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Packers Deliver Team Report At Annual Shareholders' Meeting


He could have been speaking in front of the Microsoft Corporation -- except some members of the audience wore cheeseheads, and the shareholders filled the Resch Center in Green Bay, Wis.

"When I was in Seattle for five years I worked for [Microsoft co-founder and Seahawks owner] Paul Allen, who is a very successful man in many fields, and it was always quite daunting," said general manager Ted Thompson as he addressed more than 9,700 shareholders during the annual stockholders' meeting on Wednesday morning. "But I've never stood in front of a group of bosses like this before."

As one of the most unique stories in all of sports, Green Bay Packers, Inc., has been a publicly owned, non-profit corporation since Aug. 18, 1923, when they filed original articles of incorporation with Wisconsin's secretary of state.

The Packers' seven-member executive committee addressed the status of the team, outlining the current and future status on everything ranging from personnel to marketing.

2,766,143 shares of stock were represented. Many of the attendees came from out of town and will make a vacation out of the shareholders' meeting, staying the weekend to watch training camp practices.

"It seemed like everybody who came up to me was from outside of Wisconsin," president/CEO Bob Harlan said. "That's the passion of the fans here."

Because the Packers drew the largest crowd at the Resch Center since 1998, they might move the event from the Resch Center to Lambeau Field next year.

The executive board did discuss some potentially ominous economic situations with the NFL's collective bargaining agreement set to expire in 2007, but they shared an optimistic outlook for the team.

"We're doing extremely well from every standpoint," Harlan said.


As Thompson discussed the offense he announced: "At the quarterback position, we have Brett Favre."

As soon he finished mentioning the last name of the 15-year-veteran, the Resch Center crowd responded with a standing ovation. Thompson takes pride in mentioning Favre as his starter.

"Fortunately I'm the only general manager in the National Football League that can say that," Thompson said.

He addressed the offensive line, a unit that surrendered only 14 sacks last year but has lost both starting guards, Marco Rivera and Mike Wahle. Thompson conceded that loss, but emphasized keeping Mark Tauscher, Rivera, Mike Flanagan, Wahle and Chad Clifton together as long as they did was remarkable.

"We lost two very good players in free agency," he said. "At some point we knew that group would have to be broken up."

Six-year veteran tight end and transition free agent Bubba Franks has not yet agreed to contract terms, but Thompson said the team is trying very hard to sign him.

He also emphasized that they want to retain Javon Walker. The 2004 Pro Bowl wide receiver is under contract but has not participated in any of the offseason activities.

"Javon Walker's a very good football player and we want him here with the Green Bay Packers for a very long time," he said. "Sometimes business decisions and the economic side of this game get in the way of just being a fan."

Of the other receivers, Robert Ferguson has fully recovered from the head and neck injuries suffered on a clothesline hit from Jacksonville Jaguars safety Donovin Darius in December.

He also praised second round draft pick, Terrence Murphy, who has not yet come to contract terms.

All in all, Thompson foresees a very deep wide receiver corps.

"At the end of the day, we think we're going to be very happy with our group of receivers," he said.

At the mention of 11-year-veteran William Henderson, who Thompson jokingly referred to as "Old Man River," the shareholders applauded. He then talked of the player's high character.

"He is a leader on our team and has been for a number of years. He is as standup a person as you're ever going to meet," he said.

He then complimented the Packers' trio of rushers. Ahman Green, Najeh Davenport and Tony Fisher accounted for 1,746 yards in 2004.

"It's a three-headed monster in terms of the different things they can do," he said. "That's a strong group."


Thompson praised the defense, citing any media criticism of the unit as false rumor.

"Collectively it's a very strong group," he said.

He lauded the defensive line, highlighting the play of Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, who had 13.5 sacks last year. He also emphasized the number of young and returning players.

"One of the overwhelming themes is we have a lot of young players," he said. "We feel like their best football is in front of them."

Thompson said the Packers have the kind of athletic linebackers that will fit new defensive coordinator Jim Bates' aggressive scheme.

"We've added some speed to this group," he said. "Obviously it's anchored by Nick Barnett and Na'il Diggs."

While the linebacking corps returns some familiar names, the safeties have lost one -- Darren Sharper. Thompson acknowledged that Sharper is a good player and his absence creates a hole, but he expressed some confidence in the newcomers, including free acquisitions Arturo Freeman and Earl Little and rookies Marviel Underwood and Nick Collins.

"We have some guys that can step up and do some things," he said.

Thompson also mentioned another young secondary player, cornerback Patrick Dendy, an undrafted rookie out of Rice University.

"He has done very well during our minicamps," he said.

Although Dendy wowed observers during the offseason, the general manager said second-year cornerbacks Joey Thomas and Ahmad Carroll are in a tight competition for the left cornerback spot opposite Al Harris.


An hour-long Q&A session followed the team report, and shareholders could approach any of the executive board members individually. One theme stood out during their one-on-one conversations with Harlan. Shareholders do not want the Packers to give into the contract demands of Walker.

"People are very strong about that," he said.

Asked if anyone sided with Walker's demands, Harlan said: "Not a soul."

To no one's surprise, the shareholder's adoration of Favre was another common topic of discussion.

"They hope Brett plays 10 more years," he said.


Treasurer Larry Weyers stressed a strong economic outlook for the team. National revenue increased from $99,869,498 to $110,802,116 and local revenue increased from $79,226,558 to $89,180,125 from 2004 to 2005.

He attributed much of the boost in local revenue to the Pro Shop and the Lambeau Field Atrium.

The pro shop generated $17,156,429 in 2005 revenue, including $3.5 million from internet sales. In only three-and-a-half weeks they sold 35,000 of the new pink hats, which support breast cancer.

The atrium produced $5,874,262 in 2005 and has become the envy of the NFL. The Atlanta Falcons will build their own atrium. According to Harlan, Giants CEO Bob Tisch wants a similar structure in the Giants' new stadium.

"You give me in New York what they have in Green Bay, and I'll be delighted," Tisch said.

However, the collective bargaining agreement is set to expire in 2007. A small-town team like the Packers needs a salary cap to compete with the larger markets. Otherwise, the NFL could resemble major league baseball where select teams can outspend the others.

Despite the fear of an uncapped year, which would hurt several NFL teams, the future looks bright for the Packers, and that future will occur in Titletown.

"We look to preserve the Packers franchise with all of the traditions here in Green Bay," Weyers said.

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