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_.
I was fortunate to be able to attend Bart Starr's funeral service on Thursday in Birmingham, Ala. It was a wonderful tribute to Bart and truly a celebration of his remarkable life. Bart's son, Bart Jr., did a great job serving as the emcee for the ceremony. He started off the ceremony by talking about the four pillars of how Bart lived his life: humility, positivity, living every day like it's your last day and treating all people with respect and dignity. It is very obvious that Bart lived a life true to these pillars. Listening to the speakers at the ceremony, you would never know that Bart was a Hall of Fame quarterback. Everyone stressed his humility, and talked about what a great person, father, grandfather and husband he was, with few mentions of his football career.
It was an honor to get to know Bart after I became president of the Packers. At the beginning of every season, Bart would send me a handwritten card wishing the Packers the best of luck. Early in my tenure, I noticed that Bart would personalize every autograph he signed. I thought it was because he didn't want collectors to be able to sell his autograph. After listening to a number of the speakers on Thursday, though, I realized that Bart also did this because he wanted to be able to personally connect with fans. Bart once said that it was the least he could do for fans when he saw how much it meant to them. The other thing that stood out to me was the special relationship he and his wife, Cherry, had. She is a tremendous woman who was right by Bart's side throughout all the ups and downs of their life.
We will be announcing our plans to honor Bart's life this season very soon. We will have a celebration around a home game this fall because we know how much Bart meant to our fans. Looking all the way back to when I played in the league, I don't think there has been a player that was more beloved by a team's fans than Bart.
Now, on to your questions…
Cathy from Denmark, WI
I read that the NFL is going to prohibit certain drills during training camp. What can you tell me about these drills?
Yes, Cathy, the league is going to ban drills that have led to a large number of injuries, particularly concussions, over the years. The ban came about as a result of a forum held this offseason regarding offensive and defensive line play. The focus was on preseason because the injury statistics showed a high percentage of concussions suffered by offensive and defensive linemen occurred in the first two weeks of training camp. The banned drills are the Oklahoma and the Bull in the Ring. Years ago, these drills were used by coaches to toughen up their players. Not many teams use these drills anymore, but it is still a positive move for the league and our players, and will hopefully lead to high schools and colleges also banning these types of drills.
Bill from Nekoosa, WI
I was surprised to see the report in Pro Football Talk that Matt LaFleur was not allowed to hire his own assistant coaches. Why did you not allow him to hire who he wanted?
The report was incorrect, Bill. Coach LaFleur had complete control over the hiring of his coaching staff. The report was the result of an article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel based on interviews with 20 anonymous sources. I told the author that Coach LaFleur had complete control to hire his assistants, but he included comments to the contrary from an anonymous source. The editors said they wanted to present a "balanced" view of the hiring process. Interestingly, they never asked Coach LaFleur if he was able to hire his assistants, something he would have confirmed. The article was obviously very disappointing, and I find the increasing use of anonymous sources very problematic. I served as an athletic director for over 16 years and directly supervised hundreds of coaches, and never once told a coach who he or she should or should not hire. Hiring assistant coaches is one of the most important factors in the success of a head coach, and I've always felt it is foolish to restrict them in any way.
John from Fish Creek, WI
What is going on with expanded replay? I heard that there was going to be a change to what was approved in March.
Great question, John. As you noted, in March the owners voted to expand replay to include reviews of offensive and defensive pass interference. Since then, the officiating department has held meetings with coaches across the league. During those meetings, there was concern expressed about the last two minutes of the game. Specifically, since all reviews in the last two minutes would be initiated by the officiating department, the concern is that there would be a lot of stoppages in the last two minutes of games and that it would be difficult to manage (especially during the noon games on Sunday). At the spring league meeting two weeks ago, the owners voted to give the competition committee the authority to amend the rule approved in March. I anticipate that offensive and defensive pass interference will only be reviewed in the last two minutes if it is challenged by the head coach. A key issue, though, will be the Hail Mary. We would not want the Hail Mary to be subject to review by a coach's challenge, so it would be exempt. The difficulty is defining a Hail Mary. It reminded me of the Supreme Court's discussion regarding indecency – you know when you see it, but it is hard to define.
Cam from Winnipeg, Canada
Hi Mr. Murphy, thank you for taking the time to answer my question. When can we expect an announcement of the Packers coming to Winnipeg? I've made the trip out to Lambeau twice now and would love to watch my Packers play in my home city and to show the organization just how many Packer fans are up here in Canada.
Although we haven't made an announcement yet, Cam, I fully expect that we will be playing the Raiders in Winnipeg in the third week of the preseason. The league's game operations staff has been up to Winnipeg to ensure that Investors Group Field is up to league standards. The field in the CFL is quite a bit different than in the NFL, so a number of changes will have to be made to the field. Investors Group Field was built in 2013 and seats 33,000. I expect that an official announcement will be made soon. I've been hearing from a lot of Packers fans in Canada, Cam, so I think you will have a lot of company in the stands.
Paul from Oneida, NY
What is the status of the talks regarding the extension of the collective bargaining agreement? I see that De Smith sent a letter to agents encouraging players to start saving money and prepare for a yearlong work stoppage. That's the last thing we need!
Thanks for the question, Paul. We still have quite a bit of time until the agreement officially expires (March 2021). There have been two bargaining sessions held over the last couple of months. The current CBA has been great for the game, players and owners, and I think it makes a lot of sense to extend the agreement now. We are in a position of strength with regard to our television partners and sponsors, and an extension of the CBA now would allow us to negotiate future contracts that will benefit players and owners. Also, an extension now would lock in benefits for current players that they may not receive if there is no extension and they are out of the league in 2021. Conversely, another work stoppage would harm everyone involved with the game. Throughout the 1980s and up until 1993, the league dealt with several labor stoppages and issues, and it was very difficult to grow the game (and owners and players suffered as a result).