Lockout Barely Impacting Packers

The rest of the NFL is in turmoil with the labor mess but the Packers are basking in the championship glow, with fans streaming into Lambeau Field and a full complement of employees going about their business.

A week into the first work stoppage in the NFL in nearly a quarter-century, the Packers have embraced a proactive game plan.

The fenced-in staff parking lot outside Lambeau Field is bereft of the vehicles of the banished players, but traffic continues to stream into the nearby public lots at the iconic stadium.

"This is not a time for us to pull back in terms of reaching out to fans and providing access to the stadium," said Jason Wied, the team's vice president of administration and general counsel. "Regardless of the situation we're in, we just won a Super Bowl.

"Our fans are not going to quit coming to the stadium, enjoying being a part of Lambeau Field because of a legal situation going on within the league. We are open for business. We are going to spend money to continue to reach out to our fans."

The Super Bowl XLV-winning achievement Feb. 6 not only has been a financial boon for the Packers to draw more visitors than usual to their merchandise store and Hall of Fame at Lambeau as well as take a stadium tour, but they are in an advantageous position with football personnel to endure an extended lockout.

Coach Mike McCarthy hadn't planned to start the offseason workout program for his players until mid-April, about a month later than usual, following their lengthy season. Green Bay didn't have any significant coaching changes, and a young, talented roster will stay mostly intact.

"Everything we do is to prepare to play football again on a regular schedule," Wied said. "Football operations are continuing to operate as usual.

"(General manger) Ted (Thompson) and (president) Mark (Murphy) made the decision they will have this organization ... ready to go in a very short turnaround."

The Packers are in a lot better shape financially than most teams to get by initially during the lockout, which the league owners imposed March 11 after the players' union pulled out of further labor negotiations and decertified.

The league's only publicly owned franchise has a protective war chest with a preservation fund of $127.5 million, though Wied indicated the club wouldn't have to tap into that for the time being since its debt is small.

"The Packers are lucky. We don't have that issue," Wied said. "It allows us quite a bit of room to get through a tough time. But, at the same time, we are making some sacrifices to make sure we get through (the lockout) responsibly."

As such, the organization initiated a hiring and wage freeze and tentative pay cuts for high-ranking employees, among them Murphy, Thompson and McCarthy. The salary cutbacks had yet to take effect, Wied said.

What's more, there's no immediate plans to scale back the team's workforce, particularly with coaches and scouts, through furloughs or layoffs.

Although Murphy publicly rebuked the actions of the players union — "We argue that decertification was a sham and a bargaining tactic," he said after sitting in with the owners' negotiating team at the federally mediated talks in Washington, D.C. — he is optimistic the two sides will reach accord on a new collective bargaining agreement before next season.

"In terms of our fans, I know they're disappointed just as we are," Murphy said. "You see the media reports and discussions that say this will result in lost games in the regular season. Well, we're still very far away from that.

"I would encourage people that let's be reflective, we still have a lot of time. Hopefully, at the end of the day, cooler heads will prevail, and we'll be able to reach an agreement without any interruption in terms of games and even training camp."

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