Murphy: Packers will play in London soon
Mark Murphy sounded suspiciously like he knows something is in the works for the Green Bay Packers playing a game in London in the next few years.
The Packers' president told shareholders at their annual meeting in Lambeau Field on Thursday that he thinks the Packers will play a regular-season game in London soon, though he was adamant they won't have to give up a home game to do it.
"I anticipate that the Packers will probably play there in the coming years," Murphy said, "but it will be an away game. They will never take a home game."
The NFL has scheduled three regular-season games in London for this season and reportedly is looking to expand to four games in 2015 and beyond as it tries to lay the groundwork for adding a team in that city.
The Packers have never played in London and have played outside the United States only twice, in preseason games in Toronto in 1997 and Tokyo in 1998.
One factor determining when the Packers will play in London is their schedule. The Jacksonville Jaguars are contracted to play a home game in London in 2015 and '16, and in '16 the Packers will play the Jaguars' division, the AFC South, as part of the NFL's schedule rotation. So that's one possible London opponent.
However, if it's not that game, then scheduling a London game for them gets tougher. Teams that don't regularly sell out at home might be reluctant to move a home game against the Packers, because Packers fans travel well enough to ensure a sellout.
In fact, after the shareholders meeting, Murphy in a press conference said the Packers were considered for a London game against St. Louis in 2012, but the Rams nixed the idea.
"I think our fans here would love to travel to London," Murphy said, "and I think it'd be a great experience. We'll see."
Murphy and general manager Ted Thompson were the first two speakers at the shareholders meeting.
Thompson's state-of-the-team speech was about 15 minutes, and as has been his custom, he spent most of his time listing the players and football operations staff without adding meaningful comment, and thanking the team's staff and fans.
Other highlights from their speeches:
-- Murphy said the Packers applied to host the draft next year after the NFL said it will hold it in a city other than New York.
"Green Bay has made an effort to see if we could host the draft, but they've narrowed it down to Chicago and LA this year," Murphy said. " After the crowd booed, he quipped: "Yeah, I thought it was a bad decision, too."
-- Murphy said the movie about the life of former Packers coach Vince Lombardi will be released in February 2016 in conjunction with the 50th Super Bowl.
"We've been working with them on it, Legendary Pictures," he said. "It's the same company that did (the Jackie Robinson movie) '42,' and the screenwriter has been up to Green Bay."
-- Thompson called the 2013 season, when the Packers won the NFC North Division with an 8-7-1 record despite a long injury list that included quarterback Aaron Rodgers missing seven-plus games, one of his "prouder" moments as GM.
"They kept playing," Thompson said. "There were times when people were pretty much throwing dirt on their coffin, but the guys hung together. It's one of the prouder moments of my time here as the general manager to watch them persevere when really everything was stacked against them."
-- Thompson in general terms characterized the team's offseason as a success. The Packers lost receiver James Jones and center Evan Dietrich-Smith in free agency and tight end Jermichael Finley to injury; re-signed veterans such as cornerback Sam Shields, nose tackle B.J. Raji, outside linebacker/defensive lineman Mike Neal, running back James Starks and tight end Andrew Quarless; and signed a marquee free agent in outside linebacker Julius Peppers.
"No. 1 was to try to sign as many of our own players as we could, and we were able to do that," he said. "No. 2, to selectively add additions from other teams, and we were able to do that. And to draft effectively with an eye towards right now, but also with an understanding of the future. Those things were accomplished we felt like in the offseason."
-- Thompson has been getting bigger and bigger ovations at the shareholders meeting the last few years after facing a more split fan base dating back to 2008. That was the offseason the Packers chose not to bring back Brett Favre after Favre changed his mind about retiring. But he was able to joke about it after the big ovation he received near the end of his speech.
"I want to thank you for your support," Thompson said. "I've always felt that support. We've had, like anybody in my position, times when it wasn't so good and we didn't feel loved. But I do now, and I appreciate it."
-- firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @PeteDougherty.