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Training camp report No. 1: Thursday, July 30, 2015

Jul 30, 2015 -- 3:04pm
 
Photo/ESPNWisconsin.com 
Clay Matthews worked with the inside linebackers during a blocking sled drill early in practice.
 

GREEN BAY – Taking a closer look at the Green Bay Packers’ first practice of training camp on Thursday:

Thumbs up:  It’s clear the Packers have no interest in reliving their NFC Championship Game loss to the Seattle Seahawks. You can almost feel players cringe whenever it’s brought up – not because they are still depressed about the outcome, but because the questions have jumped the shark – and the stock answer from coach Mike McCarthy and others is that it’s a new team and a new year. That’s true, but it’s not that new of a team, considering that 21 of the 22 players who started that Jan. 18 game in Seattle are still on the roster. Having re-signed several key veterans – wide receiver Randall Cobb, right tackle Bryan Bulaga and fullback/folk hero John Kuhn – the offense returns almost completely intact, expectations are high, as they should be.

“We’ve got all 11 starters back on offense and obviously re-signing John and Bryan and Randall was big for us, but we’ve got some young guys to add into the mix, too. So it’s fun,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the reigning NFL MVP, said after practice. “I’m sure you guys will have your own expectations and oddsmakers do as well, but we have high expectations for ourselves and we push each other to be great. And I think it starts in training camp. when the chemistry is coming together, the team’s coming together and you start to figure out who the key players are going to be, who the guys are that are going to make those jumps from Year 1 to Year 2. And, we expect our veterans to continue to play at the level they’ve played at.”

Thumbs down:   While he understands the rules and cares about player safety as much as any coach does, you can tell McCarthy isn’t a huge fan of the practice rules set forth by the collective bargaining agreement with the NFL Players Association, which require two practices in shorts, helmets and shells before having a practice in pads. For the Packers, that means the first in-pads practice will be Saturday, followed by a league-mandated day off.

McCarthy, who has talked repeatedly about wanting to get off to a fast start after three straight years of 1-2 starts, wanted to start fast in camp, too, but he’s following the rules and made sure the first two practices focused on areas where pads weren’t vital to evaluation.

“You have to tailor to the guidelines of what the practice restrictions that are in place,” McCarthy explained. “. It’s an install day for us. We installed No. 1 last night and worked on it today. We’ll install No. 2 tonight. We’ve tailored these installs -- offense and defense and special teams -- to the shell practice. You’ll obviously see a lot of perimeter focus and things like that. When we get to Saturday’s padded practice, you’ll see more in-line work.”

Play of the day:  Even with his new global view of practice, you know McCarthy doesn’t like seeing his quarterbacks throw interceptions. But the coach also likes to see young guys make splash plays, and that’s exactly what undrafted rookie CB LaDarius Gunter did when he intercepted an Aaron Rodgers pass intended for WR Jared Abbrederis. Gunter, who had an impressive offseason and came into camp positioned to make a strong bid for a roster spot, went undrafted in large part because of a slow 40-yard dash time but has good size (6-foot-1) and should be able to chip in on special teams, too.

“He’s done some good things,” McCarthy said. “I think he’s gone in there and competed well. Like a lot of our young guys, he’s flashed. But we’re in Day 1.”

Camp confidential:  While McCarthy seldom shares why a player is absent from practice, when the coach has used the phrase he used Wednesday about TE Andrew Quarless – that he was gone for “a positive personal situation” – that has historically meant the birth of a child. That’s why it was disconcerting to hear McCarthy’s tone and word choice change so dramatically 24 hours later, after Quarless was absent from the first practice of camp.

“I do not have a feel for when he will be back. He’s dealing with a very difficult, extremely difficult family situation right now,” McCarthy said. “So he’s with his family and he’ll be gone as long as he needs to be.”

Packers Playlist:  “T-Shirt Weather” by Circa Waves, “Wagon Wheel” Darius Rucker, “The Wolf” by Mumford & Sons, “You Really Got Me” by Van Halen and “Dream Police” by Cheap Trick were the five songs played during the regeneration periods Thursday.

Injury report:  Abbrederis, who is coming back from a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered in training camp last year, fell hard after an interception and departed practice shortly thereafter. He did not return, and while McCarthy wasn’t sure what the former Badger’s injury was, McCarthy did not think it was related to his surgically repaired knee. Rookie CB Quinten Rollins (hamstring) opened training camp on the Non-Football Injury list, while OLB Mike Neal (abdomen), WR Ricky Collins (heel) and RB John Crockett (ankle) opened camp on the Physically Unable to Perform list. While McCarthy said Neal, who is recovering from a hernia, feels like he is ready to start practicing, the medical staff is holding him back. McCarthy said Crockett is further away from being cleared than the staff had expected after hurting his ankle in June.

Short yardage:  CB Sam Shields left practice for a time midway through Thursday’s session but later returned to his spot with the No. 1 defense. As it turned out, it wasn’t for an injury. “I think originally they thought it was an ankle, but talking to ‘Flea’ (head athletic trainer Bryan Engel) walking off, he was looking at some different shoe options.” … McCarthy liked the first practice’s tempo but not the mental errors he saw. “I think we had nine pre-snap penalties, 12 penalties overall. Definitely a lot to clean up,” he said. … Kicker Mason Crosby was 6 of 8 on field-goal attempts during practice, and the two misses came when Cody Mandell, who’s competing with regular holder Tim Masthay for the punting job, was holding. One of those misses sailed so far left that it hit the scoreboard. Crosby was good from 33, 36, 43, 47, 48 and 50 yards out and missed from 40 and 45. … When Clay Matthews was in his usual outside linebacker spot, converted OLB Nate Palmer, who missed all of last season, was the first man up inside next to Sam Barrington. “I think his ability to play multiple positions will really help us and really help him,” McCarthy said. … Former safety Charlie Peprah, who was a starter on the 2010 Super Bowl XLV team, is at training camp as a scouting intern. When Scott Tolzien intentionally threw a ball out of bounds on a scramble, an alert Peprah snagged it on the sideline. … According to ESPN.com’s Rob Demovsky, aka “The Punting Professor,” Masthay averaged 48.0 yards and 4.28 seconds of hang time while Mandell averaged 45.3 yards and 4.38 seconds on their six punts each. … Former UW-Whitewater quarterback Matt Blanchard was the No. 3 quarterback, ahead of fifth-round draft pick Brett Hundley, on Thursday.

They said it:  “I’m always aware of what I’m doing physically. But I am 31, and I feel great. I’m not 35, 36, 37 or 38. I don’t know what this pitch count is all about. But I’ve iced my arm probably less than five times in my entire life, I’m very happy with the gift I was given with this right arm and it doesn’t give me any problems.” – Rodgers, on McCarthy saying on Wednesday that the quarterback would not be on a pitch count during training camp.

Practice schedule:  The Packers will practice again in shells at 8:20 a.m. Friday. The first practice in pads will be Saturday morning, in accordance with NFL rules.

2015 Most Important Packers No. 1: Aaron Rodgers, QB

Jul 29, 2015 -- 11:59pm
 
 
Photo/Getty Images  
Aaron Rodgers won his second NFL MVP award last season and is at the peak of his powers at age 31.
 

GREEN BAY – The chip isn’t gone, but it takes up considerably less space on Aaron Rodgers’ shoulder than it once did. The lack of Division I scholarship offers coming out of high school, the draft-day snub, the awkward transition from Brett Favre understudy to unpopular successor – the Green Bay Packers quarterback hasn’t forgotten those times, but given what he’s accomplished, it’s a little harder to use the “nobody believes in me” narrative nowadays.

But that’s not to say that Rodgers doesn’t have doubters to provide him with some additional fuel for his fire, even after winning his second NFL most valuable player award.

“I think a lot of times people expect players to reach their peak and then be a diminishing player. And I think the challenge is to plateau at your peak – to get to the top of your game and stay there,” Rodgers said during a Q&A session during minicamp last month. “I think that is where you really get respect from people. Because I think a lot of people are expecting – some even hoping – for you to fall, expecting or hoping that one of these years – I know the other three teams in the division and their fans and players – are hoping every year that we fall off, I fall off.

“I think that’s the exciting challenge, to be able to do it year-in and year-out. Because that consistency is where you really grow your legacy as a player. And there’s a lot to be said about that.”

Why he’s important:  Rodgers is the reigning NFL MVP, and the V stands for valuable, so yes, Rodgers’ importance is self-evident – even though the Packers’ backup spot in far better hands now with Scott Tolzien than it was two years ago, when Rodgers cracked his collarbone, missed seven games and a cavalcade of quarterbacks followed.

Although he wasn’t quite as otherworldly as he was in 2011, when he won his first MVP, Rodgers numbers were so, well, Rodgersy: He completed 341 of 520 passes for 4,381 yards with 38 touchdown passes and just five interceptions for a passer rating of 112.2. In the process, he helped the Packers to a 12-4 regular-season record and an NFC Divisional Playoff victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Jan. 11, despite the torn calf that initially occurred at Tampa Bay on Dec. 21 and plagued him the rest of the year after he aggravated it Dec. 28 against Detroit in the regular-season finale.

If he delivers:  It goes without saying, but if Rodgers stays healthy behind one of the league’s best offensive lines and with all of his skill position go-to guys back, he has what it takes to win a third MVP and put the Packers back in the Super Bowl mix by season’s end. Not only that, but their offense would certainly have a chance at the franchise record for points in a season (560, set in 2011). That would certainly constitute plateauing at his peak.

Asked if he thought Rodgers could keep playing at such a high level, new playcaller/associated head coach Tom Clements said he could. Why? “He’s a competitor No. 1, he takes care of himself, he has great physical ability, and he’s playing a position where you can play maybe a little longer than other positions,” Clements replied. “And as you get older at that position, even though you might still maintain your mobility, because of your experience, you don’t have to move around maybe quite as much. I know that happened with me as I got older. You know the game better, you can see what’s going to happen, so sometimes you don’t have to scramble out, even though you can still do it. He still does it very well and I’m confident he’ll be able to do it for as many years as he wants to do it.”

If he disappoints:  For all his accomplishments, Rodgers takes his team’s playoff failures personally, including his own less-than-stupendous performances. He was masterful in three of the Packers’ four victories en route to the Super Bowl XLV title, but the Packers’ 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 playoff losses came when he was just so-so. Some of that may be circumstantial, but Rodgers’ expectations are to play at an extremely high level regardless of what’s happening around him.

It will be interesting to see whether the changes in the offensive staff – Clements taking over the play-calling, Edgar Bennett becoming offensive coordinator, Alex Van Pelt adding wide receivers to his quarterback responsibilities – have a positive or negative effect on the MVP.

Quote, unquote:  “The relationship between the play-caller and Aaron Rodgers is of critical importance, and that’s a big part of the decision. Aaron has an excellent working relationship with Tom and Alex Van Pelt and really all of our offensive assistants, and Edgar and I will be part of that from his offensive coordinator position. The fit with Aaron is of the highest priority and that’s why I thought this was the right decision.” – Packers head coach Mike McCarthy, on giving up the play-calling and how it impacts Rodgers.

The Most Important Packers of 2015 series presented by Orthopaedic Associates of Wisconsin
     The Most Important Packers of 2015 list is not a list of the best players on the team’s roster. Rather, the primary factors are the individual player’s talent, the inherent importance of the position he plays and the team’s depth at the position. Think of it as a list of the players the team can least afford to lose if it wants to return to the Super Bowl. The list was formulated through offseason conversations with players and coaches, as well as statistical reviews and player evaluations by ProFootballFocus.com and others.
     Agree? Disagree? Chime in via social media at the ESPNMilwaukee Facebook page  or on Twitter to @jasonjwilde@ESPNMilwaukee  or @ESPNMadison.

Nelson, Hayward pass physicals; Rollins lands on NFI list

Jul 29, 2015 -- 5:23pm
 
Photo/Getty Images 
Jordy Nelson’s good to go for Thursday morning’s first practice of training camp after passing his physical Wednesday.
 

GREEN BAY – The Green Bay Packers’ good news of names not included on their physically unable to perform and non-football injury lists far outweighed the bad news of the four players who flunked their physicals and won’t be ready for Thursday’s training camp-opening practice.

First, the names that weren’t on any injury lists on the official NFL transaction wire Wednesday afternoon, meaning those players are good to go: Pro Bowl wide receiver Jordy Nelson (hip), de facto starting cornerback Casey Hayward (foot) and outside linebacker Nick Perry (shoulder). All three missed most or all of the team’s offseason organized team activity and minicamp practices with their various injuries.

That none of them were on the PUP or NFI lists means they all passed their physicals and have been officially medically cleared to practice. They made be eased into their workloads because of the time they missed in the spring, but that would be at the medical staff or coaching staff’s discretion.

Nelson underwent hip surgery after the 2014 season ended with the team's loss at Seattle in the NFC Championship Game.

Other players who were not listed on any of the reserve lists: Wide receiver Jared Abbrederis, tackle Don Barclay and outside linebacker Andy Mulumba. All three are coming back from anterior cruciate ligament tears but did 11-on-11 work during minicamp.

Meanwhile, four players won’t be practicing Thursday morning: Outside linebacker Mike Neal, rookie running back John Crockett and wide receiver Ricky Collins will all open camp on the active PUP list, meaning they count against the roster and can start practicing as soon as they are cleared.

Rookie cornerback Quinten Rollins, the team’s second-round pick, was listed on the non-football injury list. Rollins being placed on NFI list means whatever is wrong with him happened after end of minicamp/before camp. Hayward, for example, suffered a hamstring injury in 2013 while working out on his own just before camp started.

Crockett suffered an ankle injury at end of OTAs/minicamp, while Neal did not practice all offseason.

McCarthy wasn’t sure what Nelson or Hayward’s status would be when he spoke with reporters during his annual pre-training camp press conference, although he didn’t sound overly concerned about either player.

“I think Jordy looks good. I know he's been here,” McCarthy said. “All indications are [Hayward] looks good, but I don't have anything official.”

Rodgers' reps won't be restricted

Jul 29, 2015 -- 4:20pm
 
Photo/Getty Images 
Aaron Rodgers won’t be limited in his throws during his 11th training camp, which starts Thursday.
 

GREEN BAY – Aaron Rodgers is getting older, but he’s not that old.

That’s why the 31-year-old Green Bay Packers quarterback and reigning NFL MVP will not be on a pitch count when his 11th training camp – and eighth as the starter – kicks off Thursday morning.

“Aaron is going to have to get exactly he needs,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said of Rodgers’ planned workload during the coach’s pre-training camp press conference Wednesday. “That’s obviously the priority, and it’s not as much about Aaron, it’s about [his] connection with the other players. So that’s goal No. 1.”

The Packers are taking three other quarterbacks to camp – backup Scott Tolzien, former UW-Whitewater star Matt Blanchard and fifth-round pick Brett Hundley – so there are enough other signal-callers on the roster to limit Rodgers’ workload if necessary.

“Scott has to get his work and our two young guys need to get their work, too,” McCarthy said. “That’s definitely something that’s more difficult to juggle than in the past.”

But given the premium Rodgers puts on being on the same page with rest of the offense, and the fact that the Packers have only 21 scheduled practices this summer, he isn’t going to pass up snaps that he feels he needs.

Thus, McCarthy said he’ll rely on Rodgers telling him how his arm is feeling to decide when he might need a break.

“It’s a conversation. There’s a point every year where the throwing might get a little too much and then we back off,” McCarthy said. “You always have to push to that point. The most important thing, he knows [that point] better than anybody.

“We’re not counting throws all the time and it’s not a concern as it will be when he’s later in his career. He’s still very physically fit and so I don’t feel like I need to protect him because of any type of elbow or shoulder issue, thing like that. But we just work through it, communicate and see where he’s at every day.”

McCarthy 'disappointed' in Quarless, Jones, Guion

Jul 29, 2015 -- 4:01pm
 
Photo/Getty Images 
Mike McCarthy is “disappointed” in Andrew Quarless and the impending suspensions of Datone Jones and Letroy Guion.
 

GREEN BAY – Mike McCarthy spoke Wednesday about the Green Bay Packers’ “brand,” and the damage tight end Andrew Quarless and defensive linemen Datone Jones and Letroy Guion may have done to it.

The way the Packers coach sees it, Quarless’ arrest for firing a gun on South Beach in Miami over the Fourth of July weekend, Jones’ one-game suspension for marijuana possession and Guion’s potential three-game suspension (as reported by ESPN.com’s Rob Demovsky) following his February arrest in Florida have all done damage to the brand.

But not enough to dismiss them from the roster.

“I think you have to look at every case individually, which we do,” McCarthy said during his annual pre-training camp press conference. “The tolerance level isn’t very high. So you look at every case. There’s two sides to every story. Obviously there’s mistakes that have been made. You learn from them and you try to move forward – whatever direction you decide. That’s really the thought process and the conversation that goes on internally.”

McCarthy said he met with Quarless, who was charged with a misdemeanor for allegedly firing a handgun in the early-morning hours on July 4 after an argument, but that Quarless left the team after morning meetings for a “positive personal situation.”

“I talked to Andrew. He was here briefly today,” McCarthy said. “We had a long conversation after his incident down there in Florida. It’s in the legal process right now. So he made a mistake. Frankly, I’m disappointed. He’s disappointed. But all of our players know that our program is about protecting the brand, the tradition and the history of the Green Bay Packers. Those were the first things that came out of his mouth in the phone call. He made a mistake, so we’re working through it.”

The Packers could have released Quarless after the arrest but the team did not want to go that direction.

Meanwhile, Jones’ one-game suspension is final, as his final appeal is exhausted, so he’ll miss the Sept. 13 opener at Chicago. Guion’s three-game suspension could be reduced on appeal.

“I think it’s really probably better served when we get down the line. I’m going to answer that once we get going,” McCarthy replied when asked how much it would hurt his team to have two key defensive linemen suspended for the opener. “I think the thing we have to do with the staff is [ask], how do we balance the reps? That’s the biggest challenge, so we’ve had conversations about that. We’ll continue to work through that.”

2015 Most Important Packers No. 2: Clay Matthews, LB

Jul 28, 2015 -- 11:59pm
 
 
Photo/Getty Images 
The Packers defense experienced a remarkable metamorphosis after Clay Matthews started working at inside linebacker at midseason.
 

GREEN BAY – As fluid an athlete as Clay Matthews is on the field – wherever he’s lining up – the Green Bay Packers linebacker is even smoother when it comes to talking about his job description.

Folks that have been hoping for Matthews to go off on a rant about how he doesn’t really like playing inside – something he did at least to some extent to his younger brother Casey after making the move midway through last season – have come away disappointed. He’s taking one for the team, plain and simple.

The move came after the Packers’ bye midway through last season and two weeks before Matthews was set to face his brother and the Philadelphia Eagles. After registering a sack in his inside-outside debut against Chicago, Matthews vented to his little brother, who relayed his big bro’s feelings to Philly.com’s Les Bowen, saying, “I don't think he liked too much about it. … He likes getting after the passer, taking on the linemen. I told him to look at it this way: He's the highest-paid inside linebacker in the league. He got a laugh out of that.”

The improvement the Packers defense made after the move, though, is no joke.

At the time of the move, the Packers’ defense was ranked 25th in the 32-team NFL, including dead last against the run. By season’s end, the Packers defense was 15th in overall defense and No. 23 against the run. In a stunning turnaround, the Packers went from giving up an average of 153.5 yards per game on the ground during the first eight games to 86.4 yards per game in the final eight. Matthews, meanwhile, earned his fifth Pro Bowl nod.

“Am I happy about it? Yeah, of course. I think you saw our team and our defense, how well we did the second half of the season and how well we improved -- run, pass, win column, everything down the board, as well as my personal statistics,” Matthews said during OTAs. “It’s definitely going to provide a good challenge – and I’m up for it as far as learning a different position.”

Why he’s important:  The Packers clearly didn’t feel a pressing need to add other inside linebacker options this offseason – despite cutting their two opening-day starters at inside linebacker from last season (A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones) and letting a third part-time starter (Jamari Lattimore) depart as a free agent – because they planned all along on using Matthews there again this season. Only the drafting of fourth-round pick Jake Ryan and the outside-inside conversions of returnees Carl Bradford and Nate Palmer, neither of whom played a regular-season snap last year, bolstered the position. So it’s clear that the Packers expect Matthews to play inside while also getting outside on the edge on obvious passing downs. That’ll mean plenty of playing time for their $66 million man, making him indispensable.

“[Matthews] is a great pass rusher, and he’s going to continue to play as many different positions as we could possibly get out of him,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “We need to utilize Clay as much as we can. He’s a great player and we need to give him as many opportunities as we can to make plays.”

If he delivers:  Matthews finished last season with 11 sacks and 69 tackles, but his own numbers were starkly different before and after the move, too: He had 26 tackles and 2.5 sacks before it, 43 tackles and 8.5 sacks after it. According to Pro Football Focus, Matthews had five QB hits and 18 hurries before the move and six hits and 13 hurries after it.

If Matthews’ produces at the rate he did after the move, he’s looking at a 17-sack season, which would be a career best.

If he disappoints:  Matthews has seldom disappointed when healthy. It’s when his balky hamstring acts up or he breaks his thumb that he ends up not being productive because he’s not on the field. That means keeping him healthy, even though the Packers managed to go 4-2 in the six games Matthews missed with the broken thumb in 2013 – and one of those losses was the game in which Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone against Chicago.

The Packers’ outside linebacker depth last season – with so-called “elephants” Julius Peppers, Nick Perry and Mike Neal – certainly helped Capers and McCarthy make the decision to move Matthews. And if something befalls him this year, those three – along with youngsters Andy Mulumba, Jayrone Elliott and Adrian Hubbard will have to pitch in.

Quote, unquote:  “Mentally I'm ready. They're going to rush me from all over the field, they're going to drop me from all over the field. And I expect to do a multitude of things this year.” – Matthews, on playing inside and outside in 2015.

The Most Important Packers of 2015 series presented by Orthopaedic Associates of Wisconsin
     The Most Important Packers of 2015 list is not a list of the best players on the team’s roster. Rather, the primary factors are the individual player’s talent, the inherent importance of the position he plays and the team’s depth at the position. Think of it as a list of the players the team can least afford to lose if it wants to return to the Super Bowl. The list was formulated through offseason conversations with players and coaches, as well as statistical reviews and player evaluations by ProFootballFocus.com and others.
     Agree? Disagree? Chime in via social media at the ESPNMilwaukee Facebook page  or on Twitter to @jasonjwilde@ESPNMilwaukee  or @ESPNMadison.

Packers plan Super Bowl I celebration at Sept. 28 game

Jul 28, 2015 -- 11:52pm
 
Photo/WireImage  
The Packers and Chiefs, who battled in Super Bowl I, face each other on Sept. 28 at Lambeau Field.
 

GREEN BAY – Although Mark Murphy can’t guarantee the Green Bay Packers will win Super Bowl 50 – despite the appealing symmetry, having won Super Bowl I – the Packers president/CEO did promise that the 1966 team that won the inaugural game will be feted this season at Lambeau Field.

Murphy said the team has a variety of events planned involving the Super Bowl I team, starting with the club’s annual Alumni Weekend for the Sept. 20 home opener against the Seattle Seahawks at Lambeau Field. The plan, Murphy said, is for all of the members of the Super Bowl I team who are still able to travel, and all of the team’s living Packers Hall of Famers who can still make the trip, to be in attendance along with alumni from other eras.

The Super Bowl I players will then stay in Wisconsin the following week, with events planned with them in both Green Bay and Milwaukee, before they are honored on Sept. 28 during the Packers’ Monday Night Football game against the Kansas City Chiefs, the Packers’ opponent in that first Super Bowl.

“There’ll be events throughout the week, but the main, main celebration will be at halftime, bringing out as many of those players as possible,” Murphy said.

Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Bart Starr, who has been recovering from multiple strokes and a heart attack suffered last fall, has made significant progress through stem-cell treatments in recent weeks, but it’s unclear whether he will be able to attend either game. Starr’s son, Bart Jr., said earlier this month that his father is hoping to walk out onto Lambeau Field with Brett Favre on Thanksgiving night, when Favre’s No. 4 is unveiled on the stadium’s north end zone façade. 

The Super Bowl I team's return, Favre's return and honoring soon-to-be Pro Football Hall of Fame GM Ron Wolf at their Nov. 15 game mean the Packers will have three significant celebratory events at their eight home games this season.

Murphy: Packers will 'never' sell Lambeau Field naming rights

Jul 28, 2015 -- 3:20pm
 
Photo/Getty Images 
Mark Murphy says the Packers will “never” sell naming rights to Lambeau Field.
 

GREEN BAY – If there was an applause line in Mark Murphy’s podium spiel during Tuesday’s annual shareholders meeting – since there were no bold pronouncements or guarantees that the Green Bay Packers will win Super Bowl 50 – it was when the team’s president/CEO said this about the idea of selling the naming rights to Lambeau Field:

“We will never do that,” Murphy told the crowd of roughly 12,000. “We will always be Lambeau Field.”

Of course, Murphy, who turned 60 earlier this month, can only remain the Packers’ president/CEO for another 10 years before reaching the team’s mandatory retirement age, just as his predecessor, Bob Harlan, did. So in truth, he can only guarantee the Lambeau Field name for another decade.

But given that Harlan said basically the same thing as the team worked to have the venerable stadium renovated in the early 2000s, it’s clear the club has no interest in selling the name of the stadium itself, a la the Minnesota Vikings’ new stadium, U.S. Bank Stadium. Many, many professional and college teams play at stadiums or in arenas named for companies, as it is a valuable revenue stream for clubs.

“Now I should say, I'm tying the hands of future leaders of the Packers when I say it will ‘never’ happen, but I don't think it makes any sense," Murphy said during a press conference following the meeting. "We have a number of benefits as an organization, but Lambeau Field is right near the top. It would really be a shame if the name was ever changed."

The topic came up when Murphy was praising the team’s marketing and sales staff for selling the naming rights to the stadium’s eight entrances. Those gates are sponsored by Shopko, Mills’ Fleet Farm, American Family Insurance, the Oneida Nation, Miller Lite, Bellin Health, Associated Bank and Verizon Wireless.

However, Murphy did say that a company inquired about buying the stadium’s naming rights a few years ago, something that he said does not happen very often.

“I don't know if it was a consultant or [what], [but] somebody approached me from a large corporation that would be interested in naming rights,” Murphy said. “I said, ‘Thanks, but no thanks. We have no interest.’"

Packers will wear throwback uniforms Oct. 18 against Chargers

Jul 28, 2015 -- 12:49pm
 
Photo/ESPNWisconsin.com 
Packers president Mark Murphy unveils the Packers’ throwback uniforms at Tuesday’s team shareholders meetings.
 

GREEN BAY – They were on Nike.com and in the pro shop before he even stepped to the podium at Lambeau Field Tuesday morning, but president/CEO Mark Murphy made it official at the annual shareholders meeting: The Green Bay Packers will wear throwback uniforms from their 1937-'49 era for the team’s Oct. 18 game against the San Diego Chargers.

Director of public affairs Aaron Popkey wheeled out a mannequin wearing Aaron Rodgers’ No. 12 – and tan pants much like the Acme Packers pants the quarterback found to be so comfortable with the previous throwbacks – and Murphy unveiled the uniforms to stockholders.

“And as luck would have it, these are available in the Pro Shop,” Murphy said with a chuckle.

Images of the uniforms leaked on Monday night when Nike put several jerseys on their website.

The Packers had worn their 1929-’30 throwback uniforms the previous five seasons – and went 5-0 in the games in which they wore them, Murphy pointed out –  before retiring that look after last season. NFL rules allow teams to change their alternate third jersey – which is not required to be a throwback – every five years, so the Packers are now committed to this look through the 2019 season.

The Packers wore similar jerseys during the 1994 season for the league’s celebration of its 75th anniversary. 

In addition, Murphy told shareholders that the NFL will ask teams to wear color-on-color uniforms for Thursday night games, but in a press conference afterward, Murphy said it is voluntary this year and the Packers will not participate in it with green jerseys and green pants.

The Packers play two Thursday night games this season: On Thanksgiving night, No. 26, for the unveiling of Brett Favre’s No. 4 on Lambeau Field’s north end zone façade against the Chicago Bears; and Dec. 3 at Detroit. But the Thanksgiving game is on NBC, so it is not subject to the new concept, which is reserved for NFL Network/CBS games. 

The Detroit game is on NFL Network and CBS but the Packers won't take part, Murphy said. The team will take part in 2016 whenever it plays on Thursday night on CBS and NFLN, Murphy said.

Murphy said the NFL is following college football’s lead on using color-on-color uniforms, saying that they have been “very popular” in the NCAA.

 
Photo/@12Wagner52 on Twitter 
The Packers' new throwback uniforms were in the team's pro shop before being officially unveiled Tuesday at the shareholders meeting.

 

2015 Most Important Packers No. 3: Eddie Lacy, RB

Jul 27, 2015 -- 11:59pm
 
 
Screen capture/NFL.com 
Eddie Lacy has put together back-to-back 1,100-yard rushing seasons and is hungry for more.
 

GREEN BAY – This week, the NFL debuted a promo for their fantasy football leagues that stars Randall Cobb and Eddie Lacy.

The premise: The two Green Bay Packers teammates – and fantasy football point machines – are sitting on neighboring stationary bicycles in what is supposed to be the Packers’ weight room (it looks more like the Kress Center on the UW-Green Bay campus). The gist of the lighthearted ad is that the two wouldn’t have anything to talk about if they didn’t have fantasy to discuss.

In truth, anyone who knows Lacy knows he would rather be talking about cartoons or superhero movies than anything football related, since the third-year running back openly admits he doesn’t watch football in his free time (including when his alma mater, Alabama, plays).

Including playoffs last year, Lacy carried 305 times for 1,259 yards and 11 touchdowns in essentially 15 games. (He suffered a concussion on his first carry of a Week 2 victory over Washington and then missed the following week’s game at Cincinnati.) He also caught 37 passes for 264 yards in regular- and post-season play.

“I just play man. I get the ball and I run,” Lacy said late in the season. “Whatever the stats are at the end of the year, that’s what they are.”

And the last two years, those stats have been impressive – increasingly so.

Why he’s important:  In 2013, when he was a rookie and quarterback Aaron Rodgers missed almost half the season with a fractured collarbone, Lacy essentially carried the Packers offense. Last year, with Rodgers back, Lacy said he felt less beaten up because he wasn’t facing stacked boxes all the time.

For the Packers’ offense to operate at peak efficiency, they want both the NFL’s two-time MVP and one of its most powerful backs on the field at the same time. As Rodgers pointed out during the offseason, the “preservation of [Eddie’s] health is very important” to the Packers’ success.

And if both of them are healthy, opposing defenses face an impossible either-or – as evidenced by Lacy’s greater production last season despite touching the ball less than he did in 2013.

Last season, Lacy carried the ball 246 times for 1,139 yards and nine touchdowns in the regular season while also catching 42 passes for 427 yards and four TDs. In two postseason games, Lacy ran the ball 40 times for 174 yards and caught one pass for 10 yards.

All told, he touched the ball 329 times, gained 1,750 yards and scored 13 touchdowns. As a rookie, he had 342 touches for 1,523 yards and 11 touchdowns.

If he delivers:  If Lacy does stay healthy and productive, he would become just the fourth back in Packers history to string together back-to-back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, joining franchise rushing leader Ahman Green (2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004), John Brockington (1971, 1972, 1973) and Jim Taylor (1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964). He’d also set himself up for a hefty raise, as he is entering the third year of his four-year, $3.392 million rookie deal.

If he disappoints:  Although the Packers do like James Starks, and haven’t forgotten how he resuscitated the dead-in-the-water running game in 2010 en route to the Super Bowl XLV title, there’s no question that Lacy is the engine behind the running game. His bruising style sets a tone, and while Starks’ change-of-pace, accelerate-into-the-hole style is effective – more so in 2013 than last year – the Packers need Lacy toting the mail if they’re going to be the juggernaut offense many expect. Since the 2011 offense, which was the highest scoring in team history, didn’t have a boffo running game, Lacy’s presence gives the 2015 version a chance at being even better.

Quote, unquote:  “There’s not too many guys who can come in and play that well in their first two years. Some guys their first year might not be that good, and their second year is a lot better and the third year is when they get comfortable in the system. Around here, the guys do a great job of keeping me level headed and keeping me aware of what’s going on and comfortable. And for me being comfortable is key. As long as I’m comfortable and I can play the way I need to play, then I’ll do as good as I can.” – Lacy, on his success.

The Most Important Packers of 2015 series presented by Orthopaedic Associates of Wisconsin
     The Most Important Packers of 2015 list is not a list of the best players on the team’s roster. Rather, the primary factors are the individual player’s talent, the inherent importance of the position he plays and the team’s depth at the position. Think of it as a list of the players the team can least afford to lose if it wants to return to the Super Bowl. The list was formulated through offseason conversations with players and coaches, as well as statistical reviews and player evaluations by ProFootballFocus.com and others.
     Agree? Disagree? Chime in via social media at the ESPNMilwaukee Facebook page  or on Twitter to @jasonjwilde@ESPNMilwaukee  or @ESPNMadison.
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