GREEN BAY – Mark Murphy tried to keep a straight face, and he more or less succeeded.
Nevertheless, the news that the Green Bay Packers will unveil quarterback Brett Favre’s newly retired No. 4 on the north end zone façade of Lambeau Field on Thanksgiving night probably shouldn’t have been a huge surprise given the president/CEO’s reply to a question about Favre before last week’s Tailgate Tour.
Asked how quickly he expected to announce a date for Favre’s return to Lambeau Field after the league released its regular-season schedule, Murphy’s lips curled into a small smile when he replied, “We’ve got some ideas on how things may go. I think it be pretty quick.”
He later added that the team had had “some discussions” with the league about when it wanted to fete Favre.
On Tuesday afternoon, several hours before the official announcement of the league’s 2015 schedule, ESPN.com’s Rob Demovsky broke the news that the Packers would face the Chicago Bears on Thanksgiving night in a game that will be televised on NBC. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Tom Silverstein then reported that the Packers will indeed celebrate Favre that night.
Two NFL sources said that while the Packers were planning for that game to be the night of Favre’s return, the plans had not been finalized. One source said the team had been targeting a Thanksgiving night game against the Bears “for quite some time” for its Favre celebration.
“It’s been talked about for a while now,” the source said.
It certainly makes sense. Favre was 22-10 all-time against the Bears while with the Packers (he was 1-3 against them with Minnesota), and each of the past two seasons, there had been talks about Favre returning to Lambeau Field for a prime-time home game against the Bears.
In 2013, talks between the Packers and Favre’s camp broke down, and he ended up not coming to the Nov. 9 game in which Aaron Rodgers fractured his left collarbone.
Then last year, Favre had agreed to return to Lambeau and be introduced to the crowd alongside Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Bart Starr – then canceled his appearance when Starr’s health problems prevented him from coming.
Both sources stressed that Favre's No. 4 will actually be retired at the annual Packers Hall of Fame induction ceremony on July 18. His name and number will then be unveiled at the game.
The Nov. 26 game is the third of three Thanksgiving games – following the traditional games in Detroit and Dallas – and makes for the perfect setting for Favre’s name and number to be unveiled in the stadium where he spent 16 season with the Packers (and played two games with the rival Minnesota Vikings).
The remainder of the NFL schedule is set to be released Tuesday night.
GREEN BAY – The Green Bay Packers already know who they’ll be playing in 2015. They also know where.
On Tuesday night, they’ll find out when.
The NFL will announce its full 2015 regular-season schedule on Tuesday night, the league said Monday. The Packers already know their opponents based on the league’s annual schedule formula and rotation.
Home: Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Minnesota Vikings, St. Louis Rams, Seattle Seahawks, Dallas Cowboys, Kansas City Chiefs, San Diego Chargers.
Away: Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Minnesota Vikings, Arizona Cardinals, San Francisco 49ers, Carolina Panthers, Denver Broncos, Oakland Raiders.
Last week, the Packers’ preseason schedule was released, although it was without exact dates for their road games at New England and at Pittsburgh and home games against Philadelphia and New Orleans. Those will be finalized as well
The Packers figure to receive their usual share of prime-time games, and their home games against the Cowboys, whom they beat in the NFC Divisional Playoffs, and the Seahawks, whom they lost to in the NFC Championship Game, are good bets to get prime-time treatment.
Their game at Denver could also be chosen for Sunday Night Football on NBC, Monday Night Football on ESPN or Thursday Night Football on CBS/NFL Network because it will mark only the second – and presumably last – time that Packers two-time NFL MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Broncos five-time NFL MVP quarterback Petyon Manning face each other. Their only previous meeting was in 2008, when Rodgers was in his first season as the Packers’ starter and Manning was still with the Indianapolis Colts.
The Packers also figure to get a prime-time game for the unveiling of quarterback Brett Favre’s No. 4 on the north end-zone façade, and their home game against the archrival Chicago Bears would certainly be a logical choice. Favre had tentative plans to return to Lambeau Field each of the past two years for prime-time games against the Bears, but his camp pulled out of talks to come to the 2013 game (when Rodgers broke his collarbone) and he canceled his plans to come last year when Bart Starr’s health problems were going to prevent the Pro Football Hall of Famer and former head coach from attending.
In addition, the Packers have played in Detroit on Thanksgiving virtually every other year since 2000. They played there in 2001, 2003, 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2013.
GREEN BAY – Mike Daniels isn’t worried about his next contract – at least, not yet.
Maybe the uncertainty of entering the final year of his four-year rookie contract will get to him at some point. But as of Monday, as the Green Bay Packers tough-guy defensive end joined his teammates for the beginning of the club’s offseason program, Daniels insisted that his contract isn’t on his mind.
Daniels, a fourth-round pick from Iowa in 2012, started all 16 games last season and led the defensive line with a career-high 69 tackles (42 solo). He also led the line in sacks for the second straight year with 5.5 after registering 6.5 during his breakout 2013 season.
According to NFL Players Association salary records, Daniels' 2015 salary increased from the scheduled $660,000 to $1.574 million as part of the rookie wage scale contained in the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement with the NFL Players Association. A player drafted in the third through seventh rounds can receive a raise by playing at least 35 percent of his team’s offensive or defensive snaps in two of his first three seasons. Daniels played 62.4 percent of the Packers’ defensive snaps in 2014 and 48.6 percent in 2013, so he qualified.
“That’s just a distraction,” Daniels replied Monday when asked about his contract situation. “I’m here to play football. I’m here to get better. I’m here to watch film, re-learn the defense, get bigger, faster, stronger.
“All that [contract] stuff, that’s nothing but a huge distraction. The instant people start putting a focus on something like that, that’s when their play starts to suffer. And I don’t have time for my play to suffer.”
That’s fair, but early on last season, wide receiver Randall Cobb confessed that thinking about his uncertain contract status – like Daniels, he was in the final year of his four-year rookie deal – impacted his play, as he was admittedly “pressing” when he didn’t get off to a fast start.
On Monday, having signed his new four-year, $40 million deal last month before full-fledged free agency began, Cobb admitted it’s nice not to have to think about his contract.
“[It’s nice to] just to focus on football and not have to worry about answering questions or thinking about it too much, just going out there and doing what I do and practicing and preparing to get better,” Cobb said. “I knew this was where I wanted to be. I knew there was never a time where I didn’t want to be here. ... I feel like we’re right there, and we’re ready to start the journey today to build on this season and bring a Super Bowl back this upcoming year.”
GREEN BAY – Lee Remmel, whose connection to the Green Bay Packers – first as a reporter, and then as a devoted staff member – began when he covered his first game for the Green Bay Press-Gazette in 1945, has died, the team announced Thursday afternoon.
Remmel joined the Packers’ front office in 1974 and served as the team’s public relations director through 2004, when he became the club’s first official historian. He retired from that position in 2007. His death comes almost exactly three years after his wife, Noreen, died in April 2012.
“The Packers lost a cherished family member today,” Packers president/CEO Mark Murphy said in a statement. “Lee was a key member of the organization for many years and his knowledge of Packers history was unparalleled. He was a great ambassador and through his public relations work, he helped multiple generations of Packers fans learn more about the team. We extend our sincerest condolences to his family.”
Remmel walked the challenging line all public relations staffers must – the one of protecting the organization while also assisting journalists covering the team – effectively, in part because he had once been one of the team’s beat writers. He spent nearly 30 years as a sportswriter and columnist for the Green Bay Press-Gazette, and it was reflected in his approach with reporters in his role with the club.
Remmel either covered or worked with every coach in the franchise’s history, beginning with founder E.L. 'Curly' Lambeau and Vince Lombardi, whom he covered, and carrying through Mike Holmgren, Ray Rhodes, Mike Sherman and current coach Mike McCarthy. Remmel’s final year with the team, 2007, was McCarthy’s second season in Green Bay.
“He had a tremendous love for the organization, a tremendous love,” former Packers president/CEO Bob Harlan told Packers.com. “Everyone had great respect for his ability as a writer, and certainly if you wanted a quick point in history, there was not a better source than Lee.
“Many times he and I would sit and talk about old, old times -- the Curly Lambeau era and when Vince Lombardi first came to Green Bay. I was always fascinated with the stories he had about those times.”
When Lambeau Field was renovated in 2003, the press box was renamed "The Lee Remmel Press Box."
The annual Lee Remmel Sports Awards Banquet, honoring Wisconsin professional, collegiate, amateur and prep athletes, having been held since 1998; it has raised approximately $225,000 for scholarship funds at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, St. Norbert College and area high schools.
Remmel had an especially close relationship with former Packers quarterback Brett Favre, who did a spot-on impersonation of Remmel’s signature, “Questions, please” and “Does that do it?” catchphrases to begin and end press conferences.
"He's a Packers icon," Favre said upon Remmel’s retirement following the 2007 season. "There will never be another like him. His knowledge of the team and its history has always been impressive. He is sharp as a tack when it came to those things -- truly impressive. He's always had a great sense of humor, too."
Listen to Jason Wilde every weekday from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. on “Green & Gold Today” on 540 ESPN, and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/jasonjwilde.
GREEN BAY – The Green Bay Packers’ backup quarterback position now has an even greater Wisconsin flavor.
After re-signing ex-University of Wisconsin starter Scott Tolzien last month to likely serve as Aaron Rodgers’ No. 2, the Packers added former University of Wisconsin-Whitewater quarterback Matt Blanchard Wednesday after he worked out for the team last week.
Blanchard’s agent, Paul Sheehy, announced the signing on Twitter, and the move was on the official NFL transaction wire at close of business Wednesday.
The 6-foot-3, 223-pound Blanchard led UW-Whitewater to back-to-back NCAA Division III titles in 2010 and 2011 after transferring from Division II Northern Michigan. He went 25-0 as a starter and completed 70.4 percent of his passes with 44 touchdowns against just five interceptions during that two-year run with the Warhawks.
Blanchard went undrafted in 2012 but caught on with the Chicago Bears as a free agent and spent time on their practice squad. In preseason play, he completed 9 of 16 passes for 94 yards with no touchdowns, one interception and three sacks (47.4 rating).
After he was released by the Bears with an injury settlement at the end of training camp in 2013 – despite completing 16 of 19 passes for 192 yards with no touchdowns and one interception (86.8 rating) – he spent the second half of that season on the Carolina Panthers’ practice squad. He spent all of last season on the Panthers’ injured reserve list following a concussion in an Aug. 22 preseason game against New England. Before the concussion, Blanchard had seen limited action, completing just 3 of 9 passes for 10 yards with an interception (2.8 rating).
The Packers have not re-signed former No. 2 quarterback Matt Flynn, although it’s possible that the team could bring the unrestricted free agent back if coach Mike McCarthy and general manager Ted Thompson don’t find a quarterback they like this spring. McCarthy has made it clear that he wants to add another young developmental quarterback or two this offseason.
GREEN BAY – The Green Bay Packers annual summertime tradition of closing out preseason play against the Kansas City Chiefs ended – or, at least, was interrupted – by a parking problem.
Packers president/CEO Mark Murphy said Tuesday that the Packers and Chiefs couldn’t play each other this year in the preseason finale Sept. 3 or 4 because it was the Packers’ turn to go to Kansas City – and another team is slated to be there, too: The Kansas City Royals.
Because the Royals’ Kauffman Stadium and the Chiefs’ Arrowhead Stadium are adjacent to one another, they share a parking lot. And with the defending American League champions set to play host to the Detroit Tigers on Thursday, Sept. 3 and the Chicago White Sox on Friday, Sept. 4, it meant the Packers and Chiefs couldn’t play one another to end preseason play.
“It was our turn to go there,” Murphy said. Murphy didn’t say whether the option was explored to have the Chiefs come to Green Bay for the second year in a row. Last year, the Packers beat the Chiefs, 34-14, at Lambeau Field on Aug. 28.
The Packers instead will close preseason play this summer against the New Orleans Saints at Lambeau Field.
Murphy, who was asked about the change by FOX11’s Justin Felder just before the Packers’ bus was about to depart on the 10th annual Tailgate Tour, didn’t say whether the Packers-Chiefs series might resume in 2016 or if the Packers were tied into a home-and-home series with the Saints now.
From 2002 through 2009, the Packers and Tennessee Titans played each other in the preseason finale each year from 2002 through 2009, and the Packers and Chiefs alternated home games in the preseason finale from 2010 through 2014.Packers 2015 preseason schedule
|Aug. 13-17||at New England||TBA||State|
|Aug. 20-24||at Pittsburgh||TBA||State|
|Sept. 3-4||NEW ORLEANS||TBA||State|
GREEN BAY – Perhaps it’s because he’s seen the health struggles his quarterback, Bart Starr, and several other glory-days teammates are battling. Or maybe it’s because he just eulogized his good friend and offensive linemate, Fuzzy Thurston, only a few months ago.
But when legendary Green Bay Packers guard Jerry Kramer thinks about the fact that he’s still not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame – and may never get in – the 79-year-old says he is at peace with it.
While his daughter, Alicia, has been very active in social media and with various media outlets in her push to get her father enshrined, Kramer said Tuesday before departing on the Packers’ annual Tailgate Tour across the state that he has softened his position after years of disappointment.
“The game of football has been very, very good to me. And it’s just been a wonderful ride,” Kramer said. “I was pretty emotional about it 30 years ago when my guys went in. I got my lip out and [said], ‘Boy, if they call me, I’m going to tell them where to put it; I ain’t going.’
“There’s just a wonderful groundswell of support here in the state for [getting into the Hall of Fame], and it’s just wonderful, but it’s lost a lot of its glamour to me. So many of the guys that I played against or played with are no longer there [in person], so there’s a bunch of young guys that I don’t know.
“It’s like coming to a ballgame here with a bunch of guys that I don’t know and have no relationship with and never really spent much time with it. It’s OK, and it’s fun and it’s great to be with them, but there’s not that relationship that you had with Bart and Paul [Hornung] and Max [McGee] and Fuzz and all the guys. It’s just a totally different thing.
“I’m very comfortable with where I am, and if the Hall comes along, it’d be great. If it doesn’t come along, life is great.”
Kramer, who played right guard for the Packers from 1958 through 1968, was on five NFL championship teams and was a five-time first-team All-Pro pick. He was named to the NFL’s all-decade team for the 1960s and was the only guard to make the NFL's 50th Anniversary team – and yet is the only player from that team not to be enshrined in Canton.
The Packers have 23 ex-players in the Hall, and any chance Kramer has of getting in rests with the seniors committee at this point.
Kramer said he recently went to visit Starr, who has been recovering from a heart attack and stroke suffered last year, in Alabama, and was hopeful that his recovery would continue. But, he said, Starr’s and others’ health issues have been hard to see.
“It’s kind of bittersweet. It’s sweet because I’m kind of the last guy standing in a lot of ways, and it’s bitter because Bart’s having a tough time and several of the other guys are having a tough time,” Kramer said. “I can’t remember something once in a while, which is fairly normal, but I go, ‘Oh is this it? Is that the end of it?’ So I’m aware of it, acutely aware of it, and worry about it.
“But so far, so good. My mouth still works, and my brain still works and I feel good. My golf game sucks like always, but everything else is working well.”
GREEN BAY – While the Tailgate Tour is celebrating its 10th anniversary, Mark Murphy has only been on eight of them. But that’s been more than enough bus trips and stops for the Green Bay Packers president/CEO to get every form of question related to legendary quarterback Brett Favre.
After all, Murphy’s first tour in 2008 came just after Favre’s retirement and before his decision to unretire – which of course set in motion the events of that summer, and made his reconciliation with the franchise necessary.
“We’ve gotten the whole cycle of Brett Favre questions,” Murphy said with a laugh before the bus pulled out of the Lambeau Field parking lot Tuesday morning for this year’s tour. “But I’m sure there will be some Brett Favre questions.”
That’s a given, with Favre set to have his No. 4 retired and be inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame in July. But perhaps the most pressing question is this: When will the Packers pick a game for Favre to return to Lambeau Field for his No. 4 to be unveiled on the north end zone façade and be celebrated at halftime?
With the NFL regular-season schedule expected to be released next week, Murphy said a decision should come not long after that.
“We’ve got some ideas on how things may go,” Murphy said. “I think it be pretty quick.”
Murphy said he has spoken to the league’s schedulemakers about the team’s ideas for Favre’s return but there is no guarantee that the Packers’ requests or preferences will be accommodated.
“We’ve had some discussions,” Murphy said.
Favre was scheduled to return to Lambeau Field for prime-time games against the Chicago Bears each of the past two years – in 2013 as his relationship with the team warmed, and last fall, after the announcement of the team’s plans to retire his number and enshrine him in the Packers Hall of Fame. Talks with Favre’s camp broke down in 2013, though, and last year, Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Bart Starr’s failing health prevented Favre from returning.
GREEN BAY – The Green Bay Packers may have overpaid in the short term to retain backup safety Sean Richardson – choosing Monday to match the one-year, $2.55 million offer sheet he signed with the Oakland Raiders last week – but ponying up the extra cash could pay dividends.
Having patiently stood by Richardson after he suffered a career-threatening neck injury as a rookie in 2012, the team has long been enamored with the 6-foot-2, 216-pound Richardson’s potential and started using him more extensively on defense toward the end of each of the past two seasons. To general manager Ted Thompson and the coaching staff, essentially paying an extra $1 million to keep him – the Packers had tendered the restricted free agent at the one-year, $1.542 million level – was money well spent to get another year out of him and potentially keep him beyond 2015.
Richardson was starting to see action on defense as a rookie in 2012 at the time of his injury, and had he never undergone single-fusion spinal surgery – forcing him to start the 2013 season on the physically unable to perform list – he may very well have earned a starting spot alongside Morgan Burnett that season. After all, the Packers started M.D. Jennings and Jerron McMillian at that spot – McMillian was cut at midseason and Jennings wasn’t tendered after the season as a restricted free agent – and didn’t bring them back a year later. Richardson and Chris Banjo also received playing time at that position as the Packers searched for answers at arguably their most troubling position that season.
Last year, the team drafted Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in the first round and finally got the level of play they’d hoped from Burnett, but Richardson still saw 121 snaps on defense, playing as the third safety in the team’s “Big Okie” base package, as defensive coordinator Dom Capers played Richardson in place of cornerback Sam Shields.
Having lost cornerbacks Tramon Williams and Davon House in free agency, the Packers could reconfigure their sub packages to use Richardson more on defense, even though he led the team in special-teams snaps last season.
The Packers are clearly betting that Richardson, having played in all 18 games (including playoffs) last season, is finally in position to become the player they’ve anticipated him becoming. If he does, they would have the inside track to re-sign him next spring, when he’d be set to hit the open market as an unrestricted free agent.
GREEN BAY – The Green Bay Packers and New England Patriots didn’t get their rematch in Super Bowl XLIX after the Packers’ Nov. 30 victory at Lambeau Field, but the defending Super Bowl champs will see the Packers again for the teams’ preseason opener.
The NFL released its preseason schedule – or, more accurately, preseason opponents with a window of days when each game will be played – and the Packers’ schedule includes a road trip to Foxborough, Mass., where they’ll face the Patriots sometime between Thursday, Aug. 13 and Monday, Aug. 17.
The Packers will then play at Pittsburgh between Thursday, Aug. 20 and Monday, Aug. 24 before finishing exhibition play at home at Lambeau Field the final two weeks – against the Philadelphia Eagles between Thursday, Aug. 27 and Sunday, Aug. 30, and against the New Orleans Saints on Thursday, Sept. 3 or Friday, Sept. 4.
All four games are slated to be on the Packers’ statewide preseason TV network, as none of the games were included on the national TV schedule the league released.
That should please Packers coach Mike McCarthy, because it allows the Packers and their opponents to negotiate when they want to play each game. National TV games are locked in to the network’s schedules, which is why the Packers have played games on the opening night of Wisconsin high-school football multiple times in recent years.
In 2013, the Packers had a national game against Seattle on CBS that was locked into Friday, Aug. 23, and last year, they had a home game against the Oakland Raiders on CBS on Friday, Aug. 22.
In 2012, the Packers played all four of their preseason games on Thursday nights, something that thrilled McCarthy.
“I think when you play four weeks in a row on the same day, it’s a benefit because you like training in seven-day intervals,” McCarthy said at the 2013 NFL Meetings.
For the first time since 2002, the Packers won't close preseason play against either the Tennessee Titans or Kansas City Chiefs. The Packers and Titans played each other in the preseason finale each year from 2002 through 2009, and the Packers and Chiefs alternated home games in the preseason finale from 2010 through 2014.
This marks the fourth straight season that the Packers’ four preseason opponents are not on the regular-season schedule. Although the Packers’ 2015 regular-season opponents are set, the schedule won’t be released until later this month.
at New England