Packers President and CEO Mark Murphy was delighted by the news the NFL had a new collective bargaining agreement, because of what it meant to the league, but especially for what it meant to the Green Bay Packers.
“From my perspective, it’s overwhelmingly positive. We’re able to get back to football. To not miss any training camp and not miss any games is a real positive. The length of the contract (10 years, no opt-outs) is a tremendous positive. It really allows us to be aggressive in growing the game,” Murphy said.
What are your concerns about the new CBA, Murphy was asked?
“Wait, I’ve got more positives,” he said.
Yeah, it was a real good day around the NFL on Monday, shortly after players and owners stood in front of TV cameras, hugged and exchanged kindnesses as they reveled in their ability to have hammered out a partnership that will further entrench the NFL as the world’s premier professional sports league.
At 1265 Lombardi Ave., it was an even better day than it was at the headquarters of most NFL franchises. Why? Because only a few teams in the league have wrapped their arms around the salary cap system with the success with which the Packers have. The Colts, the Patriots, the Steelers have; maybe a few others.
Think about it. The salary cap system began in 1993. Is it a coincidence that the ’93 season would become the Packers’ first of 13 playoff seasons in an 18-year period? That’s a pretty good run. It’s not Lombardiesque, but it’s pretty good, right?
“Our philosophy has been that we draft and develop our players and that fits the salary cap system perfectly. It’s a credit to Ted (Thompson) and Russ (Ball),” the Packers’ cap man and lead contract negotiator, “that we’ve managed the system very well,” Murphy said.
“Ten years of labor peace is a real positive. It continues a system under which we have been tremendously successful.”
Murphy is the leader of one of the most well-rounded organizations in the league. The Packers have a waiting list for season tickets, ever-growing merchandise sales from their Pro Shop, deep roots in corporate sponsorship, and impressive broadcast network in a market that leaves you scratching your head wondering how they do it.
“I like the way we’re positioned, with having a long run to the Super Bowl, a veteran team and a stable coaching staff,” Murphy said, looking at his team relative to the current post-lockout landscape. “The teams that are going to be hurt the most are the ones with new coaches and new coordinators.”
Yeah, everything about the announcement of labor peace in the NFL was reason to be giddy, especially if you’re a Packers fan. Times are good. Your team is the reigning Super Bowl champion, and the expectation is for them to make a hard run at repeating.
OK, so what’s the concern for this new deal? Come on, there has to be something of concern.
“My concern is that there are pretty significant changes as to how teams practice. Are we changing the nature of the game?” Murphy asked.
That’s the question to which we don’t have an answer, only concern, maybe even worry. This new CBA is, without a doubt, player-friendly. The players gave the owners the cost concessions they wanted; the owners returned the favor by giving the players the game they wanted.
Goodbye two-a-days in pads. What would Vince Lombardi’s reaction have been to that news?
The game, today, is firmly in the hands of the players, but with ownership comes responsibility. The players are accountable for the direction the game takes from this point on. Toughness is what made pro football our nation’s most popular game.
Free agency begins on Tuesday, and it’s expected to kick off a spending spree the likes of which the league has never seen in such a condensed period. That’s OK. Professional football is a money game, but with that money comes a heightened expectation for performance.
Negotiations are over. It’s time to play.