GREEN BAY – Mark Murphy addressed the media early Tuesday evening following the first of two days of the NFL owners’ annual meeting, which is being conducted virtually for the second straight year.
Here are five things learned from the Packers President/CEO.
1. The Packers will have to give up a home game to play internationally at some point in the next decade, but it hasn’t been determined when.
As the league made the move to a 17-game regular season official, its announcement also included a new structure for the international series.
Beginning in 2022, each season all four teams from a given division will play an international game in the same year, giving up a home game to do so when those clubs have a ninth home game based on the hosting rotation for the 17th game. The international game would be considered a neutral-site game.
This structure will guarantee every team in the league will play internationally at least once per eight-year period. The Packers are the only team in the NFL that has yet to play an international game, in part due to the organization’s refusal to give up any home games, which are so vital to the local economy in the league’s smallest market. The new, approved proposal will require the Packers to give up a home game every eight years to play elsewhere, but only in a year it otherwise has eight regular-season home games.
Locations currently being looked at for the international series include London, Mexico City, Munich and Berlin, while future considerations could include Canada, Brazil, China and Australia, Murphy said.
As for whether the Packers would be slated for the early stages of the new eight-year rotation because they have yet to play overseas, Murphy couldn’t say.
“We are the only team (not to play internationally), but I don’t really know how the league may view that,” he said.
2. The switch to three preseason games will lead to a longer break between the final summer game and the regular-season opener.
Murphy said with the reduction to three preseason games, what had been Week 4 of the preseason will in essence become a bye week, giving teams a longer break between the end of the preseason and the start of the regular season.
“One of the hopes quite honestly is that you would have more teams play (preseason games) on Saturday and weekends,” Murphy said.
Short weeks leading up to preseason games hopefully will be eliminated. The jammed camp-ending schedule of a final preseason game on a Thursday, followed by roster cuts two days later, and then the start of regular-season practices right away also will no longer be an issue to navigate.
Murphy expects roster cuts will still take place over Labor Day weekend, but teams can build in more off days between the third/final preseason game and when roster decisions are made.
3. The offseason program this spring might end up being a hybrid of virtual and in-person work, and joint practices remain under consideration for training camp.
The league is still negotiating with the players’ union how to handle the upcoming offseason program, and no agreement has been reached. Murphy suspects it will be a hybrid program, beginning virtually and then transitioning to in-person practices.
Regarding training camp, the new schedule structure will have the league handling all the scheduling of preseason opponents, rather than the clubs managing that task on their own.
But teams can still look into scheduling joint practices with other teams, meaning two teams scheduled to play one another in the preseason could discuss the visiting team traveling a few days early to practice together prior to the game.
Murphy anticipates Head Coach Matt LaFleur looking into those possibilities, as the Packers did with the Houston Texans in 2019. Joint practices were nixed in 2020 due to COVID protocols.
4. Having full stadiums in the fall is a realistic hope.
Murphy said the strong pace of vaccinations currently is a good sign Lambeau Field could be full again at some point in 2021.
“We’re going to do everything we can as a league and as the Packers organization to encourage people, as soon as you’re able and eligible, to get vaccinated,” he said. “That’s really the key. The sooner we get everybody vaccinated, we can go back to some sense of normalcy and hopefully have a full stadium.
“In terms of planning for it, we’ll be flexible. I guess hope for the best and plan for what might be worse. I am optimistic that things are kind of ramping up to a degree where hopefully we’ll be able to host all of our fans this season.”
5. The Packers won’t get an answer on hosting the 2024 NFL Draft for another six months.
Green Bay is among the candidates to host the 2024 draft, and Murphy said the organization submitting a marketing plan, which was approved by the league. But a final decision on the 2024 host won’t be made until the owners meet in October.
“We thought maybe it would be the May meeting,” Murphy said. “I think the league office wanted to de-brief (after this year’s draft in Cleveland). So this gives us a little more time.
“We’re excited. I think it could be great for the community.”