This first installment focuses on the NFL's recently completed annual meeting in Florida. The multiple-day conference is attended by all 32 teams that are represented by owners, executives, general managers and head coaches. The annual meeting serves as the main session each year at which the league discusses all aspects of the game, including planning for the future and voting on NFL matters that deal with everything from business operations to rules for the game on the field.
As the meetings began, it struck me that this was the first meeting in some time in which the labor situation didn't dominate the meetings, which was very positive. As you know, we negotiated a new collective bargaining agreement prior to the start of the 2011 season and all parties are looking forward with a 10-year contract now in hand. The focus of this meeting was to be on the game and making it better for the players and the fans, and I thought the meetings were very productive from that standpoint.
Some time was spent discussing the 'bounty' matter involving the New Orleans Saints, as well as the salary cap issues with the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys. It was clear to me in discussing these issues that Commissioner Roger Goodell and the owners consider the integrity of the game of paramount importance. The interests of the league overall will always come first. The actions taken by the commissioner and the teams on matters in this regard will reflect those values, and the integrity of the NFL will never be compromised.
Another important topic was player health and safety. The NFL wants to make the game safer as it evolves, and continue to make the game exciting, too. We discussed the improvement of equipment, changes in rules and investments in research. An owners committee on health and safety also has been created, and I'm honored to have been selected to serve with Dr. John York (49ers, chair), John Mara (Giants), Jerry Jones (Cowboys) and Rich McKay (Falcons). Player health and safety will remain a high priority for the all of the owners.
Related to the health and safety work at the NFL level, the Packers were proud to host a bill-signing ceremony at Lambeau Field, April 2, for the "Sidelined for Safety Act." The bill protects young athletes and raises head-injury awareness in youth sports. Former Packers great Mark Tauscher was on hand as Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signed the bill, which made Wisconsin the 32nd state to sign such legislation. The NFL's commitment to health is at all levels of football, and it continues to support legislation in other states.
The final annual meeting topic I'd like to share with you is the fan experience. As television technology has evolved, the quality of football telecasts, likewise, has improved tremendously. It has been great for the game and the popularity of the sport, of course, but the NFL wants to continue to improve the in-stadium experience. Teams have been improving that experience with additional stadium amenities in recent years. At Lambeau Field, we're doing the same with a new sound system that was installed last season and the new HD video boards that will be in place for this season. The league can implement measures to add to that, as well, such as the new program for the officials' replay review of game action that will show fans in the stadium the same video the official is viewing under the hood of the replay monitor on the sideline. Those changes, along with other in-stadium activities under consideration will continue to improve the fan experience at games.
Overall, the annual meetings had a very positive atmosphere, as the game is in great position to move forward with labor peace, strong attendance and record TV ratings. Commissioner Goodell cautioned us, however, not to be complacent with our success, because the landscape can change quickly. We must continue to work hard for the good of the game and for our fans. I couldn't agree more.
Now, on to your questions:
Steve from St. Paul, MN
What's Ted like on draft day? Does he ever sweat a pick, or change expression?
I've received many questions regarding the upcoming draft. It's an exciting time of the year for the fans and the organization, particularly Ted Thompson and his staff. Ted has a proven ability to evaluate players, obviously, and it has been a pleasure for me to see him prepare for that weekend.
It's impressive to see all the work that Ted and his scouts have done throughout the whole year and how it all comes together for the three days of the draft. They work hard and are extremely diligent in all aspects of their preparation.
On draft day, he and his staff confidently work their plan and don't let the anxious moments affect the careful evaluations they've compiled.
We're all in good hands with Ted and the personnel staff, that's for certain.
Question from Jennifer
Why did the Packers elect not to use/wear the new uniforms made by Nike?
The NFL and the Packers are very excited to begin a new partnership with Nike and are looking forward to the iconic Nike swoosh on our uniforms. The look of our jerseys will remain the same in honor of the tradition and history of the uniform, so I don't foresee the Packers changing the look.
With regard to the materials, for this year we are comfortable with our current design and fabrication relative to performance. However, we are open-minded and look forward to working with Nike on future uniforms with the technology they will continue to develop for the NFL.
Gary Rankel from Crystal River, FL
I've wondered why Lambeau wasn't closed in to create a noisier venue several years ago during the last rehab event. That seemed like a no-brainer to me, but I'm sure glad it's now happening.
Thanks for your enthusiasm for the expansion project and how it will create a wall of sound in the south end zone. We are very excited about the increased noise levels that will come with the way the section is engineered. The noise created by all fans will stay in the bowl to a higher degree, and the noise generated in the south will be directed to the field.
Head Coach Mike McCarthy is very excited about adding nearly 7,000 fans in outside seating and anticipating the additional advantage that will give the team. The south end zone seats will be extremely unique within the NFL and will create an impressive atmosphere much like end zones at Ohio State and Penn State that I became familiar with during my time at Northwestern.
Overall, we're very pleased with how the project is coming, and we are thankful for the support of our new shareholders in helping it have an even larger impact on the team's long-term success. With the new sound system, two new HD video boards, two new gates, new viewing platform in the north end zone and new concession sales system, the Lambeau Field experience is going to improve for all game attendees, and be an even more intimidating venue for opponents.
Rick from Elk Grove, IL
What is more rewarding to you, being the CEO of the Green Bay Packers or being the athletic director at Northwestern U and working with all of the male and female athletes and their challenges?
As an athletic director, I enjoyed being part of the educational process. I found it very gratifying to work with students at important times in their lives as they were maturing and developing over the four years in school. In the NFL it is similar, to some degree, to see players come in as rookies and grow and develop during their careers. I've enjoyed watching our young men grow here at the Packers as well.
The most significant difference is that in college I was working with coaches and teams from multiple teams in all three seasons. One plus in the college ranks is that if one of the teams is not playing well, you've got other teams in other seasons that may be play better. With the Packers, the focus is on one team in one season. Interestingly, as an Athletic Director, I worked closely with Boards of Trustees, which is very similar to my work now with our Board of Directors.
Another difference is the public attention on the organization. Being an Athletic Director is a fairly public position, but it's nothing like the exposure that comes with the following of the Packers.
Both positions have been very rewarding, but in different ways. The commonality is that I'm leading an organization and managing people. In both positions you face significant challenges, which makes it all the more gratifying when you are able to win a championship.
Douglas from Cambridge, MA
Why did you cancel Fan Fest, and are you going to have it again? I have to say going to Fan Fest and having access to the players like that made my wife a Packers fan and as a result made my relationship better. Please bring it back.
I'm glad to hear that you and your wife enjoyed coming to Fan Fest. I hear many stories from families about how they've enjoyed their visits to Lambeau Field.
In 2011, we determined not to hold Fan Fest, primarily due to the lockout. This year, we decided to hold off on Fan Fest to continue to study the event. With the new offseason calendar for the players, we need to determine the best time of year to hold such an event. We also want to enhance the event by looking at the activities, how it's structured and what new features would add to the excitement.
The attendance at Fan Fest had been declining over the years. Also, I've noticed at recent Fan Fests that there seem to be more collectors. Our goal is to have an event that appeals primarily to Packers fans. Our fans enjoy being around the team and hearing from coaches and players.
At this time, we're undecided about the future of Fan Fest, but we will keep fans informed. In the meantime, if you're in Wisconsin, we encourage you to be on the lookout for other player appearances throughout the state, and other Packers events like the Tailgate Tour, where you will have the opportunity to see the players.
Submit your question and hometown to Mark for his next column at MurphyTakes5@packers.com