GREEN BAY – Before Friday's practice, as the Packers continued their conversations as a team surrounding social justice issues and a path forward to make a difference, the players are thankful for more than just the opportunity to express themselves.
They appreciate getting to share their feelings with the upper-most members of the organization as well.
Offensive lineman Billy Turner, safety Adrian Amos and linebacker Christian Kirksey all addressed the media on Friday, one day after an extensive and emotional team meeting to address the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha led to the cancellation of practice.
They revealed that in Thursday's meeting, Packers President/CEO Mark Murphy, General Manager Brian Gutekunst and executive vice president/director of football operations Russ Ball joined the players and coaches to show their support, absorb the discussions and ponder actionable steps the organization as a whole could take.
"The conversations that were had yesterday as a team, as an organization, they were emotional, they were impactful, and they were positive," Turner said.
"We asked the guys in the front office to be a part of the meeting and we spoke our minds to them and told them what we wanted as a football team … That was meaningful to us because we needed them to know where we stand, and we also wanted to know where they stand, so when we do move forward as a team, they are part of it and they can be there backing us and helping us every step of the way."
In grappling with racial inequality and other difficult issues at hand, the players haven't reached any consensus as to actions they might collectively take on or off the field. Kirksey said, "That's what we're trying to figure out right now," while Amos admitted, "I don't have all the answers."
But a lot of ideas have been brought up, by players all across the roster, and they feel empowered by the fact that the organization is willing to support a team-wide approach, whatever form it ultimately takes.
"They were very receptive," Amos said. "I feel as though it's an open door with them. They have been listening, giving feedback, and I think we're going to get a lot done as long as we continue to meet, continue to talk about it. This is not just a one-time thing."
There was football to get back to Friday, as practice resumed but moved inside the Don Hutson Center due to rainstorms in Green Bay.
The players had Wednesday off, when the Milwaukee Bucks declined to take the court for their playoff game in protest, which led to the NBA canceling all playoff games for two days. The Brewers followed the Bucks lead by not playing Wednesday night, and the Packers canceling practice Thursday occurred amidst several NFL teams doing the same.
After two days away from the field, and with all the emotions surrounding the issues and discussions, the players had to re-energize and refocus on their jobs with the season opener a little over two weeks away.
"Certain days are harder than others, but this is what I love to do," Amos said of balancing football responsibility with important off-field concerns. "I love to play football but, at the same time, things are going to be on your mind.
"It's tough but it's what we have to do. Me playing football is what is giving me this platform to speak right now. That's big for me to continue to show what I can do but also allowing people to understand that I'm more than a football player."
That's a sentiment being shared currently by multiple players, who are adamant they aren't going to be silenced by those who believe they should just play football and keep their social views to themselves.
They aren't speaking up out of spite or defiance, either, but out of a sense of duty that comes with their status as public figures where they live.
"It's our responsibility because we're part of that community," said Kirksey, a St. Louis native and now Wisconsin resident who is speaking out about the Kenosha situation as he did about the unrest in Ferguson, Mo., back in 2014. "If people can watch us on TV playing football, why can't they hear us when we're talking about real-life issues? "I commend my teammates because we're letting people know that we care, we're more than just athletes.
"Our voice matters. Our opinion matters, and we have to stop making it seem like we're just an athlete and when it comes to real-life issues, we gotta be blind to it. I refuse to do that, because at the end of the day, I have a family that I have to protect and I have to take care of and I have friends back home, family back home, that are going through real-life challenges, and who am I to be blind to that? What kind of man would I be to be blind to that?"
Head Coach Matt LaFleur said the difficult conversations the team is conducting have the power to "galvanize people" and set an example at the same time. His players echoed those thoughts.
"If you can have a guy from say California and myself, being from Missouri, and both coming to Wisconsin and work for a common goal, why can't we do that outside of sports?" Kirksey said. "We are one. We want to illustrate what we do on the football field and in the locker room, illustrate that to the public. Let them know if we can do this to win a football game, why can't we do this to win at life?"