Shareholders review team's bottom line

It was a day to mourn and a day to cheer, but above all else it was a day to be a Packers fan.<p>

The Green Bay Packers held their annual shareholders meeting Wednesday morning in the Resch Center, an arena located about two Brett Favre bullets away from the practice fields that are across the street from Lambeau Field.

The meeting started with Packers president Bob Harlan asking for a moment of silence for Mark Hatley, the team's vice president of football operations who died at age 54 overnight Monday. In his state-of-the-team address, Packers coach/general manager Mike Sherman reflected on his friend and right-hand man.

"He was an excellent evaluator of talent," Sherman said. "He had the capability, because he had been a coach, to see how players would fit into certain schemes. And that part of him will be missed.

"But the real part of Mark Hatley is his character as a man is what I will miss the most and what our staff will miss. He contributed in so many ways to the chemistry. Just like you need chemistry on your team you take to the field on Sunday, you need chemistry late at night in the office to keep things going, and he was tremendous at supplying that chemistry.

"He was a good man. He was humble. He had a tremendous sense of humor. And he was very, very honest. As a worker, as a player, as an employee, if I asked him a question I always got an honest answer. And as you know, that sometimes is hard to get these days. He'd give you the straight shot. ...

"After 54 years of living life, if they can say that you were a good man, you've done great things. Mark Hatley was a good man."

Sherman received a loud ovation for his comments, one of seven ovations Sherman received. When introduced by Harlan, the shareholders gave Sherman a lengthy standing ovation. Sherman also was cheered when he mentioned the release of Joe Johnson, the $33 million free agent who did next to nothing in his two seasons in Green Bay.

Other ovations came when discussing the talent and attitude of second-year linebacker Nick Barnett, the Packers earning a Week 1 "Monday Night Football" game because of what the team means to the league in contrast to the Janet Jackson Super Bowl fiasco, and when Sherman jokingly thanked Harlan for securing the team's bye week at midseason and before the home game against the Vikings. "It's always good to get the bye before Minnesota," Sherman said.

The seventh and final ovation came at the end of his presentation, when he told the fans how much they mean to the team, especially during the frigid games of December and January.

The financial side of things, handled by treasurer John Underwood, had been disclosed in June, about three weeks after the team's fiscal year had ended.

The Packers reported a profit of $20,770,754 last season, up about $5 million from a year ago. The major reason for the increased profit was the increased revenues coming from the renovated Lambeau Field. Revenue jumped about $26 million, to $179,096,056 from $153,224,827.

The team earned an additional $6 million from home games, due mostly to 6,000 mostly premium seats added in the Lambeau project. Marketing revenue, mostly from signage in the new Lambeau and the atrium, increased by about $3.5 million. The atrium added $3.1 million of new money to the team's coffers.

The biggest increase came from the new Packers Pro Shop. Before the Lambeau project, in the 2002 fiscal year, the Packers earned $6.2 million from the pro shop. That jumped to $11.1 million in 2003 and then $15.3 million for 2004. Judging by the brisk business taking place in the Resch Center before the meeting, expect that figure to increase.

The windfall has the team closer to its goal of having a reserve fund with enough money to pay for football operations in case of a financial disaster. The team's "financial safety net," as Underwood called it, is up to $84.5 million from $58 million in 2003. The team's operating costs last year were about $113 million — $96 million for player salaries and $17 million for team expenses.

Before Underwood's financial breakdown, team vice president of player finance Andrew Brandt discussed the salary-cap side of the Packers. Keeping a competitive team on the field, Brandt noted, is getting tougher every year as the league's structure helps the bad teams improve at the expense of the good teams.

Green Bay's long-term success, however, has been based on Brandt and Co. locking up the core players. Brandt showed a chart detailing the long-term contracts the team has given to its top players over the last four years. 2001: Quarterback Brett Favre, safety Darren Sharper, kicker Ryan Longwell, running back Ahman Green, center Mike Flanagan, guard Marco Rivera and snapper Rob Davis.

2002: Guard Mike Wahle, fullback William Henderson, wide receiver Donald Driver, tackle Mark Tauscher and wide receiver Javon Walker (the first-round pick).

2003: Defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, defensive tackle Cletidus Hunt, linebackers Na'il Diggs and Hannibal Navies, fullback Nick Luchey and Barnett (the first-round pick).

2004: Tackle Chad Clifton, wide receiver Robert Ferguson, defensive tackle Grady Jackson, cornerback Michael Hawthorne, quarterback Tim Couch and safety Mark Roman.

Brandt has a full platter to work on this season. The 2005 unrestricted free agents are tight ends Bubba Franks and David Martin, Rivera, Wahle, Navies and cornerback Al Harris. Restricted free agents, meaning the Packers can match offers by other teams, are offensive tackle Kevin Barry, running back Najeh Davenport, defensive end Aaron Kampman, reserve linebackers Marcus Wilkins and Paris Lenon, and safety Marques Anderson.

For fans sick of money issues, Brandt offered a touching anecdote. When Clifton was about to sign his six-year, $34.2 million contract this off-season, Brandt asked Clifton if he ever thought he'd sign such a rich contract. Clifton, who had suffered a devastating injury at the hands of Warren Sapp in a 2002 game at Tampa Bay, replied: "I never thought I'd walk out of that hospital in Tampa, Fla."

After the meeting, shareholders were allowed to walk through the tunnel and onto the field, just like the Packers do on game days.

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