On the first weekend 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*.*
The release of the NFL schedule has become a significant media event in recent years. I know our fans anxiously await the release of the schedule because they can start making their travel plans for both home and away games. I am always interested in seeing how many prime-time, national TV games we'll have. It's a good indication of how the networks (and the league office) view the strength of our team. I was pleased to see that we, once again, had five prime-time games – the league maximum. Obviously these games provide great exposure for us. In addition, we have four games that start at 3:35 p.m. These games are the second games of national doubleheaders, and can also provide great national exposure.
Just as our fans finalize their plans once the schedule is released, we are also able to finalize special events around our home games. Last week, we announced we will recognize Ron Wolf and Brett Favre in special ceremonies during halftime of the Lions and Bears home games, respectively. The unveiling of Favre's retired number on Thanksgiving night against our archrival Chicago should be a special evening. It's the first time we've hosted a game on Thanksgiving since 1923. I know NBC is very excited to be televising this game and ceremony.
Since this year marks the 50th anniversary of the first Super Bowl, the league will be promoting the first 49 Super Bowls throughout the year. There are 18 Super Bowl rematches on the schedule this year, including the rematch of Super Bowl I, when we host Kansas City on Monday night, Sept. 28. We will have a number of special events the week of this historic rematch.
Overall, I was very pleased with the schedule. We get off to a challenging start in Chicago against the Bears and their new head coach, John Fox, and I know the atmosphere will be electric when we host the Seahawks in our home opener. It shapes up to be another exciting season.
Now, on to your questions:
James from Evanston, IL
Do you think the draft will stay in Chicago or move to other cities?
This will be an interesting story to follow over the next few months, James. Although we are still in the middle of the draft, I think the consensus thus far has been that the draft in Chicago has been a huge success. I thought the overhead shots of the crowd on Thursday night were very impressive. The estimates were 100,000 people in Grant Park. This was a much different event (much more fan focused with events in Grant Park) than the draft in New York City. It was also the first time in over 50 years the draft wasn't in New York. The city of Chicago and the Bears, as well as the league office, deserve credit for staging such a great event. I think Chicago made a strong case for making the draft an annual event there, but whether it stays there really depends on what the league office wants to do with the draft. Do they want it to be like the Super Bowl that moves from city to city, or do they want it to have a permanent home?
A question from David
I just learned the national colors of Australia are green and gold! How great is that? What a great fan base I bet The Packers could develop down under. It's a natural even if it's half a world away. Do they get the telecasts? Over the Internet? Could they?
Good point, Mate. I think the Packers should be Australia's official NFL team. As you probably know, growing the game internationally has been a league priority for a number of years. This year, for the first time ever, the league will telecast a game (Bills vs. Jaguars from London at 8:30 a.m. CST) available free on the Internet. This should allow our Aussie fans to watch a game at a reasonable time. Also, fans in Australia can pay for broadcasts on-line through NFL Game Pass. Finally, for Packers fans, they can go to PackersEverywhere.com to find the Packers bars down under to watch the game with fellow Packers fans.
A question from Jeremy
I've been a fan of the current, balanced and rotating schedule ever since the last realignment. However, I'm not fond of the scheduler maker's layout of that schedule all the time. With the current CBA and reductions to offseason preparation, it has become clear teams are just not ready for the season or playing their best football in September. Since division records and conference records are so high in the tiebreaking procedures, would it not make sense to play the less important, interconference games during the first four games of the season and push the more important division and conference games back later in the season when teams are better prepared and ready to hit their stride?
I agree with you, Jeremy, regarding the impact of the new CBA. Teams have fewer offseason practices, as well as fewer practices during training camp (and fewer practices in pads). Also, teams are more reluctant to play starters in preseason games. As a result, it is more difficult to have the teams ready to play their best early in the season. I should mention, though, it is the same for all teams, so no team has a competitive advantage. For the last few years, the league has done what you suggested and scheduled more division games late in the season. This year, for instance, every game in Week 17 is a division game. Putting together the NFL schedule is a challenging process, with schedulers trying to satisfy the demands of various teams and broadcasters. Having important division games at the end of the season has proven to be a big hit for the league and the networks. We're a great example of this, as we played for the division title in Week 17 each of the last two seasons.
Julie from Charlottesville, VA
What are some things you plan to do to benefit your community on behalf of the Green Bay Packers?* *
Great question, Julie. As a community-owned team, supporting our local community is a high priority for us. We also view ourselves as the state's team (and have Green Bay and Milwaukee ticket packages), and support charities and causes across the state, although we do prioritize Brown County. We support communities across the state in many different ways. Last year, the total charitable impact of all our efforts was over $6.5 million. One of the more unique things we do to support communities in Wisconsin is our annual Tailgate Tour. Last month, we wrapped up our 10th annual tour. Eight players (three current and five former) and I took a bus and stopped in five communities in the evenings and held tailgate parties to raise money for designated charities. Over the last 10 years, we've raised $1.8 million for these various charities. We also stop at schools, veteran's clinics and hospitals along the way. In addition, we support the local community here in Green Bay through the economic impact of our games, events and construction. Looking ahead, we're very excited about the impact of the Titletown Development to the west of Lambeau field. Titletown should have a tremendous impact on the local community, bringing visitors to the area and creating jobs during construction as well as permanent jobs.
Brian from Howard, WI
What do you think of the selection of Damarious Randall in the first round?
It seems his selection took a lot of people by surprise. I think this was because he played safety at Arizona State, and safety didn't appear to be a need for us. I think it is foolish to try to evaluate picks or drafts right away. It really takes two to three years before you can truly judge a draft. That's why I don't pay any attention to the media's grades of each team's draft. I will say this, though, Ted Thompson and his staff are tireless in terms of the work they put into evaluating players. I think the work of Ted and his staff is the biggest advantage we have as an organization. Although Damarious played safety at Arizona State, we knew he played corner in junior college. Also, we believe he has the speed and skills to play corner in the NFL. In addition, the coaches at ASU said they played him at free safety because it is the most important position in their defense. We were also very impressed with his background as an outfielder in baseball. As a former outfielder myself (I played my last three years at Colgate), I know these baseball skills were very helpful to me in my NFL career. Also, in our defense, we often play with five or six defensive backs, and corners and safeties are interchangeable. Only time will tell whether Damarious ends up being a good player, but I was very encouraged to see our draft board (we had him rated very high) match up with a need (we lost Tramon Williams and Davon House to free agency this spring).