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'Next Man Up' philosophy works for Packers


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

Unfortunately, injuries are a fact of life in the NFL. It has often been said that there is a 100 percent injury rate in the League – every player will have an injury at some point during the season. Not all injuries force players to miss practice or game time, but all players, and teams, must learn how to handle injuries. At both the League and team levels, we are obviously working very hard to make the game safer and reduce the number of injuries, but injuries will continue to be an important factor in the game.

In order to overcome the impact of injuries during a season, a team, most importantly, must have quality depth. This is especially true when a team has a rash of injuries at certain positions, such as we've had this year at receiver and linebacker. It is a real tribute to Ted Thompson and his staff, and the work they do, primarily through the draft and signing undrafted free agents, that we have so many talented players. We have continued to play at a high level despite the injuries.

The coaches also deserve a lot of credit for this success. They obviously do an excellent job in developing these young players, and in putting them in position to have success. In addition, the coaches have to be flexible in terms of schemes and plays in response to injuries. Our Ravens game this year was a good example of our coaches making excellent adjustments on the fly. We played most of the game with only two wide receivers because of injuries, but we were resourceful and still found a way to win the game. Special teams can also be a challenge for coaches during times with a lot of injuries. The replacements for starters are typically core special teams players, and this again calls for the coaches to be resourceful in filling their spots on the coverage and return teams.

To me, though, the most impressive part of all of this has been the confidence and positive attitude that everyone associated with the team has in the "next man up" philosophy. In 2010, we saw this first hand, as we won the Super Bowl despite having 15 players on injured reserve. A large portion of the credit has to go to Mike McCarthy. As the leader, he sets the tone for the entire team. When confronted with injuries, he has remained positive in his comments and focuses on how the team will overcome them. As an athletic director for over 16 years, I saw many coaches in many different sports handle injuries. The coaches who took a "woe is me" attitude about injuries in talking with me about their team invariably ended up having their teams perform poorly. The players sense the coach's attitude and think that if the coach is not confident, why should they be? When a coach, though, would say that he or she has confidence in the next person up, the team would find a way to win. The better coaches were able to get their team to increase their focus and play better as a team.

So, as a fan, don't get discouraged when we have our next injury. Know that we have a plan in place and that the next man up is ready to do his job and play well.

Now, on to your questions:

Cory from Brooklyn Park, MN

Rick Reilly of ESPN reported after Monday Night Football that parity in the league has subsided since the free agency era started, saying there is a real have/have not separation in the NFL now with 11 "really bad" teams. What is of No. 1 importance in your mind for the Packers organization to do to stay above that line and remaining successful on/off the field?

I have a lot of respect for Rick Reilly, but have to respectfully disagree with his opinion here. I think there is still a great amount of parity in the NFL. In my view, one of the real positives about the NFL is that teams can improve quickly if they make the right decisions. Kansas City is a great example this year of a team that has improved dramatically with a new GM, head coach and quarterback. Of course, the opposite is true as well when you have true parity, and there are a number of playoff teams from last year that are struggling this year. The NFL is becoming much more of a quarterback-driven league, though. The common denominator for the bottom teams is that they do not have a solid quarterback. In order to remain competitive, we do a number of things. First, we provide our football team with the resources necessary to field a championship team. These resources go towards players, coaches, football staff and facilities. With a hard salary cap, it is crucial that we manage the cap smartly and draft well. The NFL is a very tough business. The entire system is designed to ensure parity, and the old saying that on any given Sunday any team can beat any other, still holds true.

Sean from London, Ontario, Canada

If you had to say what it is that makes the Green Bay Packers such a popular team for fans to follow, what would say it is?

I'm often asked this question, Sean. I would say that the biggest factor in our popularity is our ownership structure. First, we now have almost 365,000 shareholders who have a strong bond to the team. Fans of other teams don't have this same connection. Also, I think other fans like the idea of a community-owned team. For this reason, we are many fans' second favorite team. In addition, I think people like the fact that Green Bay is such a small community, and that the Packers compete against teams from Chicago and other large cities. Our great history and tradition is also a factor in our popularity. I've had many people from outside Wisconsin tell me that they started following the Packers because of Lombardi or Brett Favre. Lambeau Field is also a key factor, as well as some of our unique traditions such as the Lambeau Leap and the bicycle-kids training camp tradition. Finally, success on the field is a big help. Everyone loves a winner!

Matt from Longmont, CO

How is Jermichael Finley doing since he went down hard?

Thanks for asking, Matt. When Jermichael was hurt during the Browns game, it was a scary moment. I don't believe I've ever seen Lambeau Field that quiet. I've heard from many fans, wishing Jermichael the best. The outpouring of support has been very touching. It is really too soon to know when Jermichael will be able to play again or the long-term effect of the injury (a bruised spinal cord). I think Jermichael is handling this extremely well. When I visited him in the hospital, the thing that struck me the most was how upbeat and positive he was. This will obviously be helpful to him going forward. With an injury like this, we are taking our time and getting as much information as possible. Our policy with injuries is that we will treat our players as though they were our sons, and look out for their long-term interest. In 2010, Jermichael suffered a cartilage injury in his knee. We could have performed a procedure that would have allowed him to come back during the season, but decided against it because it may have shortened his playing career and impacted his quality of life after football. Injuries like these two that Jermichael has suffered are challenging for both the player and the organization, but by putting the player's long-term health first, I'm confident we are doing the right thing for both the player and the team.

John from Scotland, UK

As a diehard Packers fan living in Scotland, I was wondering why myself and many others like me were not allowed to buy Packers stock last year. Thank you and good luck this season. Go Pack Go!

Good question. As we prepared for our stock sale in 2011, we intended to sell shares overseas. We know that we have many fans throughout the world and wanted to make shares available to them. Also, with the ability to sell shares online, it would have been easy for international fans to buy stock. As we went through the approval process, though, it took us much longer than we anticipated getting approval from each state in the U.S., let alone from foreign countries. We decided to close the sale in March, 2012. We were able to get clearance to sell shares in Canada just before the closing date, but were not able to get approval in any other country. While we were disappointed, we did still sell many shares internationally, as anyone at a military base could purchase shares and people living abroad with addresses in the U.S. could purchase shares.

Dan from Burbank, CA

How many total season-ticket holders are there when you combine the Green and Gold package? I'm assuming some people have tickets for both packages.

Dan, with the South End Zone expansion, we added over 3,800 new season-ticket holders (1,914 Green and 1,952 Gold). We now have nearly 38,000 season-ticket holders, including club seats and suite holders. We do have a small number of people that have both Green and Gold packages. I know that the roots of the Green and Gold packages go back to when we actually played games in Milwaukee, but I believe that having two ticket packages helps us now in a couple of ways. First, we have more season-ticket holders, and similar to our shareholders, they have a strong tie to the team. Also, it makes our season-ticket packages more affordable than the other teams' 10-game packages.

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