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.*
As I walked into my office on Tuesday morning at 11 a.m., I looked out the window and was surprised to see hundreds of fans lined up on the sidewalk along Hinkle Field. I knew that we had an OTA (organized team activity) open to the public that day (starting at 11:30), but I didn't expect to see that many people waiting to watch our players practice in shorts. By 11:30, the sidewalk was packed, with people lined up, three to four deep, watching practice through the fence. To me, this is another example of the special relationship that our fans have with the team. While I shouldn't be surprised anymore by the great support of our fans, there have been other occasions where I've been amazed by our fans. These include selling 180,000 shares in the first two days of the stock sale in 2011, the turnout and support of our fans for the playoff game in Atlanta in 2010, and, more recently, selling out the seating bowl in five hours for the video board viewing of the Brett Favre Hall of Fame induction banquet and number retirement. Of course, fan attendance at training camp practices (and Family Night) is always outstanding.
So, our fans are obviously ready for the 2015 season, and our team is getting there quickly. We are now in the third phase of our offseason program. The third phase includes 14 OTAs, and will wrap up with a minicamp from June 16-18. The offseason program is important for all players, but is especially helpful for the rookies and younger players. We've had great participation in recent years from our veterans (only minicamp is mandatory) and we often see first- and second-year players show great progress during this program. It will be exciting to see which younger players carry this progress through to training camp and the regular season.
Now, on to your questions:
Charlie from Vancouver, Canada
We all understand the benefits of health and education, for example. What is the "social purpose" of sport played at a high level (not just football), and are the Green Bay Packers unique in this respect?
I definitely think there's a social purpose to sport, Charlie. In addition to the benefits derived from participating in sports (physical fitness and life lessons), sport also helps bring communities together. American football is particularly effective at this, with Friday night high school games and college homecoming games serving as good examples. Also, due to our ownership structure, I believe the Packers are unique in bringing our fans together – not only at Lambeau Field, but all over the world through our Packers Everywhere program, and pep rallies at away games. Football, as well as other sports, also serves as a beneficial diversion for fans from the stress of their lives.
John from Seymour, WI
Were you surprised that the tickets to watch the Favre ceremony sold so quickly?
I have to admit, John, I was surprised. Although, as I mentioned in the column, I should no longer be amazed by the great support from our fans, this did catch me off guard. Since the fans will be watching the induction ceremony on the video boards, and the ceremony will be available on TV and online, I did not think it would sell out. I was very pleased, though, that it sold out so quickly. Our fans are obviously excited about the event, and ready to welcome Brett back to Lambeau Field. It should be a special night.
Rev. Randy from Janesville, WI
If the NFL is truly concerned about head injuries, why aren't all players required to wear the protective helmets that Aaron Rodgers has been wearing since he suffered his second concussion in the same year vs Detroit? I don't believe he's suffered one since. I realize that it wouldn't be a panacea, but it seems like a relatively easy fix to what is certainly an important safety issue.
Excellent question, Reverend, and this is obviously a very important issue facing the NFL, with the concern regarding concussions and their long-term impact on players. First, all helmets have to meet a minimum standard (National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment/"NOCSAE" certification) in terms of protection at all levels of football. The NFL and its teams, though, would not require players to wear certain certified helmets. If a player suffered a concussion while wearing a helmet that the team required him to wear, the team would be in a difficult legal position. From my perspective, the quality of the helmets have improved dramatically since my playing days (and especially so in recent years), but no helmet will be able to prevent all head injuries.
Bob from Orland Park, IL
With the PAT now at the 15-yard line, if there is a bad snap or something, does the kicking team have to get the ball into the end zone to score or just to the 13-yard line, since a two-point conversion starts at the 2-yard line?
Bob, although offensive coaches would like to be able to score two points by advancing the ball past the 13-yard line, that will not be the case. In order to get two points, teams will have to cross the goal line. I think one of the most interesting things to follow this year will be how coaches adjust to the new PAT rule. You may see more coaches decide to go for two points and develop special packages similar to the goal-line plays that college teams use for the two-point conversion. One of the issues that the Competition Committee considered was whether there would be fewer fake PATs by moving the PAT to the 15-yard line. I actually think there may be more fakes. First, there have been hardly any fakes from the 2-yard line because the kick from there is nearly automatic. While it is obviously more difficult to convert a 15-yard play than a 2-yard play, I think you may see more fake PATs from the 15-yard line for two reasons. The kick will be more difficult from the 15 (estimated at approximately 93 percent), and will be even more challenging in outdoor stadiums in bad weather conditions. Secondly, by their nature, fake plays are designed to fool the defense and, if executed properly, will be successful from the 15-yard line.
Chad from Tarpon Springs, FL
In the far distant future, way after you have gone, what is the future of the stadium of Lambeau Field? Obviously, it cannot last forever and I doubt the fans would be able to afford building a new stadium. Are you guys planning for this? What will come of the Packers and NFL whence Lambeau Field inevitably declines and is no longer suitable to hold 81,435 fans?
Great question, Chad. First, our goal is to have Lambeau Field last as long as possible. We put a significant amount of money into maintaining all aspects of the stadium every year. In fact, the sales tax that funded the 2003 renovation of Lambeau Field will expire in September, but was not allowed to expire until the Operations and Maintenance Fund was fully funded through 2031, which is the last year of our lease. I view Lambeau Field as our greatest asset, so we need to do everything possible to keep it in great shape. Ted Eisenreich, our director of facility operations, and his staff do an excellent job maintaining the stadium to ensure that it is available for future generations. Lambeau Field is the football equivalent of Wrigley Field and Fenway Park, and I hope we can continue to use it as long as those stadiums have been used. In the event we, in the far, far distant future, have to build a new stadium, I think the Packers would be able to fund it, through monies from the Packers' Corporate Reserve Fund as well as League funding vehicles.