As a player, he was the hunter. As a new member of the NFL’s esteemed competition committee, Packers President Mark Murphy will protect the hunted.
“I’m very honored. I’m really looking forward to it,” Murphy told packers.com of his appointment by the league. “With our labor situation resolved for 10 years, we look to make sure the game continues to be the best it can be. It’s always a balancing of protecting that you don’t make too many changes but make the changes that are necessary.”
The NFL is in an era of player-safety awareness that has resulted in some of the most sweeping rules changes in pro football history. Murphy, a Pro Bowl safety with the Washington Redskins in an era when receivers truly were defenseless, embraces the player-safety movement, as led by Commissioner Roger Goodell.
“I look at it from the perspective of an executive and to me the highest priority is safety, but I also know you’re never going to completely eliminate injuries. We have an obligation to make the game as safe as possible but without changing the nature of the game,” Murphy said. “It’s physical, aggressive.”
The competition committee has featured some of the most esteemed names in the game, from Paul Brown and Don Shula to the Giants’ John Mara, the Ravens’ Ozzie Newsome and committee chairman Rich McKay of the Falcons. Newsome and Murphy are former players from the same rugged era.
“It hasn’t been an immediate change. It’s evolved. Over a longer term perspective, the game is faster than when I played, players are bigger, stronger and faster, collisions are bigger. I think the changes that have been made are necessary,” Murphy said.
Murphy’s presence on the committee gives the Packers a voice on matters regarding rules changes. One of Murphy’s first official acts might involve review of the 12-men-on-the-field violation against the Giants in the Super Bowl that resulted in a loss of valuable time to the Patriots.
“I’m pleased for the Packers to be represented on this committee. It addresses important issues that impact the future of the game,” Murphy said.
A year ago at this time, the league was bracing for a showdown with its players union. It resulted in a four-month lockout that threatened to spill into the season. Resolution came in July in the form of a new, 10-year Collective Bargaining Agreement that was hailed by both sides and appears to protect the growth and popularity of the game for the long-term future.
“I think the future of the game is much brighter. We have labor certainty. It’s really an opportunity now to focus on the game. What can we do to make the game better for players and for fans?” Murphy said.
One of the aspects of the new CBA that makes the game better for players is a softening of the practice regimen. Only time will determine the impact of that softening.
“The players have much shorter offseasons, shorter practices, less contact in practice. I think with the focus on player safety, they’re positive changes. A lot of coaches were heading this way anyway,” Murphy said.
The Packers’ president is using that CBA and its inclusions for rewarding teams that grow their product, to launch a Lambeau Field expansion project that will increase seating capacity and revenue streams.
“I’m really excited about the future of the Packers. The Lambeau Field project and some of the changes coming up will be great for our fans. The stock sale was very successful. I’m really excited about the impact the additional shareholders will have on the future. The bond our fans have to the team is unprecedented. The stock sale will strengthen that connection: support of the team, going to away games, Pro Shop sales,” Murphy said.
“I think it’ll be the largest shareholder meeting we’ve ever had.”
For the official press release on Murphy's appointment to the competition committee, click here.