You Asked. Answers


It's been a while since we last dipped into the Ask mailbag, so let's sort through some of the questions that have been piling up.

In this edition we touch on topics ranging from alternate jerseys, to retired numbers, to the origin of the nickname 'Packers,' to million-dollar salaries.

Before the start of the 2002 season, I read on that the Green Bay Packers uniforms may be altered for the 2003 or 2004 seasons. Is this still true or is the article in which I read about this issue false. Or am I completely wrong? -- Donte (New Haven, WI)

The article you refer to ran in May of 2002. It explains that the NFL granted teams the right to create an alternate uniform to be worn in one home game in the 2002 season. The jersey could be a 'classic' (turn-back-the-clock) jersey, or it could be a new design, provided it was created using the team's existing color palette.

In the story, GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman said he was going to pass on using an alternate jersey for at least 2002. He hinted at the time that it might be more appropriate to wear a classic jersey during the 2003 season, due to the rededication of Lambeau Field, but the Packers haven't announced any plans to wear an alternate jersey in 2003.

Since No. 92 is also retired, why is it not displayed at the stadium with the other four retired numbers? -- Dave (St. Paul, MN)

Actually, No. 92 isn't technically retired, which is why it isn't on display at the north end of the Lambeau Field interior. Officially, the Packers have retired only four numbers: Tony Canadeo's No. 3, Don Hutson's No. 14, Bart Starr's No. 15 and Ray Nitschke's No. 66, all of which were put on display inside the stadium this May.

In 1999, the Packers honored Reggie White, the NFL's all-time sack leader, by retiring his jersey. White's jersey obviously includes his No. 92, but while there are no plans to re-issue that number, 92 isn't technically retired. Another number floating around in unofficial retirement is No. 1, which was worn only by Curly Lambeau (1925-26), and hasn't been issued since.

What team were the Packers playing on Dec. 7, 1941, the attack on Pearl Harbor. I was listening on radio that Sunday when the radio station reported the attack. I thought it was the Packers playing, but some time ago I read they were not on radio at that time. Who did they play that day? -- Glenn (Menomonie, WI)

The infamous attack on Pearl Harbor did indeed play out on a Sunday, but the Packers didn't have a game Dec. 7, 1941. The Packers had wrapped up their regular season the previous weekend, with a 22-17 victory over the Washington Redskins to finish 10-1. They were off the weekend of the Pearl Harbor attack, and lost 33-14 the following Sunday to the Chicago Bears in the Western Division Playoff.

The Bears, however, did play Dec. 7, defeating the Chicago Cardinals, 34-24. There was at least one other game that day (Washington vs. Philadelphia), but if you were living in the Midwest, chances are probably good that you heard the Bears game.

Steve Rushin, in the March 10 issue of Sports Illustrated, perpetuates what I, as a Green Bay native, always thought was a misconception, that the Indian Packing Company was a meatpacking outfit. I always thought, like Green Bay Packing Company, Freshlike, and others, it was vegetables! Who's right? Tim -- (Osceola, WI)

'Green Bay Packers,' is the longest standing team name in NFL history, with roots dating back to August 29, 1919, when -- two weeks before the team's first organized game -- George Calhoun, sports editor of the Green Bay Press-Gazette, first publicly identified the team as the Indian Packers.

The Packers were so called because Curly Lambeau received $500 from his employer, the Indian Packing Co., for uniforms and equipment, and for use of the company's lot for practice. In exchange, Lambeau and Calhoun agreed to call the team the Packers.

The Indian Packing Co., which was indeed a meatpacking outfit, was purchased by Acme Packing Co., and when the team joined what is now the NFL in 1921, 'Acme Packers' was put on the jerseys, setting the name in stone.

In the early years, some fans and sportswriters also referred to the team as the Big Bay Blues, or just the Bays. In 1922, Lambeau applied with the name 'Blues,' but was vetoed by public opinion.

For the record, a packer is someone who works at a packaging house, an establishment for slaughtering, processing and packing livestock into meat, meat products and byproducts.

James Lofton was elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame recently. In the bios about him, it was repeatedly stated that Lofton was the first player ever to score touchdowns in three different decades. This sounded very unlikely to me and I did some research and came up with several who did this previously. Sammy Baugh, Bart Starr, John Brodie, George Blanda and Jimmy Orr are among those I found. -- Baird (Laguna Niguel, CA)

You are correct that early Pro Football Hall of Fame bios for James Lofton contained an inaccuracy. Although mistakenly called the first player to score a touchdown in three different decades, James Lofton actually broke ground specifically as the first player to catch a touchdown pass in the 1970s, 80s and 90s. At least on, all references are believed to have been corrected.

Lofton played for five teams in his NFL career, including nine seasons with the Packers. Breaking into the league in 1978, he made 10 touchdown receptions for the Packers in the 70s, made 47 scoring grabs in the 80s and 18 in the 90s.

What do you think of this fun phrase? Brett Favre is from the South, where culinary delights include beans, and since he often connects with Bubba Franks, how about the Favre/Franks connection being called "Beans and Franks?" -- Maureen (Milwaukee, WI)

We see where you're going with this, but who wants to tell the three-time NFL MVP that his new nickname is 'Beans?'

I'll ask this question a second time and I apologize if this is a bad question, but it is one that has a number of us stumped. Who was the first Green Bay Packer player to sign a contract worth $1 million or more a season? Thank you. -- Jim (Rosendale, WI)

Sorry it took a while to get to your question, but there are many to search through and some mistakenly get lost in the shuffle.

Answering your question isn't as easy as one might expect, because the Packers don't release salary figures (these days, when you read about a player signing a multi-million dollar contract, those figures are released by agents, not the Packers).

That said, the first Packers player to sign a contract worth $1 million a season was offensive tackle Tony Mandarich. Drafted with the second overall pick in 1989, Mandarich reportedly signed a four-year, $4.4 million deal with the Packers that made him the highest paid offensive lineman in NFL history.

Mandarich signed the deal after a 45-day holdout, originally asking the Packers for a deal worth $2 million per.

Touted as the next great thing coming out of college, Mandarich went down as one of the biggest draft disappointments in NFL history, his Packers career ending after only three seasons.

The following year, quarterback Don Majkowski went through a 45-day holdout of his own before landing a reported one-year, $1.5 million contract. And in April of 1991, the Packers extended the contract of wide receiver Sterling Sharpe with a 10-year deal worth $15.5 million. (The seventh overall pick of the 1988 draft, Sharpe's initial deal was reported at five years, $2.8 million overall, or $560,000 per season).

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