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Outfitting Packers Is No Easy Task


Bryan Nehring inspects one of the Packers' many helmets.

The numbers themselves are almost unimaginable: 250 helmets, 65 different types of facemasks, 200 dozen practice socks, 1,800 pairs of shoes.

But every single piece of equipment the Green Bay Packers wear in practice or on game day is ordered, inventoried and maintained by equipment manager Red Batty and his staff.

"The numbers are mind boggling, but the challenge is always there," Batty said, as he hung game jerseys in the team's equipment storage area. "Even though I've been doing this for 32 years, there is always a new challenge. And, obviously, you welcome that."

The main offseason challenge for the Packers' equipment staff, which in addition to Batty includes Tom Bakken, Bryan Nehring and Tim Odea, is taking inventory of the thousands of articles of clothing housed in the equipment storage area, which is located near the southeast corner of the Lambeau Field Atrium.

"Everything that is associated with the football operations related to equipment is inventoried this time of year. Everything," Batty said, adding that it takes all four staffers to complete the task. "To do it at a good, gentle speed, it takes about six weeks."

Although taking inventory is an offseason task, much of the equipment has already been ordered. Batty said that due to the large quantity of items, as well as the multiple sizes and specifications, orders must be placed even before the previous season ends.

"The stuff for the team has been ordered last October," he said. "It's not something you pull off of a retail floor. It's all custom-made stuff -- specs, sizes, material, patterns. With that in mind, you can't just go into a store and say, 'Give me 300 of those in double-XL (extra large), and 300 of those in 5-XL. It's not going to happen."

The vast majority of the Packers' equipment is made by Reebok, the official sponsor of the NFL. But despite the fact that a single company produces almost all of the players' gear, the equipment staff still has many decisions to make regarding certain items of apparel.

Even when ordering sets of shorts and T-shirts, the staff must choose among six different pairs of shorts and six different T-shirt designs. It does so based on a variety of factors, including weather.

"The Miami Dolphins wouldn't buy stuff that we use up here, and we wouldn't buy stuff that they use down there because of the climates," Batty said. "All those decisions have to be made. And then patterns and material are a big factor, too."

In addition to selecting the team's attire, the equipment staff also outfits much of the Packers administrative staff, including coaches, the scouting department and medical staff.

"People don't realize that for as many football players as we have, we have that many staff members," he said. "Everybody needs to be looked after. You can't just close the door on those people."

The task of outfitting all of the non-players falls in the hands of Bakken, the team's assistant equipment manager.

"Tommy will oversee everything a coach would wear, a trainer, an equipment guy, a video guy, a public relations guy, a marketing guy," Batty said. "Anybody that doesn't play in the game, Tommy takes care of. When you fast-forward to the season, he dresses 45 people himself."

With such a large quantity of apparel, the task of keeping it laundered and accessible is not a trivial one. Odea, an equipment assistant, is in charge of keeping all the attire clean in addition to other locker room duties.

"Every single player on the team has 15 articles, 15 pieces," said Batty. "That's a wide range of product, and (Odea) has to make sure everything is available. At any given time a player can come and request what he wants and it has to be there, ready to go, numbered, looking good and in good shape."

But before the equipment even reaches a player's locker, it must first pass through the hands of Marge Switzer, the team seamstress. She is responsible for stitching names or numbers into every piece of clothing.

Although the Packers game jerseys and pants were ordered a few weeks ago, the names and numbers weren't because of the large number of roster moves being made in the offseason. Batty said that once the roster becomes more concrete after the draft, Switzer begins working on applying names and numbers to the apparel.

"Everything comes in a generic product," he said. "But once we pick the sizes out for the players, Marge coordinates everything. Everybody has a tag sewn into every piece of clothing (they wear). Every department has its own color. It makes it a lot easier when we are packing and shipping and taking inventory."

While each staffer has his, or her, own responsibilities, Batty said providing the team with the best and safest product is a team effort.

"We decide (on equipment) as a staff because everybody has their point of view," he said. "Tommy has his in reference to the coaches, I have mine in reference to the players, Tim has his in reference to the locker room and Brian has his in reference to the players on the sideline. Everybody has their little part where they split up."

And teamwork is crucial because the decisions that the equipment staff makes now and in the upcoming months determines what the Packers have available to them for the upcoming season.

"Last year we played seven games in the rain counting the preseason," Batty said. "You go back to last October when we ordered rain gear (for next year). If we picked the wrong rain gear, we're stuck with that for the whole entire season. There's no way you can call up JC Penney's and order more."

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