Notebook: Packers To Open '09 Season Vs. Chicago In Prime Time, Play At Detroit On Thanksgiving


For the second straight year, the Green Bay Packers will open up their season with a prime-time matchup at home against a divisional rival as they take on Chicago, and for the second time in three seasons, will travel to Detroit on Thanksgiving.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced on Monday at the annual league meetings in Dana Point, Calif., that the Packers will play the Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field at 7:30 p.m. (CT) on Sunday, September 13, 2009, in their season opener. The game will be televised nationally by NBC.

"A big national game, that's a great way to start the season," said Head Coach Mike McCarthy, who is at the league meetings. "We're at home, against the Bears. I'm sure our players and fans will be excited."

No two NFL clubs have faced off more than Green Bay and Chicago, and the season opener will mark Game No. 178 in the rivalry.

"I'm very pleased and I am excited for our fans," said Packers President and CEO Mark Murphy, who also is attending the league meetings. "To be able to open up the season against the Bears on national TV is great.

"Two years in a row now we have opened up the season with a national TV home game, so I think that shows the strength of the Packers brand and how we are viewed across the league."

The Packers have opened the season in prime time on four other occasions, all of which have come on Monday Night Football, including last year's 24-19 win over Minnesota. Green Bay is 4-0 in those games.

Goodell also announced that the Packers will play the Lions at Detroit's Ford Field at 11:30 a.m. (CT) on Thursday, November 26, 2009. The game will be televised nationally by FOX, and marks the 33rd Thanksgiving contest in franchise history.

The Packers last played on Thanksgiving in 2007, also in Detroit, beating the Lions 37-26 to improve to 12-18-2 all-time on Thanksgiving, including 6-11-1 in Detroit. The Packers and Lions played every Thanksgiving in Detroit for 13 straight seasons, from 1951 through 1963. The other meetings occurred in 1984, 1986, 2001 and 2003.

One challenge that comes with playing on Thanksgiving is the quick turnaround after a game on Sunday.

"I'll tell you what, my experience, the key to the Thanksgiving game is being at home the week before, preferably at noon if anybody is listening," McCarthy said. "The biggest challenge with that game is getting the players, getting their bodies back and being smart with the time that you have. We're fortunate that Detroit is close."

The Packers have won three of their last four Thanksgiving meetings with Detroit, beating the Lions 44-40 in 1986 and 29-27 in 2001. Detroit beat Green Bay 22-14 in 2003.

The other opening weekend matchups announced by the league were Tennessee at Pittsburgh on NBC on Thursday, September 10, at 7:30 p.m. (CT) and a Monday-night doubleheader on September 14 of Buffalo at New England at 6:00 p.m (CT) followed by San Diego at Oakland at 9:15 p.m. (CT), with both games televised by ESPN.

Following the Packers-Lions on Thanksgiving, Oakland will travel to take on Dallas at 3:15 p.m. (CT) on CBS and Denver will host the N.Y. Giants at 7:20 p.m. (CT) on NFL Network.

The remainder of the Packers' schedule will be completed and released in April, along with the full league schedule.

Fans a focus

During his address on Monday morning at the league meetings, Goodell emphasized the importance of NFL clubs continuing to create value for fans in a challenging economic time.

"Fans are a real priority, making sure we provide value to them, but also our business partners, the sponsors," Murphy said. "We want to be sensitive to what they are going through as well.

"We can't just rest on our laurels. While we've got a great stadium with great history and tradition, we've got to look at everything we do and continue to try to improve and try to make sure we are providing a great value and experience."

{sportsad300}Statistics provided by the league during their presentation highlighted the NFL as the most popular professional sport in the country, with a survey showing that that 71 percent of the population are fans of the league. The survey also showed that the average fan spends 250-plus hours a year following the NFL.

The Packers' strength among fans was evident in the survey that included six NFL teams among the 10 most popular professional sports teams, with Green Bay coming in at No. 2, behind only the Dallas Cowboys. The Pittsburgh Steelers ranked third, the New England Patriots fourth, with the first non-NFL team, the New York Yankees, coming in at No. 5.

"I had an understanding of the strength of the NFL and the support we have, but when you see the statistics like that, it really brings it home," Murphy said.

Another issue at the fore at the league meetings was the current collective bargaining agreement, which is set to expire following the 2010 season. Goodell said that while NFL revenues are up 6 percent, expenses are up as well by 7 percent, which is not a sustainable long-term model. He did express optimism that the league and the players union will be able to reach an agreement that is fair to the clubs, players and fans, a view that was echoed by Murphy.

"I'm hopeful that we can reach an agreement that is fair for the players and teams and allow us to just continue to grow the game," Murphy said.

No compensatory picks

On Monday, the NFL announced a total of 32 compensatory choices in the 2009 NFL Draft to 16 teams, and for the first time since 2005, the Packers will not receive any.

Under terms of the NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement, a team losing more or better compensatory free agents than it acquires the previous year is eligible to receive compensatory draft picks. The number of picks a team receives equals the net loss of compensatory free agents up to a maximum of four.

The 32 compensatory picks that were awarded will supplement the 224 choices in the seven rounds of the draft, and will be positioned within the third through seventh rounds.

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