NFL Nation: 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.

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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. – LeRoy Butler, the inventor of the Lambeau Leap, is not in the statue unveiled outside the stadium on Friday that commemorates the Green Bay Packers' trademark touchdown celebration, and that's OK with him.

The former All-Pro safety wants the fans to be able to play his role.

The statue features four fans behind a padded stadium wall with room in the middle for the would-be leaper.

"I wanted the people to experience being me and being one of the fans," Butler said after the statue was unveiled. "You can actually take a picture on top of it and you can come around back, your family can get in it as if they're the paying fans."

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Courtesy of Rob DemovskyA statue and plaque outside Lambeau Field honors the history of the Lambeau Leap.
And so it is. Visitors to the recently rededicated Harlan Plaza, which also features statues of Vince Lombardi and Curly Lambeau, will be able to pose just like Butler did when he invented the leap on Dec. 26, 1993 after he scored a touchdown against the Los Angeles Raiders and jumped into the south end zone stands.

There was nothing posed or planned about the first leap, Butler said. On the play, Butler forced a fumble that was picked up by Reggie White. Although it appeared he stepped out of bounds first, White lateraled the ball back to Butler, who returned it for a touchdown.

"It was very spontaneous," Butler said. "I can't even tell a fib and say I thought about it."

While Butler started it, players such as former Packers receiver Robert Brooks took it to another level when he made a song and video about it.

The NFL has outlawed other celebrations, but the Lambeau Leap has been grandfathered in.

"You look across the league, to me it's one of the greatest traditions in the league," Packers president Mark Murphy said. "To me, it kind of personifies the special bond our players have with the fans. We thought it'd be kind of fun to have something a little different and our fans could have some fun with."

Although Butler is not depicted in the statue, an attached plaque reads: "Since that frigid December day in 1993 when LeRoy Butler made that spontaneous leap into the arms of the fans, the Lambeau Leap has become a Packers tradition. It declares that nothing gets in the way between the Packers players and their fans. In all of football, nothing symbolizes a greater connection between players and fans than the Lambeau Leap. To the fans who welcome every player with open arms, we thank you. Here's your chance to experience your own Lambeau Leap right here, right now. Make it legendary."
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. -- There was a time -- oh, about two years ago -- when your arrival in this football town was not apparent until the "Lombardi Ave." sign materialized off Highway 41. These days, visitors to Green Bay are greeted by an NFL-made skyline and a vast tract that could soon host an entertainment and shopping district matched only by the nation's largest cities.

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AP Photo/Mike RoemerTailgaters to Packers games this season will begin to see big changes to the Lambeau Field landscape.
Now more than ever, the Packers really are Green Bay. Little known outside of this region, the franchise has bought up land, razed nearby houses and expanded its stadium more than 20 stories into the sky as part of what can only be described as massive physical growth. At a time when it's fair to wonder how the NFL could get any bigger, one of its oldest franchises will bring you the "Titletown District."

"I think it makes a lot of sense -- and especially for us," Packers president/CEO Mark Murphy said. "It's all about making Green Bay and Lambeau Field even more of a destination than it already is."

The Packers' land acquisition has left them with 62 acres of local holdings, according to tax documents reviewed by the Green Bay Press-Gazette. Initial signs of a shopping district emerged last summer, when Cabela's opened one of its hunting/fishing/camping stores on Packers-owned land near the corner of Lombardi and Highway 41. The Packers, in fact, own or operate on more than a linear mile of land from Cabela's to the Don Hutson Center on the east side of the stadium. This spring, they razed 16 nearby houses to create a 400-spot parking lot, opened a 21,500-square foot pro shop -- more than double the size of its predecessor -- and have finalized plans to bulldoze a nearby Kmart for additional parking.

Murphy has made three visits to Patriot Place in Foxborough, Massachusetts, a 1.3 million square-foot multipurpose commercial district adjacent to Gillette Stadium and owned by the Kraft Group, which also owns the New England Patriots. Patriot Place includes a Renaissance hotel, 14 restaurants and dozens of shops; Murphy won't reveal specific plans for the Titletown District, but he said there is opportunity for similar development.

"We're studying it and looking at a lot of different options," he said. "I do think Cabela's was a very good step, in terms of bringing more people into the area. You look at the area between Cabela's and the stadium, and there is potential for things that could have a pretty significant long-term impact on the community."

Along the way, it could elevate the Packers' lofty economic stature within the industry. Last year, the Packers generated the ninth-highest total of local revenue ($136.4 million) in the NFL -- a notable achievement considering the size of their market, their lack of naming rights at Lambeau and their average-priced tickets (No. 17 in the NFL). Meanwhile, their reserve fund -- designed to operate the franchise for one year if all revenues were lost -- reached $284 million this spring.

The Packers, in short, already are one of the NFL's economic powerhouses. Their public ownership means they have no private owner to enrich, so revenues are thrust back into the franchise. Nowhere is that more physically evident than at Lambeau, which is wrapping up its third expansion in 11 years. It's now a monstrous 80,735-seat structure covering 2.1 million square feet.

The addition to the south end zone extends 232 feet into the air -- taller than a 21-story building. On a clear night, it can be seen for miles above the streets and rooftops of Green Bay. It's such an anomaly relative to its surroundings that the Federal Aviation Administration ordered warning lights installed at its zenith to alert aircraft approaching Austin Straubel Airport.

This summer, visitors will notice an expansion of the Packers' football facilities into the southeast parking lot, a project that gave players a new weight room, cafeteria and rehabilitation center. Players now park in an underground lot accessible via tunnel.

Meanwhile, Murphy has signaled a notable philosophical change. The Lambeau Atrium -- which now houses the pro shop, Curly's restaurant and eventually an expanded Packers Hall of Fame -- is now considered part of the commercial district rather than simply a corner of the stadium. All told, the Packers have initiated a massive juxtaposition of cityscape amid the sleepy neighborhood they have long inhabited.

This type of multiuse district won't work for every team in the NFL, especially those in landlocked downtown stadiums. But the league rules give teams every reason to explore it because the revenues don't have to be shared among the 31 other teams. How can the NFL get bigger? The seed is in embryo form here in Green Bay. The Packers helped build the golden age of football, and now they're cashing in.
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.

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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.

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"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.

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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.

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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.

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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).
Members of the NFL's competition committee met this week in Indianapolis, and already we know that discussions for centralized instant replay and eliminating extra points remain in preliminary stages. It can take a years for desired changes to be fully vetted, but it's still worth noting another topic that members broached this week: Rapidly rising field-goal accuracy.

We touched on the issue in December when commissioner Roger Goodell began suggesting alternatives to extra points. In 2013, NFL place-kickers converted 89.7 percent of their attempts up to 49 yards and 67.1 percent of those from 50 yards and beyond. If the NFL's goal is to make every play exciting, as Goodell said, then at some point you wonder if field goals will be too close to automatic to qualify.

Those trends have been noticed, according to Green Bay Packers president Mark Murphy, a member of the competition committee. In comments to the Packers' website, Murphy indicated that brainstorming on the issue is underway.

"You're trying to look at what can make the game more exciting," Murphy said. "We also look back at how the game has evolved, how it has changed over a number of years. The accuracy and the skill of our kickers has changed pretty dramatically. You look back at the 60's or even the 80's, kickers were very different. It's amazing.

"It's a tribute to the skill of our kickers. [The committee] thought, what kind of things can we do? Narrow the goal posts? It's a discussion that we're having."

The improvement has come on quickly. As recently as 2001, the league-wide conversion rate was 76.3 percent, including 52.1 percent from 50 yards and beyond. In 2013, the league essentially converted nine out of every 10 reasonable field goal attempts and two-thirds of those of 50 yards and beyond.

Rule changes require approval from three-fourths of NFL owners, which is why several years of vetting, lobbying and debate can precede an actual proposal. It won't happen this season, but unless field goal accuracy makes a sharp U-turn over the next few seasons, you can expect some changes to make field goals more difficult -- er, exciting -- to convert.
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.
Five years have passed since the Green Bay Packers divorced Brett Favre. During that time, we've waited for someone to step toward reconciliation. As it turns out, the most qualified candidate was a third party with a vested interest in making amends for both sides.

Speaking Tuesday on his ESPN 540 radio show, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers confirmed his role in arranging a joint appearance with Favre at the NFL Honors show Saturday night in New Orleans. Rodgers made clear that he wants to see Favre re-enter the Packers family and hopes the reunion is part of his own legacy in Green Bay.

[+] EnlargeAaron Rodgers, Brett Favre
Jordan Strauss/Invision/APAaron Rodgers, left, and Brett Favre were together Saturday night at the NFL Honors show in New Orleans.
"As the face of the franchise now," Rodgers said, "[it's] a role that I take very seriously. I have the responsibility and enjoy having the opportunity to represent my team. I think it's important to realize that it is probably time to move forward."

It was hard to envision this day coming during the summer of 2008, when Favre attempted to force his way back onto the team -- and reclaim the job Rodgers had inherited -- after announcing his retirement. The ensuing chaos scuttled the Packers' season, and in 2009, Favre beat the Packers twice as a member of the Minnesota Vikings.

But the Packers' Super Bowl XLV championship in 2010, coinciding with Favre's retirement, began a healing process for both sides. Rodgers said producers from the NFL Honors show pitched the idea of making a joint presentation and, after thinking it over, he decided it could serve as a springboard for more important things.

Rodgers said he talked on the phone with Favre before the event. They also spent a "good amount of time" backstage arranging the routine that Rodgers claimed was entirely comfortable and devoid of the awkwardness it portrayed.

("That was the joke," Rodgers said, who added that the original plan was for the pair to start hugging but then back away and say, "Too soon?" Apparently the plan was better than the execution.)

Prior to that phone conversation, Rodgers and Favre hadn't spoken much since 2008 -- a distance I've always attributed to their distinctly different personalities as well as the inherent tension of a Hall of Fame succession. In the end, however, it was probably on Rodgers -- for lack of a better phrase -- to be the grown-up here. Favre wasn't likely to beg the Packers for forgiveness, and if Packers president Mark Murphy or general manager Ted Thompson have reached out to Favre, it has not been reported publicly.

"It didn't take a lot of coaxing for me to do it," Rodgers said. "I did want to sit and think about whether it was the right thing to do. I really feel very secure in my position with the team and feel good about the things that we've been able to accomplish in my five years as the starter, and feel good about the direction the organization is going in.

"Brett is two years removed from the game. He's going to obviously be in the Packers Hall of Fame. He'll get his number retired, and he'll be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in the next few years. It's important, I think, to make sure that he's recognized for all the accomplishments that he's achieved in our organization especially. He's still very dear to many of our fans for the things that he's done for the Packers on the field. You can never take that away.

"As the face of the franchise, I felt like it was important that I took a leadership role in that. Not that one was needed now, but I thought it was good timing to just let the fans know, let Brett know, let's move forward. Let's heal things up and let's move forward."

I do think that it would help for Favre and Thompson to clear the air between them before the Packers schedule a Brett Favre Day at Lambeau Field. But the first step is always the most important one, and Rodgers deserves credit for making it happen. As is often the case for children caught in the middle of a divorce, he was the most clear-thinking person in the group and thus served in the unifier role.

I'm sure some of you will think Rodgers is taking himself too seriously as the "face of franchise" and doubt the reach he can have in such a multilayered issue. You're certainly entitled to that opinion, but to me, it's a much more preferable approach than the alternative. I like that Rodgers will use the power inherent in being a team's franchise quarterback to effect greater good for the franchise. And pulling Favre back into the Packers family is without question good for everyone.

"… You think about what you want your legacy to be and how you want to be remembered," Rodgers said. "As I move forward … I think about how I want to be remembered, and this is one thing that I really want to move forward with."

Rodgers has long since escaped the shadow of Favre as a player. But the debacle of his unusual departure? In the end, Rodgers had to clean that up, too.

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