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:
After losing to the Eagles on Nov. 27, the Packers' record stood at 4-8. Even worse, we had lost seven of eight games, including five in a row starting with our loss to the Giants in London (and ending with a 15–9 loss to the Lions in Detroit). Very few people gave us any chance of turning the season around, let alone making the playoffs. Yet, as we prepare to play the surging Lions tomorrow (they are also 8-8 after starting the season 1-6), we control our own destiny. If we beat the Lions, we will make the playoffs as the No. 7 seed.
So, how did we completely reverse the course of the season? I think much of the credit must go to Matt LaFleur and his coaching staff. He stayed positive and continued to look for ways to improve the team. Significantly, he never lost the players' confidence. He showed great leadership, as have Brian Gutekunst and Russ Ball. The leadership provided by our players, especially by Aaron Rodgers, has been crucial as well. Although we lost to the Eagles, I think going toe to toe with the best team in the league at the time gave us confidence. The emergence of Christian Watson and Keisean Nixon has been key as well. We also had a number of other games go our way over the past month that were very helpful, including the Browns beating the Commanders last week. Finally, our defense has played much better recently, with 12 turnovers in the last four games (the same number that we had in our first 12 games).
Although we've come a long way since we were 4-8 (the NFL playoff predictor gave us a 2% chance to make the playoffs at the time), we're not done yet (to quote Mike Holmgren). We have a great challenge ahead of us with the Lions game tomorrow. The atmosphere at Lambeau Field will be electric for what will be a play-in game for the playoffs.
Now, on to your questions.
Jill from Wausau, WI
The injury to Damar Hamlin in the Bills-Bengals game was so scary. What protocols do the Packers and the league have in place to handle injuries of this nature? I was glad to see the Packers make a statement regarding the situation.
First, as I write this Damar is still in critical condition, although he is showing remarkable improvement. Our thoughts continue to be with him as he fights to regain his health. I've been around the NFL and football generally for most of my adult life, and this was the scariest injury that I've ever seen. I knew it was not a normal injury by the urgency that the medical personnel showed when attending to Damar and when the ambulance came onto the field. The league requires each stadium to have people trained in CPR on the sidelines. Defibrillators are also required to be on the sidelines. We have an airway passage physician on the sidelines to intubate a player if needed. I was very impressed with the way that the Bengals' and Bills' medical personnel handled a very difficult situation.
While this situation occurred in a high-profile setting, an NFL game in front of 65,000 people in the stadium and millions more on TV, it's important to note that cardiac emergencies take place every day at our workplaces and elsewhere. If you have been trained in CPR and AED (automated external defibrillator) use, make sure you're current on your certifications. The Packers offer CPR and AED certification classes for our employees. If you have the opportunity at your workplace, consider getting certified, or seek out a class at an accredited organization near you. Any of us may find ourselves in a situation where quick action will save a life.
Joe from East Brunswick, NJ
I visited Lambeau a few years ago and appreciated meeting you. When I was coming out of the Packers Pro Shop, you were so kind to share a few minutes to chat with me. This was a big deal for me, a long-time Packer fan from New Jersey. Thank you!
I often tell my students the road to success is filled with different challenges as it is never an easy road. It is about the ability to keep moving forward regardless of obstacles that builds our character and impacts who we eventually become. So, I have a question about you. What was your greatest life challenge and how has this experience contributed to making you the person you are today? Thank you! Go Pack Go!
Great question, Joe. Sounds like your students are very fortunate to have a teacher who cares about them beyond the classroom. I agree wholeheartedly with your advice to students. We all will face challenges in life, and the key is how you respond to and learn from them. A great challenge for me was when I served as the Redskins' player rep (and vice president of the NFLPA) from 1979-85. The most difficult time was leading up to the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement in 1982. We eventually went on strike for 57 days. I was on the NFLPA's bargaining committee and, since the NFLPA headquarters were in Washington, D.C., was actively involved in the planning and negotiations for a new CBA. The relations between players and owners were much different then than they are now. We were asking for a percentage of the league's revenue, and the owners were determined not to give this to the players. The Redskins' owner at the time, Jack Kent Cooke, called me a communist and said that he didn't want me as a partner (although he did say I was a fine young man). As you can imagine, the negotiations with the owners were very difficult. Despite this, during the negotiations, I established a friendship with a young attorney representing the league who happened to be a Redskins season ticketholder – Paul Tagliabue. Although we were on opposite sides, we tried to find common ground. Of course, Paul went on to be the commissioner of the league (and brought labor peace to the league by giving the players a percentage of the revenue). When Paul became commissioner, I was athletic director at Colgate. Paul reached out to me and asked me to serve on two NFL committees. I am sure I would not be in my position today were it not for Paul's help and support over the years. I learned a valuable lesson that it is much better to build bridges with people than to burn them. After Paul was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame last year, he asked me if he could be presented his Hall of Fame ring at halftime of a Bears-Packers game at Lambeau Field. I quickly responded yes as I was ecstatic to be able to repay him for all he did for me over the years.
Connor from Green Bay
Hi Mark, thanks for doing this every month. I have two questions on upcoming scheduling. Do you know when the Lions game date/time will be announced? It still says either Saturday or Sunday, but that would be nice to know. Also, you mentioned on the conference call that a concert will be scheduled for this offseason. Do you have an expectation of when that will be announced? Thank you!
The question about the Lions game was very pertinent, Conner, as many of us were waiting to see when we'd play this weekend. The last weeks of the season are an exciting time for the NFL and its fans. Prior to last weekend's games, only eight clubs had been eliminated from the playoffs. The NFL this season left the final weekend's schedule TBD in order to place the games in the best slots upon completion of Week 17, with playoff implications in mind. The NFL wants each game to be as competitive as possible and doesn't want one team to potentially rest its players based on the outcome of a game played Saturday or earlier in the day on Sunday. For that reason, games that impact each other often will be played at the same time. Games that don't have such scenarios, but still have playoff implications such as win-and-you're-in, are placed in TV slots to feature them nationally, including on Saturday or Sunday night. For our game tomorrow against the Lions, we learned last Sunday night after our victory over the Vikings that we would play on Sunday. However, for setting the time of the game, the league waited until Monday to make a final determination on the time. Ultimately, the league and NBC liked the attractiveness of the Packers playing for a playoff spot at Lambeau Field in front of a national audience. While it may inconvenience many of us, it does maximize the competitiveness of the games and makes for a fantastic weekend of football.
Regarding concerts, we do hope to schedule them in the offseason when we don't have another major event scheduled. We continue to work on a potential concert for summer 2023, but do not have one currently scheduled. As far as an announcement, that often depends on the artist and when all tour dates are set. Stay tuned.
A question from Matt
I hope the Packers organization realizes what a gem they have in Mike Spofford. His writing is fantastic as are his professionalism and integrity. I especially enjoy his WYMM segments. If you haven't read one I would encourage you to. Happy Holidays.
Thanks, Matt. There's no question here, but it is an opportunity to praise Mike Spofford and our digital team. I also enjoy Mike's WYMM segments, and couldn't agree more with your assessment of Mike's work for us. We are very fortunate to have someone as talented and humble as Mike. Mike and our whole digital team do an excellent job providing unique content for fans.
Ken from Plano, TX
Hi Mark, the Buffalo Bills recently released their renderings for a new stadium. One of the most notable improvements this stadium will bring to the Bills is a canopy that covers 65% of the stadium seats. Football is best enjoyed outdoors, and outdoor stadiums like Lambeau Field are superior to domed stadiums. However, providing some protection from winter elements could improve the fan experience. Would the Packers ever consider adding a canopy to Lambeau Field?
Thanks for the question, Ken. As a lifelong Bills fan (I still root for them in every game except when we play them). I'm very excited about the Bills' new stadium. Rich Stadium (that's what I remember it as) has served them well over the years (I went to the very first game in the stadium in 1973, ironically a preseason game against the Washington Redskins). It needs to be replaced, though. I was hopeful that the Bills could put their new stadium in downtown Buffalo, but they couldn't find a spot with enough space. The new stadium will be adjacent to the current stadium in Orchard Park.
We have considered renovations to our stadium bowl. The problem with any renovation to the stadium bowl (and putting a canopy over the bowl seats would likely require a major renovation to the stadium bowl) is that the bowl is not up to current standards regarding seat width, steps, railings, etc. The current bowl has been grandfathered in, and if we renovated it, we would have to bring it up to current standards. We estimate that this would reduce our seating capacity by more than 10,000. Given the fact that we sell out every game and that we have over 147,000 on our waiting list, I don't think it makes sense to reduce our capacity by more than 10,000 to cover the seats.