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MT5: Packers ready for regular season in an irregular year

Murphy Takes 5 is a monthly column written by President and CEO Mark Murphy

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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.

A week from today, we will fly to Minneapolis for our regular-season opener against the Vikings. Needless to say, this season will be unlike any of our previous 101 seasons. Months ago, at the start of the pandemic, it was hard to imagine us starting the season on time or even playing any games at all. It is a real tribute to the medical experts from the league and NFLPA (particularly the NFL's chief medical officer, Allen Sills), and consultants from Duke University, that we are in position to start the season on time. They put together a comprehensive plan with medical protocols in place to get our players back into our facility and through training camp. As we start the season, the travel and games will add other potential risks. At the center of the plan is a testing program that includes testing players (and employees in contact with the players) on a daily basis. Testing alone will not keep our players safe, so we also put in place stringent rules regarding physical distancing, the wearing of face masks and hand sanitizing.

With no in-person offseason practices or preseason games, we are heading into the start of the season in a much different manner than in every other year. The situation is the same for every team, though, and the teams that are the most resilient and flexible will be the ones to have success this year. I've been very impressed with the way Head Coach Matt LaFleur has prepared our team throughout training camp. I'm confident that we are ready and will play well in the season opener.

Now, on to your questions…

Bill from Neenah, WI

I see that the Packers were one of the teams that was impacted by the 77 false positives from the lab in New Jersey. What caused the problem? Hopefully it will not happen again during the season.

Boy, you are sure right about that, Bill. It would have been a huge issue for the league if the false positives had occurred right before a game. The company that runs the testing program for the league, BioReference Laboratories (BRL), said that an isolated contamination in their New Jersey lab caused all 77 false positives. BRL is using five labs across the country for the league testing program. Because there is no lab in the Midwest, 11 of our teams (including the Packers and the other NFC North teams), use the New Jersey lab. Our samples are put in a van in the early afternoon, driven to O'Hare Airport and then flown to New Jersey. We get the test results within 24 hours. On a personal note, I was one of the 77 false positives. That was one of the longest days of my life – having to tell my wife and family that I tested positive (after 12 of us were together for a dinner the night before), and wracking my brain thinking of where I could have contracted the virus. Needless to say, I was very relieved when I found out it was a false positive.

Steve from Las Vegas, NV

Dear Mark,

Lifelong Packer fan, originally from Chicago, now retired to Las Vegas. I have read that the Packers and you have both made numerous donations and have spoken out in the cause of BLM and social justice in the last several months. With the recent activities in Kenosha proving we still have a lot of work as a society to move forward in areas of systemic racism and treatment of blacks and minorities in this country, I have a suggestion for the Packers.

Voting has been an issue in Wisconsin, with long lines in Milwaukee for the primary and other issues in the northern part of the state in a recent run-off. With mostly elderly people acting as poll workers, one of the issues in Milwaukee was having to close polls as there were no workers to staff them. Many elderly people opted out of working the election. Is it possible for the Packers to encourage younger fans and those currently out of work to sign up as poll workers across the state and the country for the November elections? This is a bipartisan act to help staff as many polling places as possible and make it easier for all to vote. This seems like a meaningful way for the Packers organization to spend time and focus their efforts. Go Pack Go and stay safe. Kindest regards, Steve.

Great point, Steve. Both the NFL and the Packers have made voting initiatives a high priority this year. The league is working with three nonprofit, non-partisan organizations, (I am a Voter, RISE to Vote, and Rock the Vote) to encourage players, coaches, alumni and fans to register and vote. This is all part of a new NFL program called "NFL Votes." It consists of three components: voter education, registration and activation. The Johnsonville Tailgate Village will serve as a polling site, and many other teams will make their stadiums available for voting. Finally, the league recently announced that all club facilities will be closed on election day to ensure that every member of the NFL family has an opportunity to exercise their right to vote. We, as well as all other teams, will also encourage our employees and fans to volunteer at polling sites.

Denis from Grafton, WI

Mr. Murphy, I have had enough with this BS coming from players in all sports. Play the black anthem? Kneel when our anthem is played? BLM? Piss on the players, Packers, Rodgers. I have been a Packers fan since 1955. Stick this game up their A__! Will no longer be watching?

Thanks for sharing your views on these social justice issues, Denis. I realize that you disagree, but I think it is important that we support our players on these issues. Working together with our players, I believe we can affect positive social change in our country. As the recent situation in Kenosha shows, we still have a lot of work to do and remain very divided as a country. I do not view these as political issues, but rather issues of basic human rights.

Tom from Charlotte, NC

As a faithful reader of Insider Inbox, I read the "stick to football" critics of the Packers speaking out on societal issues. You and the Packers will receive a certain amount of backlash. But for every critic, I believe there are many more of us supporting you.

As a Packer fan since living in Wisconsin in the '50s and '60s, now a shareholder and season ticket holder, I am very proud of the Green Bay Packers. The unique ownership structure, the treasure of Lambeau Field, and the 13 world championships are all sources of pride. We are the greatest story in professional sports.

I feel even more pride when I see visiting fans well-treated by the Packer fans in Green Bay. Traveling to watch their team play at Lambeau fulfills a bucket-list item for a lot of fans around the NFL. I love to hear about what a great trip it was and how hospitably they are treated, despite cheering for the wrong team. Packer fans are the best.

I am perhaps proudest when our organization, coaches, and players do the right thing. We will have to make more great plays, win more games and more championships. Let's do it the right way, which includes the community and charitable efforts, and now speaking out on the right side of important societal issues. Stay strong. Go Pack.

PRIDE & GLORY, THE PACKER STORY!

Tom, can you please give Denis from Grafton a call?

Eric from Stramproy, Netherlands

Hello, Mr. Murphy, it is an obvious understatement to say that we are experiencing troubled times in many nations due to the impact of COVID-19 as well as, very, very rightly so, discussions and long overdue actions regarding equality. It troubles me (and probably many of us) that we are seemingly less capable or willing to learn from each other as opposed to eager to do so.
Looking at professional sports here, they are slowly starting up and providing some distraction from daily issues at hand. Some organizations seem to get it right and are (so far so good) successful regarding health protocols and procedures. Does the NFL use these international experiences and/or do the Packers have a specific organization or league they are in contact with? Looking at stadium and attendance characteristics, soccer (e.g.) is much more similar to football than baseball or basketball. Your thoughts? Stay safe and good luck with the upcoming season, in all aspects.

I appreciate the suggestion, Eric. In fact, the NFL has not only worked closely with the other professional sports leagues in the United States, but also the soccer leagues in Europe. With the uniqueness and uncertainty of the pandemic, it is incumbent on all of us to learn as much as we can from others. Sharing information is crucial. Soccer is similar to football with regard to the number of players and the contact between the players. Of course, each country is different in terms of how the pandemic has spread, and this affects what policies leagues are able to adopt.

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