NFC North: Mark Murphy

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- No one had quite the same perspective on the Brett Favre saga as Ryan Longwell did.

The former NFL kicker was Favre's teammate with the Green Bay Packers, and he was Favre's teammate with the Minnesota Vikings. In fact, he helped convince Favre to come out of retirement and play for the Packers' archrival in 2009. He was alongside when Favre returned to Lambeau Field -- and beat the Packers -- wearing Vikings' colors.

[+] EnlargeBrett Favre
Matthew Stockman/Getty ImagesBrett Favre will be inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame.
And he no doubt heard all the ugly details of breakup between Favre and the Packers in the summer of 2008, and he would have heard them from Favre's perspective, which at the time would not have been favorable to the Packers.

And even Longwell knows that what will happen at Lambeau Field on Monday, when it will be announced that Favre will be inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame next year and later have his jersey No. 4 retired, was exactly what was needed for all parties involved.

"This is really good for him," Longwell said Sunday night. "He deserves it. The fans deserve it, and the community deserves it."

Yes, Longwell knows that the Packers Hall of Fame is independent of the team itself -- something that has always seemed unusual (and perhaps unknown by many) -- but that's nothing more than a meaningless detail in this long-awaited reconciliation.

The Packers Hall of Fame (launched in 1967) has been housed at Lambeau Field since 2003, when it moved from a stand-alone location across the street, and will be rededicated next spring as part of the stadium's atrium renovation project. If team president Mark Murphy, general manager Ted Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy were not ready to embrace Favre again, this induction would not take place.

At some point, there will be an actual handshake between Favre and Thompson -- the man responsible for signing Favre’s trade papers to the New York Jets on Aug. 6, 2008. But Monday's announcement -- at which Favre will speak via teleconference -- will represent a metaphorical reunion between the Packers and their former quarterback.

Perhaps it should have happened sooner. Maybe Favre should have come back for a game last season as was discussed by him and Murphy last fall.

It's hard to gauge what took longer, Favre's retirement or the reconciliation.

But it's finally here.

Or at least it can be seen from here.

And, as Longwell suggested, it's time.
GREEN BAY, Wis. – Mike McCarthy says he has no concerns about his contract situation with the Green Bay Packers, and why would he?

The ninth-year head coach still has two seasons left on the contract he signed after he won Super Bowl XLV, and it's a deal that pays him in excess of $5 million per season.

Nevertheless, it became a topic in training camp because as soon as general manager Ted Thompson signed his multi-year contract extension on Wednesday, he said McCarthy would be next.

"I'm focused on training camp," McCarthy said. "There's a process in place that will take its course. I've never sweated it. I love it here. I'm not worried about it."

Perhaps there would have been cause for concern had Thompson, 61, not accepted the extension from Packers president Mark Murphy and decided to walk away when his old contract ended following the 2016 draft.

Then, McCarthy, 50, would have been forced to work under a general manager that did not hire him, which could have presented a difficult situation.

"That's a hypothetical," McCarthy said. "I was never concerned about it. I haven't given it any thought. You know, once again, we work together every day, so I wasn't as surprised as maybe you were yesterday that it was done. So I wasn't concerned about that."

By all accounts, McCarthy and Thompson have a strong working relationship. The coach has never given any indication that he wants more control over the personnel side of the football operation.

"Very happy for Ted, personally," McCarthy said. "I'll just say, I think everybody that has the opportunity to work at the Green Bay Packers clearly understands this is such a unique organization, and the opportunity they give you with the positions that we have. So, very happy for him, and obviously you know it's something that's well-deserved."
GREEN BAY, Wis. – Mike McCarthy is entering his ninth season as the Green Bay Packers coach. He will soon have a street named after him that intersects with Holmgren Way, which intersects with Lombardi Avenue. He has a Super Bowl ring and a contract that pays him $5 million per season.

So McCarthy has it all figured out, right?

Although he stopped short of saying he is junking everything he has done in the past, he did acknowledge that the 2014 season will bring with it a far different method of preparing for games than anything he has used in his first eight seasons.

[+] EnlargeMike McCarthy
Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY SportsMike McCarthy is making changes in the Packers' game preparation schedule.
That was evident in the Packers' training camp schedule, which features a far different run-up to preseason games than in years past. Before the first preseason game at Tennessee on Aug. 9, the Packers will hold a practice (one that is closed to fans) on Aug. 8 and will not practice at all on Aug. 7. The team will follow the same type of schedule for the remaining three preseason games and, as McCarthy disclosed on Friday, that will continue into the regular season.

"It's a philosophical change," McCarthy said during his annual pre-training camp news conference.

McCarthy used to hold the belief that it was best to get players off the field -- and off their feet -- 48 hours before kickoff. Now, it appears that for a Sunday regular-season game, the Packers will hold a practice on Saturday but not on Friday. Typically, their on-field preparation had been completed by Friday afternoon.

"This is the first time the schedule is changing in nine years," McCarthy said. "Our in-season schedule, when I came here, I thought was unique and has been very effective for us and is something we've really been looking at for; this is the third year we've talked about it. I decided in spring to take the leap. We really just want to get that right and get our guys ready."

It's also worth noting that for the first time, McCarthy's training schedule does not differentiate between days with padded practices and no pads.

"Your goal is to be in pads every day, so that's the thought," McCarthy said. "But really how the team moves through camp, looking back on our last two camps -- the things that have gone on, the stress points in camp, where injuries occur -- we really haven't started the way we've wanted to the last two years. I think we have to be extremely conscious of that. This is the game of football. The ability to train your team, you need to change, adjust or emphasize each and every year, and that's really just part of that evaluation."

It's no secret that McCarthy is not a fan of the restrictions that went into place when the most recent collective bargaining agreement was approved in 2011, and he has made subtle changes each year since then. But this is the first time he has made such a drastic overhaul to his scheduling plan.

There also will be differences in practice itself, with some drills being moved to earlier in the session and some moved to the end. Some of those changes were enacted during the OTA and minicamp practices.

"If I was going to grade myself as far as hitting targets in the offseason program, since the new CBA, I think this is the first year that I feel like I got it right," McCarthy said.

Always energized at this time of the year, McCarthy, who this offseason said he believes he’s only at halftime of his coaching career, spoke about this season in perhaps even more optimistic tones than usual.

No doubt, the 50-year-old coach will be back to his usual fiery self the minute he sees something he does not like on the practice field. But during a week in which he became emotional at the dedication for the street that will be named for him, McCarthy has shown more than once that he's anything but set in his ways.

"To see Coach McCarthy, actually he is pretty emotional, but he was really moved by it," Packers president Mark Murphy said when asked about McCarthy's reaction to having a street named after him. "I think sometimes you go on in your life and take things for granted."

McCarthy seems intent on making sure that does not happen.

"I feel like I can improve," McCarthy said, "and I think when you stop feeling that way then I think you're lying to yourself."
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Speaking like he knows something is in the works, Green Bay Packers president Mark Murphy believes his team will be heading across the pond at some point soon to play in one of the NFL's International Series games.

But Packers' ticket holders need not worry. Murphy said the team would not give up a home game to play overseas.

That sets up a possible 2016 game in London. The Packers are scheduled to play at the Jacksonville Jaguars that season as part of the divisional rotation. That also is the final year of a four-year agreement that calls for the Jaguars to play one home game per season in London.

When discussing NFL games in London, Murphy told the 14,759 who attended Thursday's shareholders meeting that "I anticipate that the Packers will probably play there in the coming years."

Murphy reiterated that the Packers would never agree to give up a home game, which brings an estimated $13.5 million in revenue into the NFL's smallest city.

"It's too important for the community," he said. "But I would be excited about having the chance to play in London.

"I think our fans here would love to travel to London, and I think it'd be a great experience. We'll see. There's only certain teams that play home games in London, so those kind of have to match up. The other issue, quite honestly, and I think we've talked about this before, is that we travel so well that teams are reluctant to give up a home game against the Packers to play in London because it’s typically a guaranteed sellout."

Murphy said the league entertained the possibility of sending the Packers to London in 2012 to play the St. Louis Rams, but the Rams' opponent ended up being the New England Patriots.

"They didn't want to move the Packer game to London because they knew our fans would travel so well to St. Louis," Murphy said.

This year, there are three games scheduled in London: the Oakland Raiders and Miami Dolphins in Week 4, the Atlanta Falcons and Detroit Lions in Week 8 and the Dallas Cowboys and Jaguars in Week 10. All three will be at Wembley Stadium, but Murphy said the league is exploring other venues in England.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- If Brett Favre is worried about getting booed when he returns to Lambeau Field -- which he claimed this week he is not -- Green Bay Packers president Mark Murphy perhaps sent a message to fans on Thursday when he essentially asked them to treat the legendary quarterback with respect whenever he returns.

That return still could happen this season.

Favre
"I'm very hopeful that when he does come back that he will be fully, fully supported by our fans," Murphy said Thursday following the team's annual shareholders meeting. "I'm confident in that. In terms of when he would come back, we've had ongoing discussions with him, very good relations. We are talking about bringing him back for a game this year. We had discussions last year about bringing him back for a game; those were not fruitful, but we're hopeful we can get him back for a game this year."

If Favre does come back this season, it would not be to have his jersey No. 4 retired. Although Murphy said he hopes to have that done before Favre is eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2016, a return this season would only be to attend a game.

Murphy, who said previously this offseason that both Favre and the team were concerned about how he would be received upon his return, said he read Favre's most recent comments during his appearance Monday on ESPN 1000 in Chicago.

"I guess I'd say kind of stepping back from it, and you were all here, that was a very emotional time for the Packers," Murphy said, referring to the summer of 2008 when Favre unretired and was traded to the New York Jets.

"I think as time goes on, the emotions are passing and cooling down, I really hope, and I think we have the best fans. There's not anything close in terms of other fans across the league. I think they're going to look back and they're going to see the entirety of what he did, not just the last few years when he played for the Vikings. First of all, I don't know if there's, arguably the best or one of the best players in the history of the Packers. Probably had as big of an impact on the organization as anybody in the history of the organization."

Murphy also said he would like to see Favre go into the Packers Hall of Fame before he's inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, for which Favre is eligible in 2016. Former Packers president Bob Harlan, who is on the board of the Packers Hall of Fame, has been working closely with Favre on his induction.

"Bob and I have worked together on it," Murphy said, "particularly as it relates to his induction into the Packers Hall of Fame."
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- He's afraid of getting booed. He's not afraid of getting booed.

Whichever it is -- and depending on who you believe, it could be either -- the only way to find out how fans will react to former Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre is to actually bring him back to Lambeau Field.

Favre
That's what made it surprising recently to hear Packers president Mark Murphy say the team won’t retire Favre’s No. 4 this season.

In fact, after saying the team and Favre tried to get together for an appearance last season, Murphy said he was not even sure whether Favre will make an appearance in 2014.

If Favre is not concerned about how fans will receive him, which is what he said Monday during an appearance on ESPN 1000 in Chicago, then why delay things any further?

The longer this goes on, the more of an issue it could become.

The time is right to bring back Favre -- if not to retire his jersey this season, then at least to the Packers' family by way of an appearance and introduction during a game at Lambeau. Then retire his jersey and put him in the Packers Hall of Fame in 2015 before he goes into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2016.

Those who are still smarting over Favre's decision in 2008 to unretire and try to force his way back on to the team, or his decision in 2009 to play for the rival Minnesota Vikings, are going to boo whether it's this season or next or the one after that.

Time won't change that, even if it has changed things between Favre and the organization, according to him.

"I do believe time heals wounds in a lot of ways," Favre said Monday in his radio interview. "I'm fine with coming back. I know it's going to be a great ceremony when we are going to do it. It's just a matter of when. From my end, everything’s good."
GREEN BAY, Wis. – In the long-running saga of when Brett Favre will return to Green Bay for an appearance at Lambeau Field, the former Packers quarterback advanced the story by incrementally on Thursday.

In an interview on SiriusXM NFL Radio, Favre confirmed what team president Mark Murphy said in April – that he and the Packers tried to set up a date for which he would return for a game last season and hope that it actually takes place this season.

[+] EnlargeRodgers
AP Photo/Morry GashFormer Packers QB Brett Favre, left, said that he has "a tremendous amount of respect" for current starter Aaron Rodgers.
Favre said he has been in contact with Murphy and general manager Ted Thompson, the man who traded away Favre to the New York Jets in 2008 after Favre unretired.

"We have had communication," Favre said. "Not that it's really anybody else's business with all due respect. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Green Bay, and it's not about me. It's not necessarily about them. It's about the fans and respect. When the time is right. They're going to have things to do. They have a season to play. They have to get ready, and I don't want to be a distraction for them."

Favre, who played 16 seasons for the Packers before one with the Jets and two with the rival Minnesota Vikings, described his relationship with the Packers as "much better."

The main thing that got in the way of a return last season was the fact that the high school team he helped coach in Mississippi kept winning and ended up in the state championship.

"Time heals a lot of things, and I think in this case, you're playing for the rival team, things are going to change," Favre said. "There's no better history than there is in Green Bay – the tradition, and people love their team there, and they usually hate the other team. So when you join their opponent, that's going to happen.

"Again, time heals a lot of things. In fact, I had planned on going up to a game the latter part of the season last year, but my high school team played into December and it just was a conflict. But the relationship is much better -- it's going to happen, I'll be back up there. Again my career in Green Bay, I wouldn't trade it for anything. It was awesome. The people were awesome, and I just think everything's going to be fine and in my opinion it is now. It's just a matter of getting back up there."

Favre also tried to dispel the notion that there was some bad blood between him and his eventual replacement, Aaron Rodgers.

"Not that I know of," Favre said. "I'm no idiot; I know that there's always someone who's going to replace you. The fact he was drafted in the first round, it was time for him to give it a shot. When I did retire, he became that guy. I understand that. I have no ill feelings or animosity towards Aaron. In fact, I thought we got along well. We watched tons of film together to help him along the way.

"But obviously we all know how good of a player Aaron is and I'll be the first to say it – the guy is tremendous player. He should have a long, long career barring injury. I can't speak for Aaron. Do we talk all the time? No, we don't, but do I talk to most guys I played with? No, I don't. I have a tremendous amount of respect for him, and I'm not surprised how well he's played."
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Brett Favre's reunion with the Green Bay Packers was supposed to happen last season, but the high school football team he helped coach got in the way.

So said Packers president Mark Murphy on Tuesday, just before he and several current and former players boarded a bus to begin the team's annual Tailgate Tour.

Favre
At just about every stop along the way during past tours since the Packers jettisoned Favre by trading him to the New York Jets in 2008, Murphy has been asked about the relationship between the team and its former quarterback.

No doubt Murphy will be asked it again on the five-day trip that includes stops in northern Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

"There's not a lot to report," Murphy said Tuesday morning. "We do have on-going communications with him, and I think relations are good. We're hopeful to have him come back soon.

"We wanted to have him come back to a game last year, and his team kept winning and winning, so it kind of made it tough to find a time where it worked."

Perhaps Favre’s return could take place this coming season, considering he reportedly will not return to his role as offensive coordinator at Oak Grove High School, which won the Mississippi 6A title last fall.
Ted Thompson did not travel to Orlando, Fla., for this week's annual meetings, but wherever he is, the Green Bay Packers general manager likely pleased with Monday's developments.

The NFL awarded the Packers a pair of compensatory draft picks, one in the third round (No. 98 overall) and one in the fifth (No. 176). The announcement was made at the league's annual meetings, where the Packers were represented by team president Mark Murphy, coach Mike McCarthy and several other front office staff members.

Murphy told reporters at the meetings that Thompson is fine and working but could not travel. Thompson typically leaves the three-day meetings a day early to resume his pre-draft preparations.

Although the exact formula for awarding additional picks isn't known, not even to the teams themselves, it is based on the net losses in free agency from the previous offseason with contracts, playing time and productivity factored in.

Thompson did not sign any free agents in 2013 but lost receiver Greg Jennings (who signed with the Minnesota Vikings) and outside linebacker Erik Walden (Indianapolis Colts). The third-round pick was for losing Jennings and the fifth rounder for Walden.

The 98th overall selection represents the Packers' highest compensatory pick since 1999, when they used one at No. 94 overall to select defensive tackle Cletidus Hunt.

With the two additional picks, the Packers will have nine selections in the upcoming draft on May 8-10. They own their original picks in each round, beginning with No. 21 overall, plus the two compensatory selections.

Compensatory picks cannot be traded.

Among the players Thompson has drafted with compensatory picks in recent years were: guard Josh Sitton (fourth round, 2008), cornerback Davon House (fourth round, 2011), defensive tackle Mike Daniels (fourth round, 2012) and defensive end Josh Boyd (fifth round, 2013).
A roundup of what's happening on the Green Bay Packers beat.

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Packers have needs at every level of their defense, starting up front on the line and also including both the linebacker group and the secondary.

But to listen to ESPN Draft Analyst Mel Kiper Jr. on Thursday, it sounds like teams that need help on the defensive line should address it early before attacking their other weaknesses on that side of the ball.

“I don't think the defensive line is something you can wait on,” Kiper said during an hour-long conference call with reporters. “There's not a lot of depth at end or tackle. There's more depth in the secondary that you can get guys down the line, particularly at corner.”

Though the question that prompted that response from Kiper was specifically about the Chicago Bears and was asked by Rich Campbell of the Chicago Tribune, it was applicable to the Packers even though they pick 21st -- seven spots after the Bears.

The Packers' needs on the defensive line depends partly on whether or not they re-sign any of their own free agents. Their three starters -- Johnny Jolly, Ryan Pickett and B.J. Raji -- plus backup C.J. Wilson all are scheduled to be free agents next month.

In another Packers-related item from Kiper's conference call, he was asked about the pressures facing quarterbacks who are high picks in the draft to play right away, and he brought up Aaron Rodgers and how he did not have to play immediately.

“Quarterbacks now are expected to be the guy in Year 1 and Year 2,” Kiper said. “In the late 70s and 80s, it was a 3-5 year process developing quarterbacks. Look at Aaron Rodgers. He sat for [three] years behind Brett Favre, and look what happened. He wasn't ready to play as a rookie. Had he played as a rookie and been forced in there, everybody probably would've been calling him a disappointment and a bust. Who knows how his career would've gone?

“But they handled it properly and they were afforded the opportunity to develop him, and look how it paid off. These other young quarterbacks, Year 1, some of these guys aren't ready. I said that about Blaine Gabbert. I said when he was drafted, he's not ready. He needed a year or two to develop. He wasn't given that, now he may be kicked to the curb.”

In case you missed it on ESPN.com:
  • Safety Morgan Burnett denied saying anything to Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez, who in an ESPN The Magazine story claimed that Burnett insulted him and trash talked during the Dec. 8 game at Lambeau Field.
  • Of all people on the Packers' defense, Burnett would likely be the last one to do something like that.
  • On the three-year anniversary of Super Bowl XLV, we looked back at the 53 players who were on the Packers' roster for that game and where they are now.
  • Kiper and Todd McShay unveiled their latest mock drafts. Each had the Packers taking a defensive player.
  • And if you're wondering what Rodgers is up to this week, he's playing in the PGA Tour's AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. His professional partner is Madison, Wis., native Jerry Kelly. They were tied for 42nd at 6-under par when play was suspended in the first round. Rodgers was the low quarterback, bettering the scores by Pro-Am teams that included Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Alex Smith.
Best of the rest:
  • In the Green Bay Press-Gazette, Mike Vandermause conducted a wide-ranging interview with Packers president Mark Murphy, who defended the team's decision to raise ticket prices, offered his full support of general manager Ted Thompson and reiterated the fact that the team would like to retire Favre's number before he's eligible for Pro Football Hall of Fame induction in the summer of 2016.
  • In the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Tyler Dunne wrote that if Thompson continues his practice of drafting players from the University of Iowa as he has done three of the last four years, then Hawkeyes tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz could be next to come to Green Bay.
A roundup of what's happening on the Green Bay Packers beat.

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Shortly after the Packers lost to the San Francisco 49ers in the opening round of the playoffs last month, quarterback Aaron Rodgers said he thought the team's window of opportunity remained open for several more years.

Apparently, some of the oddsmakers agree.

Less than 24 hours after the Seattle Seahawks finished their destruction of the Denver Broncos to win Super Bowl XLVIII, at least two different oddsmakers set the Packers as fifth on the list of favorites to win it all next season.

According to the Las Vegas Hilton, the Packers were 16/1 and behind only the Seahawks (5/1), Broncos (5/1), 49ers (6/1) and New England Patriots (7/1).

The online gambling site Bovada.LV also had the Packers at fifth with 16-to-1 odds behind the Seahawks (9/2), 49ers (15/2), Broncos (8/1) and Patriots (14/1).

“I think this window has a chance to open up and be really bright for four or five years when you can get guys signed and keep them around,” Rodgers said on his ESPN Milwaukee radio show just two days after the season ended. “My contract is for six more years. I expect to be playing well, at a high level, for all six of those years and then see what happens after that. Maybe we'll be able to go another three or four or who knows?”

In case you missed it on ESPN.com:
  • For the fifth straight year, the Packers raised ticket prices. This year, it will be by $3 for all seats.
  • Packers president Mark Murphy also vowed to change the way playoff tickets are billed to season-ticket holders. The change comes after the Packers had trouble selling out their playoff game against the 49ers.
  • And on the first day of the NFL's official offseason, we looked back at how our preseason predictions turned out.
  • Also, starting today and continuing every Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET (3 p.m. Green Bay time), we're going to be running a live Packers chat. I'll post a reminder each week but you can already submit your questions by clicking on these blue highlighted words.
Best of the rest:
  • At ESPNWisconsin.com, Jason Wilde noted that in 1995, the cheapest seat at Lambeau Field was $24. This coming season, that same seat will cost $77.
  • In the Green Bay Press-Gazette, Mike Vandermause reported that the Packers won't retain assistant special teams coach Chad Morton, leaving at least three openings on their coaching staff. Morton had assisted special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum since 2010.
  • In the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Tyler Dunne wrote that when the Packers make the playoffs, you can bank on them raising ticket prices given that they've done so each of the last five years.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Perhaps the most surprising thing about the playoffs this year was that three teams, including the Green Bay Packers, had trouble selling tickets.

The Packers’ situation was more surprising, considering they had a streak of 319 straight sellouts at Lambeau Field (excluding a 1982 playoff game in the strike-shortened season).

During his annual State of the League address on the Friday before the Super Bowl, commissioner Roger Goodell was asked about the problems the Packers, Cincinnati Bengals and Indianapolis Colts had selling tickets to their wild-card playoff games.

“Those were mistakes that were made by us, the NFL, and our clubs,” Goodell said. “What we have to do is recognize that technology has changed and that we have to use technology more efficiently and more intelligently to make sure we don’t put our fans in that kind of position. Green Bay, as an example, sold close to 50,000 tickets over a five-day period, including New Year’s Day. We shouldn’t be in that position, and that’s on us, and we have to fix it, and we will. But that is not an indication in any way of the fans’ passion.”

While Goodell did not identify what mistakes were made, Packers president Mark Murphy did so over the weekend. In a question-and-answer piece on the team’s official website, Murphy addressed what likely was the biggest issue for season-ticket holders when it came time to buy playoff tickets late in the season.

“I would say that we made a mistake in deciding not to refund the money to fans this year for playoff games not played,” Murphy wrote. “We learned from this mistake and will have a better policy in place next year.”

The Packers told season-ticket holders than instead of their money being refunded if the playoff game did not take place, it would be credited toward their 2014 tickets.

Shortly after the playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers, the team sent a survey to season-ticket holders and asked why they did not purchase playoff tickets.

“We had a great response to the survey, and have just started evaluating the results,” Murphy wrote. “I anticipate that we will make a number of changes and adjustments based on this feedback from our fans, including offering a “pay as we play” type of option for playoff games. With current available technology, we should be able to use this type of method as an option.”

For the playoff game, the Packers needed an extension from the league and help from corporate sponsors who purchased some of the remaining tickets to avoid a local television blackout.
The Green Bay Packers' annual financial report drew national interest from those who are interested in the business of football, something that few of you are, at least based on my experience. But there is at least one issue buried in the report that all of you should be paying attention to.

In discussing player costs with reporters, Packers team president Mark Murphy bluntly confirmed what we've been discussing for several years: The NFL is not projecting the salary-cap spike in 2014 that many players and agents expected when the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) was signed in 2011 and followed by new television deals.

Murphy told reporters, via Dan Kaplan of the Sports Business Journal, that the NFL Players Association in essence borrowed from future caps to boost the allotments in 2011-13. The salary cap rose modestly from $120.6 million in 2012 to $123 million in 2013, and the 2014 number isn't expected to rise by any larger of a percentage. There seems a pretty decent chance that the number in 2014 will be lower than what it was in 2009 ($128 million), the last capped year of the previous CBA.

What does this mean for fans? Your teams, as always, will have enough flexibility to sign the players it really wants. But if you were expecting a frenzy generated by a spike in salary-cap space, well, the NFL doesn't see it happening.
We're Black and Blue All Over:

I didn't post anything immediately after Tuesday's annual release of the Green Bay Packers' financial report. I know how much you guys love those accounting/stadium/legal posts. But I do want to point out what I believe was the official release of the new capacity at Lambeau Field.

Vic Ketchman of Packers.com notes that the Packers' most recent renovation project -- adding about 7,000 end zone seats -- brings the official capacity to 80,750. That makes Lambeau the third-largest stadium in the NFL behind FedEx Field (home of the Washington Redskins) and MetLife Stadium (New York Giants/Jets).

For those interested, I have a few thoughts on the Packers' financials that will post later Tuesday. Otherwise, don't forget: Today is the day that ESPN.com is scheduled to flip commenting procedures on posts. You'll need to log in via Facebook to leave a comment. Good luck!

Continuing around the NFC North:
  • Packers president Mark Murphy has learned how to relay the same basic message on the eventual retirement of Brett Favre's jersey in many different ways. He reiterated to reporters Tuesday, via the Associated Press, that Favre's jersey will be retired but not this year and he doesn't know when.
  • The Packers' starting running back, to be named later, is the 10th-most important player on their roster, according to Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com.
  • Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler on entering the season in the final year of his contract, via ESPN 1000: "I haven't thought about it in a while, actually. I'll probably address it once in training camp, once before the season and that's kind of it. I'm not going to talk about it. That stuff takes care of itself. As long as we're winning football games and I'm playing well, hopefully they keep me around. If that doesn't happen, we'll see how it plays out. I'm not going to be distracted by it. I can't worry about it. I've been in this league long enough. I've seen guys come and guys go. It will work out the way it's supposed to work out."
  • The Bears are expecting big things from tight end Martellus Bennett, writes Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune.
  • Bears tailback Matt Forte is expecting to be used more in the passing game this season, writes Michael C. Wright of ESPNChicago.com.
  • Justin Rogers of Mlive.com: "The Detroit Lions will have several new starters on defense this season, including the outside linebacker spot previously held by Justin Durant. In what figures to be one of the fiercest training camp competitions, veteran Ashlee Palmer will attempt to fend off the challenge of second-year players Tahir Whitehead and Travis Lewis."
  • The Lions' late draft picks are hoping to stand out in training camp, writes Josh Katzenstein of the Detroit News.
  • Jim Souhan of the Star Tribune talks to former Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle John Randle about his love of golf.
  • Vikings cornerback Chris Cook is entering a pivotal season, according to Ben Goessling of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Oh.

My.

GOD.

If I see one more story or hear one more radio interview about the much-suggested but still-unplanned reunion between the Green Bay Packers and Brett Favre, why, I'm going to pack up my blogger uniform, head down to my ranch, start cutting the grass and not come back until the rest of ESPN.com's blog network team flies down in a private plane and begs me to resume as a favor to them.

(Starting right after this blog post, of course.)

This is the story driven by corrupted memories. In the event that you are among those who have forgotten, Favre said in September that he was over any grudge he might have held against the franchise.

In February, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers invited Favre to a joint appearance that made clear they have moved past the tension in their relationship.

Two months ago, Packers president Mark Murphy said that Rodgers had taken "a good first step" on behalf of the franchise and pledged that the reunion "is going to happen."

The ball is and will remain in the Packers' court. At some point, presumably before Favre is eligible for enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2016, Murphy and the rest of the Packers' leadership will reach out and schedule an event. Really, the fact everyone appears to be on board -- Favre's grudge is gone, Rodgers and Favre cleared the air and Murphy promised an appropriate event -- suggests an indirect reconciliation in itself.

I think we can all rest confidently that the rest will happen. It's just a matter of time. Patience is still a virtue, I think.

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