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MT5: Joint practices will benefit team and fans

The Packers and Bills conduct a joint practice at Clarke Hinkle Field on Aug. 4, 2005.
The Packers and Bills conduct a joint practice at Clarke Hinkle Field on Aug. 4, 2005.

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.

Next Monday and Tuesday (Aug. 5 and 6), we will hold joint practices with the Houston Texans. This will be the first time we’ve held joint practices since 2005, when we practiced with the Buffalo Bills. There are many benefits to joint practices. It’s a great way to gauge where your team stands without exposing your players (especially the QBs) to injuries that come with tackling in the preseason games. It is also a great opportunity for our scouting personnel to evaluate not only our players, but also the players on the Texans’ roster. Finally, it is also a break from the monotony of training camp. The risk of joint practices is that the practices often get pretty heated and lead to fights, which can cause injuries.

The practices should be a big hit with our fans. They are more intense than our normal practices and will give our fans a better idea of how the team will be this year. Also, the Texans are a team that we don’t play often and I know that our fans will like getting to know the Texans’ players, especially J.J. Watt. The Texans let us know that they would like to participate in the bicycle tradition, so I would encourage all bicycle- riding children to come for these practices. It could be your best chance to have a player ride your bike.

Now, on to your questions…

Pat N. from Green Bay

Hello, Mark. I wanted to let you know how much my wife and I have enjoyed the concerts the past two years prior to the home opener. Seeing Steve Miller (a true Packer fan) was extremely memorable for my wife, sister and I last year. We also enjoyed Blues Traveler the year prior. We certainly appreciate all of the effort the organization puts into making memorable experiences for all of us fans. My question to you is, will this new tradition continue? Will there be another concert this year prior to the home opener?

We are certainly excited about all of the changes and recent additions to the team and can't wait for the season to get started! Go Pack Go!

I’m glad that you’ve enjoyed the concerts, Pat. We thought they would be a nice addition for our home opener, and they’ve been extremely well received by our fans. We do plan to have another concert this year. It will be held on Saturday evening at 5 p.m. Eric Church has two concerts that weekend (on Friday and Saturday nights) at the Resch Center. We will start our concert earlier than normal. Our concert will feature country artist Big & Rich, which should be a great tie-in with Eric Church.

Snapshots from Packers Family Night festivities at Lambeau Field.

Alan from Mt. Pleasant, IA

Hey Mark, thanks for doing this, really enjoy it. My question is how are the CBA negotiations going? What effect will they have on the Green Bay Packers and any potential new TV deal? P.S. I am still chuckling about the guy who was worried about your teeth. Your response was just hilarious! It just goes to show, a person should worry more about the wife. Not the husband!

Thank you, Alan.

Thanks, Alan. We’ve had a number of bargaining sessions with the NFLPA’s executive committee this offseason. I think the sessions have been productive. In these situations, it is always positive when the parties are continuing to communicate with each other. The collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”) is very important to management and our players, as well as the fans. We’re in the ninth year of a 10-year agreement. The current agreement has been very good for the Packers, as well as all other teams in the league. It has also worked very well for our players, as the salary cap has increased by at least $10 million for six straight years, and the agreement includes a number of safety-related changes. We know from the current, 10-year CBA that the networks love labor peace. If we can agree on an extension soon, it will be a big help in our negotiations with the networks.

Kyle from Toronto, Ontario

Hello Mr. Murphy,

I know training camp is underway so I realize this may get lost in the shuffle, but I had some questions regarding the article I read about the “First Downs for Trees” program. Are environmentally friendly programs such as this commonplace in the NFL? I know climate change can be a controversial topic, but I can't help but think how an organization with as much reach and resources as the NFL could help make strides toward a healthier planet. Not to mention offset some of carbon emissions released from all the chartered flights teams have to make. Do the Packers (or any other team to your knowledge) have plans in place to reduce their carbon footprint or reduce the overall waste from food packaging, disregarded programs, etc.?

Thank you for taking the time to read this and all the good work you continue to put in to insure the Packers are one of the premier organizations in all of professional sports.

Great questions, Kyle. Environmental programs like “First Downs for Trees” are not common in the NFL. We started the program over eight years ago (we were really ahead of our time on this one), and are very proud of it. We do have a plan to reduce our carbon footprint – in fact, in the eight years of the program, we have planted 5,144 trees, which in their lifetime will more than offset the carbon footprint caused by our team charter flights.

Jake from Knoxville, TN

Did you see Starling Marte recently refuse to take first base when the umpire called him hit by the pitch? As a fan, I found his honesty both enjoyable and impressive, and it saved a good bit of time, especially if you count the commercial break it likely averted. What do you think about the NFL disincentivizing players to lie to the refs about calls they know should be overturned, or perhaps incentivizing them with some kind of compensation (or donation to charity?) for their sportsmanship and the added/saved entertainment value? Thank you for doing this every month. I often brag about it to my non-Packers friends. Sorry for the spam, Jake

I did not see Starling Marte refuse to take first base, but it was obviously impressive (and refreshing) that he was willing to do that. I do wonder, though, what his coaches and teammates thought about it. I think it would be more unlikely for something like this to happen in the NFL, since we have so many fewer games and each game is so meaningful. How do you think NFL coaches, players and fans would react if a player said that he didn’t catch a 50-yard TD pass after it was ruled a catch? Also, isn’t this what replay is for? Additionally, so many of the calls in the NFL (e.g. holding, pass interference) are so subjective. I love your idea Jake, but I doubt that there would be any support to incentivize or disincentivize players in this situation.

A question from Jake

Mr. Murphy, first let me thank you for doing this. I don't know how many questions you have to leave in the inbox every month, but just the idea that I can e-mail you to ask about the future of the NFL but can't, for example, e-mail my boss's boss about my own project deadlines – it's a very meaningful gesture. I'm sorry how few people appreciate it. Second, some background before my question. When Barcelona and Real Madrid play each other in a regular-season match, 400 million people all over the world tune in to watch. As you're probably aware, that's more than the number of people who watch the Super Bowl. It's also the kind of volume that allows FIFA to be financially viable despite soccer's limited ad time. If you have five times as many viewers, you only need 20% of the ad time to get your sponsors the same exposure. Furthermore, because of this limited ad time, soccer provides 90 minutes of play and only asks about 120 minutes of the viewers' time, whereas football provides about 45 minutes of play and asks for about a 210-minute commitment from the viewer. With these comparisons in mind, is there any discussion among the owners that the NFL might try significantly reducing its commercial time to break into the European market? I think I learned about this strategy reading an interview with Arthur Blank about his plans for Atlanta United and MLS. It almost seems necessary in order to compete with FIFA, and the increased exposure seems like it would offset the costs. Again, thank you.

Thanks for a great question. You raise an important issue regarding the length of NFL games. For many years now, NFL owners and league executives have been concerned about the length of games. The goal has been to have all games played in three hours (180 minutes). In recent years, the average time of a game has decreased to just over three hours. There is no question that the length of the game does affect the fan experience both in the stands and on television. We’ve adopted a number of changes (e.g. decreasing the number of times the clock stops, limiting replay challenges) in recent years in order to make the games shorter. We’ve also worked with the networks to change the placement of ads (e.g. fewer double-ups, or commercials right before and after the kickoff) to make for a better viewing experience. That said, though, if an NFL game is close and the quality of play is high, the length of the game is not a big issue. Also, football is a very different game than soccer with the natural breaks that make it perfect for television. With so few stoppages, it is really hard for television to find time for ads during soccer games. For years, people have been saying that soccer, with so many kids playing soccer and with shorter games, will become more popular than football in the U.S. Joe Browne, a longtime executive with the NFL, used to say that soccer has been and always will be the sport of the future.

For football to really grow internationally, though, we do need to address the issue that you raise. The games in London and Mexico City have been well received, and I anticipate that you will see many more games played internationally in the next decade.

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