GREEN BAY – The Packers are one of three finalists to host the 2024 NFL Draft, President/CEO Mark Murphy confirmed during Thursday's virtual shareholders meeting.
The organization has been active in its pursuit of the draft, which has rotated around the country since 2015. The Packers were one of three finalists to host the 2022 NFL Draft before it was awarded to Las Vegas after the current COVID-19 pandemic cancelled this year's scheduled event there.
Cleveland and Kansas City already have been confirmed for 2021 and 2023, respectively. Chicago (2015-16), Philadelphia, Dallas and Nashville have all hosted the event in recent years.
While Green Bay isn't a metropolitan city, the Packers hope their rich history, the expansion of Titletown, the 45-acre development west of Lambeau Field, and construction of the 127,000-square-foot Resch Expo on the east side of the stadium, will entice the NFL to bring the event to Green Bay.
"I'm optimistic. I think we have a good opportunity," Murphy told reporters after Thursday's meeting. "I think our community has a lot to offer. Certainly from a history and tradition standpoint, the fact that Lambeau Field is such an attraction. … By 2024, Titletown is going to look a lot different than it does now. It's going to be even more attractive and even more of a destination."
Like most sports leagues and franchises, the Packers have had to grow and adapt to an ever-changing landscape in midst of the pandemic. The organization recently announced it will allow season-ticket holders to opt-in or opt-out of potentially attending games in 2020, if health professionals determine it's safe to do so.
The Packers already have started installing Plexiglas and hand sanitizers throughout the stadium to prepare for whatever protocols and requirements might be set. If fans are permitted, the team would distribute tickets among those who opted in.
"The fact that we have no preseason games, that does give us a little more time to kind of work through those things," Murphy said. "But it'll be on a game-by-game basis, that's how we looked at it. Hopefully people want to go to more than one game but at least make sure that everybody (who opts in) is able to go to at least one game."
Once the NFL and NFLPA come to an agreement for players to report for training camp, Murphy feels a 2020 NFL season can be safely achieved with the testing and precautions the league and union have started to put into place.
Since teams likely won't be able to make as many in-season transactions, one possible change would be allowing clubs to keep up to 16 players on their practice squads, including veterans who didn't qualify under previous guidelines.
"I do have a lot of confidence, though, in medical experts, both for the league and NFLPA," Murphy said. "I'm confident that we'll get a season in. If we're going to have fans there, in regards of that, I'm not so certain. That's going to be a little more difficult. We're going to have enough challenges just putting the games on and making sure everybody involved in playing, coaching, and putting the game on is kept safe."
One other side effect of the pandemic was the Big Ten shifting to a conference-only football schedule, which led to the cancellation of the University of Wisconsin and Notre Dame that was scheduled for Oct. 3 at Lambeau Field.
Murphy said he has spoken to Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez and both sides remain committed to rescheduling the game at Lambeau Field. That could come possibly as early as 2022, with the Badgers slated to play Notre Dame at Soldier Field in 2021 as part of the schools' two-game agreement.
"We're working through it," Murphy said. "Having been in Barry's shoes, I know it's not easy. These football schedules are done a while in advance but he seemed to really want to (reschedule) and I would say Jack Swarbrick from Notre Dame feels the same way that they want to have a game at Lambeau Field. Barry, especially, talked about how much he and the Badgers fans really enjoyed the LSU game here in 2016."
According to Murphy, the Packers are in the process of applying to host the Big Ten Championship Game between 2023-30. The game currently is played at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis but there are ongoing discussions about moving it to other locations inside the Big Ten footprint.
Among other ongoing initiatives is the NFL looking to identify international home markets for its 32 clubs. The Packers have submitted Canada, England, Germany, Australia and Ireland as potential targets. Green Bay remains the only NFL team that has yet to play in an international regular-season game.
Murphy also took a moment to recognize Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive end and former board of directors member Willie Davis, who passed away in April at 85. The Packers will wear decals on its helmets to honor Davis during the 2020 season.
Former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue also has reached out to the Packers in hopes of having his Pro Football Hall of Fame ring ceremony during a future game against the Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field, according to Murphy.
Tagliabue is one of 15 individuals who were elected to Canton in January as part of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Centennial Slate, to celebrate the league's 100th birthday. He was supposed to be inducted next month prior to COVID-19 postponing the event until 2021.
Despite looming economic uncertainty, Murphy reiterated the Packers remain on solid financial footing thanks in part to its corporate reserve fund. He also praised Head Coach Matt LaFleur and his staff for how they adapted to the virtual offseason program.
Murphy believes the way the Packers leveraged their technological resources this spring and summer will give the team an advantage as it begins the 2020 NFL season.
"Things changing rapidly and quickly," Murphy said. "The organizations and teams that will have success coming out of this are the ones that are nimble and flexible, and communicating well.
"I'm very proud and pleased of our entire organization and the way we've handled this and the things we've done for the community, and the way our football team and coaches and others have been able to continue to work through this."