GREEN BAY – Mother Nature did not cooperate with the Packers' first prime-time shareholders meeting on Wednesday night.
Rainstorms in the Green Bay area forced the evacuation of the Lambeau Field seating bowl, and the Packers moved their annual business meeting into the stadium's media auditorium.
The roughly 5,900 fans in attendance had to watch the various reports on television screens throughout the concourse and other indoor areas of the stadium.
"I'm disappointed for the fans," President/CEO Mark Murphy said shortly after the nearly two-hour meeting concluded. "We thought there would be a really good crowd. It was at night, practice starts tomorrow, the Packers Experience (opening) … but their safety was paramount, and you have to be flexible sometimes."
The content of the meeting did not change from prior years, though for the first time in nearly a decade and a half, the football report was delivered by someone different.
New General Manager Brian Gutekunst, who took over for Ted Thompson this past winter, took a moment to recognize Thompson's legacy and also praise the leadership of Head Coach Mike McCarthy as they, along with recently promoted Executive Vice President Russ Ball, move forward together at the top of the Packers' football operation.
Gutekunst provided an upbeat, position-by-position look at the 2018 roster as training camp begins, mentioning the "young and explosive" running backs, a "ton of experience" at tight end, and the "high expectations" for the defensive line, among other thoughts on the first roster he's assembled.
Leaders from the Packers organization addressed shareholders in attendance at Wednesday night's Annual Meeting of Shareholders. Photos by Evan Siegle, packers.com.
"With this group of players, we're excited to see what they can do on the field," Gutekunst said.
Murphy in turn emphasized his confidence in Gutekunst and how impressed he's been in the early stages of the new GM's tenure. He credited his "courage" for making the draft-day trades he did while sitting in the GM chair for the first time.
"I couldn't be more pleased with the way he stepped into the position," Murphy told the shareholders regarding Gutekunst. "The draft this year, he handled it like a seasoned pro.
"There's no question he's ready for this new position, and I think he's brought a level of excitement to the building. I'm really excited to see the future of our football team under Brian's leadership."
In his annual president's report, Murphy touched on a wide range of topics, from the details of the franchise's 100 Seasons celebration, to the application to host the NFL Draft in 2021 or '22, to the upcoming Packers-Patriots game being the No. 1-requested game by all the networks with NFL broadcast rights. The game landed on NBC's Sunday Night Football in Week 9, on Nov. 4.
Murphy also addressed the ongoing national anthem controversy, expressing optimism that the league and players' union will get something worked out together. He also noted the Packers are focused on moving "from protest to progress," and working with the players to dedicate resources to the underlying issues of racial inequality and police treatment of minorities.
"The fact that the players' association and the league are talking, I think there's a common interest to find a resolution," Murphy told the media when asked to follow up. "It will be good for the players, good for management and good for the game if we reached a resolution and took this issue off the table.
"We've had good discussions with our players. The most important thing is let's make a difference in some of these areas."