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MT5: There is still plenty to play for

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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.

I’ve heard from a lot of fans this week regarding the state of the team. Many have said that, since the chances of making the playoffs are so slim, we should sit some of our starters (including Aaron Rodgers), play more of our younger players and focus on the future. Others have said that we shouldn’t worry about winning and that a benefit would be that we would have a better draft position.

While I appreciate the input, I’m not ready to give up on the season. Now, I realize that we are 4-6-1 (and as Bill Parcells famously said, “You are what your record says you are”) and that we haven’t played well. However, we still have almost a third of the season left to play. I know that the odds of making the playoffs are slim (I’ve seen odds range from 3 to 15 percent), but we still have a lot to play for. If we can finish the season strong, even if we don’t make the playoffs (and crazier things have happened), it will give the team confidence that can carry over to next year. Also, from the individual player’s standpoint, the average career is so short (3.1 years) and every game means so much, they all have much to play for over the next five weeks.

Now, on to your questions.

Bill from Suamico, WI

I thought the Rams’ 54-51 win over the Chiefs was the best NFL game I’ve seen in several years. Is this the new NFL – high-scoring shootouts?

I have to agree with you, Bill, it was a phenomenal game. The NFL is definitely moving toward more scoring with wide-open, passing offenses. The league is on pace to set records for scoring, passing yards and total yards this year. Still, though, I don’t think games with over 100 points scored will be the norm. The game was really extraordinary with two young, talented quarterbacks going back and forth. Although it was a high-scoring affair, there were also some great defensive plays with three defensive touchdowns being scored. I knew ESPN was pleased to have a game of that quality on Monday Night Football. Interestingly, it was scheduled to be played in Mexico City, but was moved to LA the week of the game due to the condition of the field. What an unexpected treat for the Rams fans to have a game like that played in LA. The game is now the highest-scoring game in MNF history, surpassing the 48-47 Packers win over the defending world champion Redskins in 1983. I’m torn about this – as President of the Packers, I’m sorry that the Packers no longer have this distinction in what was one of the Packers’ best wins in our history. As a safety for the Redskins that night, though, I’m glad to have that record broken!

Mike from Santa Fe Springs, CA

Mark,

What is the status of Jake Kumerow? Will Jake be playing this year?

As you may recall, Mike, Jake had a great preseason for us. Unfortunately, he injured his shoulder scoring a touchdown in the second preseason game against the Steelers. We placed him on in-season injured reserve, and just last week we designated him to return to the 53-man roster. He practiced last week and we have two more weeks to decide whether to place him on the roster. He’s looked good in practice and with Trevor Davis’ latest hamstring injury, I think there’s a good chance Jake will be activated. I know our fans would be excited to see a former UW-Whitewater player playing for us.

Update: Kumerow was activated Saturday afternoon. We'll see if he's on the active roster for Sunday's game. 

From Ron, owner and season-ticket holder

Mark,

Major League Baseball allows teams to expand their rosters from 25 to 40 players towards the end of their season on Sept. 1. Has the NFL ever considered doing something similar? I’m not suggesting a number that large but maybe activate the entire practice squad for games after Dec. 1. By that point in the season, with rosters being depleted with injuries, I see a lot of value in this in terms of player safety and game quality. I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on this subject.

Interesting question, Ron. I’m not really sure of the history behind the expanded roster in baseball, but I don’t think there would be much support for something similar in football. First, we have a seven-man inactive list for every game. Historically, that has been the average number of players on every team who are injured and unable to play each week. Also, we have a 10-man practice squad that is vital in developing players, but is also used in filling spots on the 53-man roster. Finally, any changes involving the roster size would have to be negotiated with the NFLPA. In the next round of bargaining, I anticipate that issues surrounding the 53-man roster, 46-man active roster and the practice squad will be subjects of bargaining.

Matt from Chicago

Mr. Murphy,

I am going to see if I can get 2 questions answered this month.

1) When you were an NFL player, did you ever have a coach who called out players in the media for mistakes and do you believe this can help in the correction process?

2) As an ambassador of the NFL, what would you say to young kids to persuade them to play defense? From my seat it seems like there’s less incentive to play if you are put on that side, and thus drain the talent pool, given the weekly fines and stigma attached to “dirty” hits.

Congratulations, Matthew, you are the first person to have two questions answered in Murphy Takes 5. I fortunately never played for a coach who would call out players publicly for mistakes. Vince Lombardi used to say that he would praise players publicly and criticize privately. I think most good coaches have a similar philosophy. It is important for players to know when they’ve made mistakes to help them correct the errors, but nothing is gained by humiliating them publicly.

In terms of your second question, there is no question that the new rules have made it harder to play defense, and the fines have definitely increased over the years. Defense is still crucial to the game, though (the old saying that defense wins championships still rings true to me although not in the same way as in the past with dominating defenses), and elite pass rushers and cover corners are two of the most important players for teams (and are highly compensated). Finally, I think defensive players have a different mentality than offensive players and I saw this in my time as a youth football coach – some kids are just wired to play defense (rather than offense) and there will always be a place for them.

Maggie from Kenosha, WI

Hello Mr. Murphy. I was incredibly privileged to attend Jerry Kramer’s enshrinement ceremony, and I thought his speech was phenomenal. I also ran into you at the Hall of Fame museum on Friday; thanks for taking the time to say hello! I just wanted to get your thoughts on the event and ask you, now that Jerry is rightfully enshrined, which retired and/or current Packer do you think we’ll see in Canton someday?

I agree with your assessment of Jerry’s speech, Maggie. I thought his speech was the best of all the inductees. I have been surprised that it didn’t receive more attention nationally – I thought it was that good. In terms of potential future inductees, I think the following players are our best bets: LeRoy Butler (he was just named a semifinalist for the second time), Charles Woodson, Julius Peppers and Aaron Rodgers.

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