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MT5: Packers ready for regular season

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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.

The Packers lost to the Kansas City Chiefs Thursday night 33-21, to finish the preseason 2-2. As the 2-2 record indicates, we were up and down in terms of our play in the preseason. I think you have to be careful, though, not to put too much weight on how well or poorly a team plays in the preseason.

In 2008, the year the Detroit Lions went 0-16 in the regular season, they were 4-0 in the preseason. Conversely, there have been many Super Bowl champions who had poor preseason records (including the Washington Redskins going 0-4 in the preseason in 1982!)

The reality is that the main purpose of the preseason is to get the team ready for the regular season. Teams approach the preseason games differently – some will play starters more and try to win to instill confidence in the team, while others use the game primarily to develop and evaluate younger players. As the players’ salaries have grown over the years, I have noticed that teams are much more reluctant to play their higher-paid players very much in the preseason.

A main goal for us this year was to be as healthy as possible heading into the regular season. Our starters played less in the preseason games than they have in the past, but we had more competitive periods in practices during training camp. I believe we’ve achieved the goal. Although we’ve had some injuries, only one projected starter (Jake Ryan) will not be able to play in the season opener. Now, it’s on to the Bears in the opener and to your questions.

Annie from St. Paul

Congratulations on signing Aaron Rodgers to a contract extension. With the large amount of money you will pay Aaron over the next six years, will it be more difficult to compete for a Super Bowl championship?

We’re very excited about Aaron’s contract extension, Annie. He’s obviously been a great player for us and continues to play at a high level. He’s also a tremendous leader and represents the organization well. I also like the timing of the extension. I think it will give our team a boost as we start the season. Also, when an organization treats its best player well, I think it sends a strong message to the entire team that if you play well, you will be rewarded. Russ Ball deserves special credit for his work in finalizing this extension. It was a long and difficult negotiation, and I think we ended up with a contract that is good for Aaron and the Packers.

I do think we will be able to compete for Super Bowl championships over the next six years. A main goal for Russ was to structure the contract in a way so that we can still compete at the highest level. Also, quarterback is the most important position in the game and we will have arguably the best in the game through the 2023 season. The reality in the NFL is that it is very difficult to win a Super Bowl without an elite QB. Even with the increased compensation, Aaron’s salary as a percentage of our salary cap is almost the same as in his prior contract (19% vs. 18%). Although we haven’t won a Super Bowl since 2010, we’ve consistently been in the playoffs and played in the NFC Championship games in 2014 and 2016. The key will be how well we draft (and fill out our roster with free-agent signings) over the next few years.

Jim from Sturgeon Bay

I was surprised to see that the Packers traded Brett Hundley. I thought he played well this year in the preseason. Why did we trade him?

I also thought Brett played well in the preseason this year, Jim. I was proud of him. He obviously didn’t play as well last year as he would have liked, and I think he learned and grew from that experience. DeShone Kizer also played well in the preseason, and should continue to improve as he becomes more familiar with our system. I also thought Tim Boyle showed great potential in the preseason. It is really not practical to keep four quarterbacks (even if one is on the practice squad), so the chance to trade one of our quarterbacks was attractive. The opportunity in Seattle is very good for Brett and we were able to add a valuable draft pick.

From Dennis

Mark, at which Packers home game will Jerry Kramer's name be added to the façade at Lambeau Field as the newest member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame?

We will add Jerry’s name to Lambeau Field’s inner façade alongside his fellow Packers who are Pro Football Hall of Famers at halftime of the Vikings game on Sept. 16. He will also be presented with his Hall of Fame ring by Pro Football Hall of Fame Executive Director David Baker. It will be a special day for Jerry and our fans – one that is long overdue.

From Malcolm

Hello Mark. Asking for a home game Week 1, can’t wait to see what is planned. What impact do you think playing the Bears Week 1 made on the rest of the schedule? Thanks for all that you do, keep up the great work.

You’re right, Malcolm, we did request to open the season at home as part of our 100 Seasons celebration. I think it is great that the league matched us up with the Bears on Sunday night to open the season. It’s the oldest (and one of the best) rivalries in the league and we’ve opened the season against them many times. We’re calling it Celebration Weekend, and it should be special for our fans. We’re combining our 100 Seasons celebration with our typical alumni and kickoff weekend events. We’ll have the Steve Miller Band perform on Saturday night and will have 65 alumni back. We will also have the 100 Seasons photo opportunity in front of the Lombardi Trophy in the American Family Insurance Gate.

In terms of the impact on our schedule by playing the Bears to open the season, I think two home division games to start the season gives us a great chance to get off to a good start. We will have a challenging stretch of games midseason, but in the end, all teams have eight home games and eight away games.

Jack from Oconto Falls

What is the status of the league’s new policy on the national anthem as we head into the regular season?

Excellent question, Jack. As you may recall, at the owners’ meeting in May, we adopted a new policy regarding the national anthem. Under the policy, all club personnel, including players, are required to stand for the anthem. If a player feels he cannot stand, he can stay in the locker room. If a player protests, the league will fine the club. Shortly after the policy was adopted, the NFLPA filed a grievance against the league because the policy was adopted without their input. The policy is currently on hold while representatives from the league and the players’ union attempt to negotiate a resolution. While the discussions have been somewhat productive, I do not think we will have a resolution before the start of the regular season. Fortunately, though, the issue is starting to fade. Throughout the preseason, only a handful of players have either protested or stayed in the locker room. All of our players have stood for the anthem before each preseason game. We’ve talked with our players about the importance of moving beyond the protests to making progress on the underlying social justice issues. Both the league and the clubs have pledged to put resources behind player-led initiatives. This has proven to be a challenging issue for the league, but I’m optimistic that we will soon move from protest to progress.

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