's biggest challenges. Could you talk more about that?)

I think in a way and a lot of ways it was really unprecedented in professional sports. It's always hard when a legendary player leaves a team, but I think the media attention, the media focus, it was a distraction, certainly early in training camp. I think it kind of lingered as the year went on, particularly in terms of the media attention. I think it wouldn't be right to say it didn't affect us at all. I do think it did have an impact on the organization. I think in terms of our fans, certainly there were some, I heard from a few, that disagreed with the decision, so I think it affected us in some different ways. But that is where I think I am really encouraged. I think we have moved past it. I think as an organization, I mentioned to me one of the key moments this past year was the draft. I think having, particularly trading up and getting the second pick and the success, I think there was some excitement around the draft and to me it put our focus forward on the future.

(You have talked about his jersey being retired at the appropriate time and a potential marketing deal with the team at some point. Could you talk about when the appropriate time might be for his jersey to be retired?)

First of all, there is no question we are going to retire his number. We have made that commitment. He deserves it for what he did on the field and what he has meant to the organization. But I can't answer when that time would be other than to say we'll make sure that it is the appropriate time for both sides. It's pretty significant. You look up and the players that have had their numbers retired, it's pretty rarefied air. This should be something special to the organization and him, and I know it will be. But when that time will be is really hard to say.

(How would you characterize CBA negotiations and do you expect them to pick up before that March 1 uncapped deadline?)

Yeah, we're really in the very early stages. We've had just two sessions. It's hard to predict. I do think the first pressure point will be before we head into that uncapped year. It's not just the cap going away. I mentioned some of the other benefits for both sides that go away. It was really designed to force the parties to negotiate.

(You mentioned the Packers could play a significant role in negotiations; can you expand on that?)

Well, a couple (of things). The fact that we're viewed as a small-market team, but I think we're unique in that not only are we a small-market team, but you look at revenue since the renovation we have been anywhere from eighth to 11th. So in some ways we can relate to both the smaller-market teams as well as the high-revenue, big-market teams and maybe help draw a bridge between some of those. Then I think obviously being on the negotiating committee, I think that is helpful to us. I think our organization, because of the way we are structured, throughout the league I think people view it maybe as a little more pure just because all of our decisions are made with the idea of what is best for football, how is this going to help us from a football standpoint. I think that could be helpful in this process.

(Ted said during his remarks about the CBA that the Packers might have to employ some different strategies. What did he mean by that?)

It's planning. The challenge is for the first time there is uncertainty. We have extended the Collective Bargaining Agreement six times or five times, and normally it's been with two or three more years to go, so you have never been in a situation where you are going to an uncapped year. So I think what makes it difficult for planning is this player has a year to go on his contract. If we reach an agreement and we have a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, he would become a free agent. If there is not a Collective Bargaining Agreement, because the free-agency period is extended, he might be a restricted free agent. So trying to plan out all of those different scenarios, it's a challenge, but every team is in the same situation. For us the key, and it's one of the things I stressed in terms of our organization, is having alignment and a good relationship between administration and football. I think that's an area where it can be really helpful where all right, here's where we are in negotiations, this may happen. Those are some of the issues that I think Ted was talking about.

(With that in mind, is that an inducement to sign some of your players to long-term contracts before that time comes?)

Not necessarily. I think every team has to make decisions on does it make sense to lock people up. The other thing is obviously if we get to an uncapped year, you don't have the cap in place. I think the union's view is that if you get to an uncapped year, it would be a spending spree. I just don't see that. I think most of the teams are going to look at it and say number one, our revenue is not what it has been, we're challenged economically. I think you're probably going to see player costs go down in the uncapped year.

{sportsad300}(You are the only team that puts out revenue numbers like this. I'm sure the NFLPA would say even with the challenging economy, the Packers still turned a nice profit. What would the counter-argument be to that?)

I think when you really dig in and you look at the numbers, it shows the issues that we have with the union. For many years in a row, well, just the last two years, our player costs have gone up $14 million, at a much higher rate than our revenue. Then the other thing I would look at, and this was partly the economy, but our local revenue actually went down. So you've got a situation where your local revenue is going down and your player costs are going up $14 million. It's hard to sustain that. If you look at the trends, they are not favorable. Those are the big issues that we have with the current agreement.

(And other owners have debt services, correct?)

Yeah, they have an additional expense item that we don't have.

(How far down the priority list is the regional development in the neighborhood?)

Well, we're still in the planning stages. Yeah, and I think one of the issues is just trying to figure out when is the right time to move forward. Ideally you'd like to position yourself so when you are coming out of the recession and the economy is starting to turn, you have things in place so that you can take advantage of it. It's something that we really envision is it can't be just the Packers. This has got to be something that is done in conjunction with the city of Green Bay, Brown County, as well as the village of Ashwaubenon.

(You spent a fair amount of time during the meeting going over the history of the CBA. Is that part of a conscious effort to educate people?)

Yeah, and actually I cut it back a little bit, so they would have been really bored. Some of it I kind of lived through it, so it's my own experience. But no, I just feel as I look at it, to me it's no question that the biggest issue we're going to face as well as the league over the next two years is our collective bargaining situation. The negotiations were just starting with the players, so I thought it would be good to give people some background and also just to kind of identify some of the main issues that will be discussed in the negotiations.

(Can you talk about the biggest hit the organization took related to the economy as well as the season itself?)

The economy, the biggest area where we saw it was probably in the Pro Shop. I think Dan Ariens mentioned that in his marketing report. It's really the discretionary dollars, and I think it was the economy and quite honestly I think a losing record has a part of that. When you look at the Pro Shop, we were coming off a record year in terms of our Pro Shop. We benefited from a 13-3 year, kind of a surprise season, people were excited. Quite honestly, Brett Favre broke records, had a record-breaking year, and a lot of people thought it was his last year with the Packers. There was a lot of excitement and then you add on the fact that we had two home playoff games. We knew it would come down but we came down even more than that. The other area where we were impacted was in terms of our long-term investments. Just like anybody else has a 401K, we were hit by it and that affected us. We're been pretty fortunate though looking ahead in terms of our sponsorships. People stayed with us and they've been loyal, and we've been willing to work with sponsors. If people are in a business that is struggling, we want to help them and we want to make sure that they stay with us and we want to make sure they are getting value for the relationship. In terms of the record, you look at it and the Packers organization is not used to losing seasons. I think you look at only the second losing season in the last 17 years, that's something in my role you've got to look at it and say all right, what can we do differently? I mentioned it, whenever you have a disappointing season I think you have to guard against overreacting and panicking, but to objectively look at your organization and the situation and make the changes that you feel are necessary. I think we have done that from top to bottom and I think Ted, in conjunction with Mike, looked at a number of different areas, including coaching staff and the defensive scheme, and made changes that they felt were needed.

(Where are you on a lottery affiliation and patches on the practice jerseys?)

In terms of the lottery, we're pretty close. We've had some very good discussions with the state lottery, so I think we'll be able to announce something fairly soon. In terms of the jersey, we've got a couple of different options there and we are working on it, but I don't think anything is imminent.

(But that would have to come together pretty soon, correct?)

Yeah, you've obviously got training camp starting in a couple of days.

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