Team President Mark Murphy met with reporters before Thursday's final stop of the Packers' annual Tailgate Tour, then met with Packer Report publisher Bill Huber after the event at Beaver Dam High School.
Murphy was asked about Brett Favre (click here), the state of talks with the union and the possibility of an 18-game schedule (come back to Packer Report later for this revealing exclusive), and other topics for this question-and-answer piece.
What did you think of the draft and winding up with two first-round picks?
Murphy: It was really exciting. I'm just so pleased with the way the draft ended up. We obviously went into the draft with some specific needs, and it was really perfect the way things laid out for us. I think particularly with the transition from the 4-3 defense to the 3-4, we went a long ways toward making the transition. I think both B.J. Raji and Clay Matthews really help us make the transition. You don't want to put too much pressure on rookies, but I think they'll have pretty significant roles for us.
Have you met Raji and Matthews, and what are your expectations?
Murphy: I was impressed with both of them, and I think that's a tribute to Ted. He looks not only for playing ability but quality. Clay Matthews, I played against his father and he comes with some pretty good genes with his father and his uncle and his grandfather. If he only plays 18 years, people will say, ‘Geez, it's a shame he didn't have that long of a career.' I think they're going to fit in and do well. I think defensively, obviously we had a disappointing year last year, but I think with the changes that we've done in terms of scheme, the coaches we've added — I think Dom Capers and the staff he's put together really will make a difference. Quite honestly, getting people back healthy — I think Cullen Jenkins, to me, was just having a tremendous year before he went down with the injury; obviously, Nick Barnett and Atari Bigby missed big portions of the year. I'm optimistic we can be significantly improved on defense.
Aaron Rodgers played well in place of Brett Favre last year. What are your expectations for Aaron this year?
Murphy: Yeah, I was so impressed with Aaron, not just what he did on the field but the way he handled a difficult situation. He's very mature and handled things with a lot of class. For a first-time starter, he performed very well. I really think he's going to get better and better. The reality of the NFL is, if you don't have solid play at the quarterback position, you're going to have trouble winning. I think throughout everything that we went through last year, I think we can all agree that we found out we've got a pretty good quarterback and we've solidified that position for the next decade.
After going 6-10 last season, the fans want playoffs ...
Murphy: The Packer president wants playoffs too, so we're all working toward it. Last year was disappointing, particularly coming on the heels of a season where we were right on the doorstep of the Super Bowl. The reality of the NFL is the line between winning and losing is very, very slim. Last year, we were kind of on the wrong side of that. My feeling is things tend to even out and I think with hard work and some of the changes we've made, I think we can have a very good year this year.
More than a year into the job, how are things going as president?
Murphy: It's been great. Bob Harlan has been really helpful in terms of the transition. It's hard to believe it's been almost a year-and-a-half, but it is such a great organization. We're so fortunate, the kind of fans that we have. Here on this Tailgate Tour, you see it firsthand. It's really phenomenal the support we get across this state.
You don't have to do this (the Tailgate Tour). You don't need to sell tickets and you're not making any money off of this ...
Murphy: Really, no, but it's important to give back to our fans and get across the state. The other thing, when we talk to the schools, you can really see that the students, because it's Packer players, they're paying attention. If we can be helpful in helping kids make good decisions and maybe make some improvements in their lives. And then, the ability to help raise money is pretty big.
Any changes since we last talked about the economy's impact on the team?
Murphy: No, we've been pretty fortunate, knock on wood. Of course, we'll see as we get into the season. Where we saw the biggest impact was on sales in the Pro Shop. In the offseason, our big time to sell is going to be coming up with the start of the season. There have been a lot of signs that things are getting better, so hopefully we'll see better times ahead.
After going 6-10 last year, I sense optimism among the fans. Have you seen that on this tour?
Murphy: Oh, absolutely. I think the combination of some of the changes we've made with the defensive scheme and new coaches and the draft, I think people are really excited about the kind of season that we can have this season.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Bill also is giving Facebook and Twitter a try. Find him on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook.