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.
Under the league's collective bargaining agreement with the NFL Players Association, teams can have a nine-week offseason program. Last year, at the beginning of the pandemic, the entire offseason program was held virtually (and none of the players were in the facility). The hope this year was that we could have a normal, in-person offseason program. Due to the lingering pandemic, however, this year's offseason program has been a combination of virtual and in-person meetings and practices. It has been left to teams to determine the split of virtual and in-person sessions. We will have a total of three weeks of in-person practices (12 days total).
Much has been made of which players across the league are and are not attending the offseason programs. It is important to note, though, that the vast majority of the offseason program is voluntary. Each team's three-day minicamp (ours will be June 8-10) is the only mandatory part of the program. Clubs can fine players who fail to attend. Although most of the program is voluntary, young players in particular feel it is important to participate since it will help their chances of making the team. Also, many teams, including the Packers, have significant offseason workout bonuses in the contracts of veteran players.
As we look ahead to training camp, we are planning to have a regular in-person training camp with fans in attendance. The key to this will be the status of the virus in the community. This is why we are strongly encouraging all of our players, coaches, staff and fans to get vaccinated. The league has been helpful in this regard by providing incentives for players and coaches who are vaccinated (e.g. being tested only once a week, no requirements to wear masks).
We all want to get back to our normal lives and the best way to do that is to get as many people as possible vaccinated. The vaccine is safe, effective and good for you as well as promoting the common good.
Now, on to your questions…
A question from Duane
Murphy! Get that jerk Gutekunst to get off his butt and make a play to get Julio Jones on the Packers!
Thanks for the email, Duane. Thanks as well for the 20 previous emails you've sent MT5 in recent months. Interestingly, there is not a single question among the 20 emails. While I appreciate your persistence and passion, I must tell you that I have tremendous confidence in Brian Gutekunst. In his relatively short tenure as our GM, he has completely turned around the fortunes of our team. He has put together a talented team (last year we had the most players voted to the Pro Bowl) that has a 28-8 record over the last two years, after consecutive losing seasons in 2017 and 2018, and has played in back-to-back NFC Championship games. Moreover, he has a great working relationship with Head Coach Matt LaFleur. He and EVP/director of football operations Russ Ball have managed our salary cap smartly and have us well positioned for the future.
A question from Ken
Dear Mark: You have done a great job. Don't let the bastards drag you down. Washington needs a name. I suggest the Generals.
Thanks, Ken. The situation we face with Aaron Rodgers has divided our fan base. The emails and letters that I've received reflect this fact. As I wrote here last month, we remain committed to resolving things with Aaron and want him to be our quarterback in 2021 and beyond. We are working to resolve the situation and realize that the less both sides say publicly, the better. With regard to the Washington Football Team, it looks like they will be the WFT for at least one more year. I like the Washington Generals name, but it is already taken. Have you ever seen a Harlem Globetrotters game? Also, the Washington Generals don't have a very good record (1 win, 16,000 losses).
Greg from Toluca, IL
Happy June Mr. Murphy,
With reports of people getting vaccinated and states working to get back to normal, as a season ticket holder I'd like to ask what are the current thoughts on number of fans allowed at games? Being from downstate Illinois, making reservations is a factor in my asking.
Thanks, Greg. This is obviously the million-dollar question. We are planning to have 100% capacity for our games this season. Hopefully the COVID numbers will continue to decline and we can get more and more people in the community vaccinated. We've had good discussions with our local health officials. They feel good about the fact that the vast majority of our seating is outside. I feel confident that we will have full stands this fall unless there is a dramatic change in the status of the virus.
A question from Brian
Loved our draft this year. Obviously, the brass is very high on Jordan Love. How is he progressing? Is he smart on his feet in action? How is his grasp of the offense? Does he have the IQ to utilize his raw talent? Brian Gutekunst is doing a fine job keeping the team competitive and well balanced.
This is also a million-dollar question, Brian. It was a shame for Jordan that the pandemic impacted so much of his rookie year. Although it wasn't a completely wasted year, he had no in-person practices in the offseason program and no preseason game experience. Although it is hard to tell a lot in the offseason practices, both Matt LaFleur and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett have said they like what they've seen from Jordan this offseason. Hackett said that the biggest difference this year is his confidence in the system, and that his decision-making, timing and accuracy have all improved. It's obviously helped him to get reps with the first-team offense this offseason. The preseason games this year will be crucial in his development.
Bryce from Sparta, WI
Mark, I thought I had read that the Packers will be getting new alternate uniforms. Hoping for the Packers '60s uniform myself! Love the striped socks!
Yes, Bryce, after taking a year off from wearing alternate uniforms, we will wear a historic, third uniform at one home game this season. While we're not ready to fully introduce the uniforms, I can say that they'll include a shade of the color green. Stay tuned as we get closer to the season we will unveil these uniforms with a packers.com video and multiple social media posts.