NFL Draft a big hit in Dallas –

On the first Saturday of every month, Mark will write about a topic of interest to Packers fans and the organization, and then answer five fan questions. Fans are encouraged to email Mark with their name and hometown at:

They say that everything is bigger in Texas. With regard to the NFL Draft, that is certainly true. The draft was held in Dallas this year after stints in Philadelphia and Chicago, and the league set a record with almost 300,000 people requesting tickets. It was also the first stadium-based draft, so it had a much different feel than the drafts in Philadelphia and Chicago. The NFL Experience in Dallas was the largest ever, with over 900,000 square feet of space (with a record 50 exhibits). The draft has also become a major media event. Thanks in part to the fact that the draft was broadcast on FOX this year, a record number of people watched it. The draft brings together college football and the NFL, as college fans want to see where their favorite players will end up. Fantasy football also contributes to the popularity of the draft, and the intrigue involving what quarterbacks would be drafted in the first round this year helped as well.

Given the popularity of the draft, almost all NFL cities are anxious to host it. The league has announced the five finalists to host the draft in 2019 and 2020 – Cleveland/Canton, Kansas City, Nashville, Denver and Las Vegas. The league is expected to announce the two winners soon. We had applied to host the draft in those years, but decided instead to focus on hosting the draft in 2021 or 2022. By then, the new exhibition hall (replacing the Brown County Arena) should be built and Titletown will be much further developed. It is a very competitive process, and we think this will give us our best chance.

Now, on to your questions….

Shelly from Butternut, WI     

I was at the Tailgate Tour stop in Medford last year. I really enjoyed having the chance to see the current players and alumni up close. I was wondering, how do you decide where to stop on the Tour?

Thanks for coming out to the Tailgate Tour, Shelly. The Tailgate Tour is something we’re very proud of and I think underscores the uniqueness of the Packers organization. We try to spread the Tour out across the state over time. This year was the 13th tour, and, if you look at a map of all the places we’ve been in the 13 years, we’ve made it to every nook and cranny of the state. We’ve also been to the U.P. and Iowa. We try to get to Milwaukee and Madison on a fairly regular basis. Cathy Dworak, our director of community outreach and player/alumni relations, does a great job of planning the tour every year. The tour serves two main purposes. First, to thank our fans for their great support. We also raise money for charities in the five communities we stop in on the tour. We set a record this year by raising over $380,000.

Mark from Milwaukee

Hi Mark, I am a Milwaukee gold package season-ticket holder and want to express my displeasure with another Thursday night preseason game. For those of us that live in Milwaukee, the suburbs of west Milwaukee, or anywhere else in southeast Wisconsin, a Thursday night game is very difficult to attend. With the long commute to Green Bay, to truly enjoy the game and the full experience, it requires us to take two days off of work. I am thankful to the organization for being able to retain season tickets and continue to have the opportunity to attend games after all the games were moved to Green Bay, but I think the organization should do more to assure that the gold package preseason Shrine Game is on a Friday night or Saturday night. I have no issue taking two days off work to attend a regular-season game if it would fall on a Thursday, but don’t really want to use some of my vacation days to watch a bunch of backups in a preseason game. I know many other people who have gold package tickets, and they feel the same way. We all want to attend ALL the games, and would really appreciate if the organization took this into account in the future.

Thanks for your email, Mark. I appreciate your thoughts on the preseason schedule and understand your concern about Thursday night games. I often hear from fans regarding the scheduling of preseason games. There are a number of factors that go into determining when we play our home preseason games, but our first priority is to ensure that our team is well-prepared for the start of the season. First, under NFL policy, teams can report to training camp 15 days before the first preseason game. We typically try to play the first preseason game on a Thursday to give us as much time as possible with our players in training camp. As you know, we are playing our first two preseason games on Thursday nights. We wanted the second game on a Thursday to have a full week to prepare for the game in order to replicate our preparation for games in the regular season. Also, we avoid playing on Friday nights so we don’t conflict with high school games. We made the Pittsburgh game a gold package game because we thought the Steelers would be an attractive opponent, and the starters are likely to play more in the second as opposed to the first preseason game. Thanks again for your input, as well as your support of the Packers over the years.

A question from Jason

You guys f….. disgust me! I can’t believe you traded down in the first round. Another letdown season coming. (We actually can’t post all of Jason’s question as it was filled with words that are inappropriate for our readers, but he wasn’t pleased with our draft decisions. Jason stated that we missed some opportunities to pick certain players, we let some players go, and we are wasting the prime years of Aaron Rodgers’ career. He also stated that his opinion means nothing to us, and it has been difficult being a fan of the Packers.)

Not sure there’s a question here, Jason, but I do appreciate you letting me know your thoughts on the draft. You really can’t evaluate the quality of a draft for at least two years, but, I was very pleased with way Brian Gutekunst handled his first draft. He was calm and confident, and it was clear to me that the situation was not too big for him. I thought the two trades in the first round really worked to our advantage. We ended up with a player we liked – Jaire Alexander – at a position of need, and gave up a third-round pick for a first-round pick next year. Thanks again for your input.

Jim from Chicago

I read that the league brought together a number of special teams coaches to discuss the kickoff. Do you think the league will get rid of the kickoff?

Great question, Jim. As we’ve discussed here before, the kickoff is by far the most dangerous play in the game. You are five times more likely to suffer a concussion on a kickoff than a play from scrimmage. The kickoff is so dangerous because the collisions are often at full speed. I was part of the meeting this week in New York. The discussions were very productive. The special teams coaches came forward with a number of recommendations that should make the play safer. The recommendations included eliminating the two-man wedge, eliminating the running start for the kickoff coverage team, and requiring eight players on the return team to be within 15 yards of their restraining line. The changes should make the play more like the punt, where blockers are running alongside the players on the coverage unit. We’re very hopeful that these changes will result in fewer injuries on a kickoff, but we will continue to monitor this closely. We’re hopeful that these change will allow us to keep the kickoff in the game. It is one of the most exciting plays in the game. The proposed changes will be voted on by the owners at a league meeting later this month.

Raphael from Madison, WI

I took my family to Titletown this winter. My kids loved the tubing hill and the skating trail. I was wondering how you thought the first winter at Titletown went.

I’m glad you enjoyed your visit to Titletown, Raphael. Overall, we were pleased with the winter season at Titletown. Since it was the first year of operations, we learned a lot throughout the winter. The weather certainly had a big impact on the tubing and skating. If it was too warm, we couldn’t make snow or ice (the tubing hill was more temperature sensitive than the skating trail). We also had a number of days where it was so cold (below zero) that people did not want to tube or skate. When it was that cold, it was really challenging for our employees working on top of the hill. We also encountered some problems with the tube return. I thought the Winter Jubilee, with the light show, was very popular. I’m confident that we will improve the experience for people at Titletown next winter. Of course, with Murphy’s Law, we closed the tubing hill just days before the biggest snowstorm in Green Bay in over 130 years.


Lamar Jackson's Adjustment to NFL Is Off to a Good Start –

Perhaps the biggest question about first-round quarterback Lamar Jackson is his ability to transfer his Heisman Trophy-winning college style to the NFL.

Even Head Coach John Harbaugh said Saturday that until a rookie steps onto the NFL practice field, it’s all imagination about what a prospect could be.

Well, after two high-tempo and challenging minicamp practices, Harbaugh is pleased with his rookie quarterback. Jackson is off to a good start in Baltimore.

“The thing that I was really impressed with was I thought he was accurate,” Harbaugh said.

“You read the reports and stuff like that, but he’s a naturally talented thrower; he has natural arm talent. That’s something that I think people were questioning. So to see him out here throwing the ball naturally, very accurately, I thought was a big plus.”

Jackson completed several deep passes to his tight ends down the seam. He seems to have an early connection with fifth-round wide receiver Jordan Lasley, as the two moved the chains on a few occasions during 11-on-11 drills.

Jackson didn’t show as big of an arm as quarterback Joe Flacco, but the rookie put a nice touch and placement on many of his throws and zipped a tight touchdown pass (to Lasley) while in a red-zone drill. When he needs to, he can let it rip.

The biggest difference between Jackson and Flacco is Jackson’s obvious explosiveness as a runner, which he put on display many times throughout Saturday’s practice (without busting out his signature juke moves yet).

“As soon as we get in pads, you’ll see [those],” Jackson said with a laugh.

Harbaugh made it clear that the Ravens are working on using those talents during Jackson’s rookie season, saying Baltimore is crafting plays in the “laboratory.”

“We ran a lot of stuff out here today you guys probably saw,” Harbaugh said. “We’re going to always try to get our players making plays for us, and Lamar is a guy that can help us win games.”

Before Jackson can help Baltimore win as the team’s starting quarterback, he has a lot more developing to do. Coaches said learning how to play quarterback the Ravens way would be his first task.

Jackson’s learning a different offense, new verbiage, getting teammates lined up in the right spot and managing the offense overall. There seemed to be few hiccups Saturday, and Offensive Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg peeked his head inside huddles to make sure things were running smoothly.

Harbaugh said Jackson is at times “coloring inside the lines” in terms of throwing with anticipation because he’s learning the plays and concepts, but he’s picking it up very quickly.

“As good as any rookie we’ve had that way,” Harbaugh said. “He’s very smart; he studies, very sharp, has a nice presence on the field. I think we all feel that he handled himself very well that way.”

One of the biggest changes so far has been taking more snaps from under center. Jackson often worked out of the shotgun at Louisville, which helped with his running ability. The Ravens had him dropping back to work on his footwork and balance.

“I’ve got to work on that a lot more,” Jackson said. “The NFL is totally different from college. It’s a lot faster. You’ve got to work as a unit. It’s fun out here. I’m having fun.”

While Jackson said the pros is faster, he later added, “I can go at an NFL pace right away.”

Jackson said learning the Ravens’ offensive system has been fun. Playing the game is clearly enjoyable to him as well, and by all accounts, his teammates have enjoyed him too.

On Friday, players said Jackson is funny and a character. During Saturday’s practice, Lasley cheered him on from the sideline when he darted up the middle, blazing past linemen and linebackers for a first-down run.

“All of that is A, A-plus,” Harbaugh said. “He has great demeanor. He has a great face, attitude is really good, smart, studies real hard, locker room stuff. I think it’s all good.”

NFL owners could leave national anthem policy to individual teams – Washington Post

Former 49ers Eric Reid, left, and Colin Kaepernick kneel during the national anthem before a game in 2016 (Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP)

NFL owners are considering a compromise solution to the sport’s national anthem policy that would make it a team-by-team decision whether to require players to stand for the anthem prior to games, according to several people familiar with the league’s inner workings.

Those people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic, cautioned that no final determination has been made as the owners prepare to take up the anthem issue when they gather later this month in Atlanta at their regularly scheduled spring meeting.

Several other possibilities remain, from leaving the current anthem policy unchanged to forging a different compromise that would result in a league-wide policy by which players would be required to stand for the anthem if they’re on the sideline but would be given the option to remain in the locker room. Or the NFL could revert to its pre-2009 approach of keeping all players in the locker room until after the anthem is played.

While some owners would like to require all players to stand for the anthem, others remain opposed to such a mandate and there appears to be insufficient support to make that a league-wide policy, according to those with knowledge of the owners’ thinking. Making it a team-by-team decision would allow some owners to impose a requirement that players stand for the anthem while most others would be likely to continue to allow players to make their own choices, those people said.

“My guess is they will leave it up to the teams,” a high-ranking official with one NFL franchise said.

Others expressed a similar view in recent days, saying that is the solution that could satisfy owners on both sides of the issue.

The current policy, included in the game operations manual sent by the league to teams, says that players must be on the sideline for the anthem. It recommends but does not require that players stand for the anthem.

Some owners have said or hinted that they want to require players to stand for the anthem. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said last season that he would bench any Cowboys player who refused to stand for the anthem. Houston Texans owner Robert McNair said at the annual league meeting in March in Orlando that NFL playing fields are “not the place for political statements” and teams must show angry fans that they “respect our flag and respect our country.”

McNair said in March: “I think we all need to respect our flag and respect our country. I think we’ll figure out a way to make sure that we do that. We’ll have discussions about it.”

Profootballtalk reported last month that Cincinnati Bengals owner Mike Brown met with former San Francisco 49ers safety Reid and discussed the anthem issue when Reid visited the Bengals as a free agent. Reid has protested during the national anthem since 2016, when his then-teammate, quarterback Colin Kaepernick, began the movement by sitting and then kneeling during the anthem in protest of the treatment of African-Americans in the U.S. Brown told Reid that he intended to prohibit Bengals players from kneeling during the anthem, according to the report.

Kaepernick remains unsigned and has a pending grievance accusing teams of colluding to keep him out of the league. Reid is similarly unsigned as this NFL offseason continues and also has filed a collusion grievance.

The issue ignited a national debate last season after President Trump was critical of players who refused to stand for the anthem as a means of protest. When owners met last October in New York with the controversy raging, they declined to enact a requirement that players stand for the anthem. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and some owners said then that they wanted players to stand for the anthem but they were not prepared to require it. They said they were focused on their discussions with the players that led to a social justice accord, by which the league and teams are providing funding to community activism projects deemed important by the players.

Goodell worked closely on that agreement with the leaders of a group known as the Players Coalition, including Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins and former NFL wide receiver Anquan Boldin. Some within the sport say that the cooperation between Goodell and the players on that issue makes it unlikely that Goodell would support any effort to require players to stand for the anthem.

Players said then that there was no agreement as part of the social justice deal that they be required to stand for the anthem. But it also appeared that some owners were hopeful that the deal would lead players to voluntarily stand for the anthem. Some divisions on the players’ side became evident as Reid and some other players left the Players Coalition last year, saying that the group no longer represented their views.

The other potential compromise of requiring players on the sideline to stand but giving them the option to remain in the locker room would be modeled on an approach taken for a portion of last season by the Miami Dolphins. It’s not clear how many owners would favor that as a league-wide approach over making it a team-by-team issue.

The owners discussed the anthem policy during the March meeting but took no votes and came to no resolution. Several owners said then that they expect a resolution at the May meeting.

“It is a sensitive, complicated issue, and we’re going to deal with it at our May meeting,” New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft said at the March meeting in Orlando.

More NFL coverage from The Post:

Peter King is leaving Sports Illustrated? Here are 5 things I think I think about the news.

NFC draft grades: The Giants and Cardinals pass with flying colors. The Saints do not.

Redskins look to future and add depth with third-round pick Christian

Brewer: The Redskins of Daniel Snyder and Bruce Allen exhibit the worst qualities of privilege

Community reps, and then some: Redskins cheerleaders a sales lure, with sex appeal

Why Raiders infuriated NFL teams with one draft pick – The Mercury News

It’s not unusual for NFL teams to get upset with another team’s pick during the draft. But it usually means the angry team had its draft plan negatively affected by the player picked.

The Raiders reportedly infuriated some teams for an entirely different reason when they chose Michigan defensive tackle Maurice Hurst in the fifth round last Saturday.

The talented Hurst was a consensus first-round draft pick but his draft stock plummeted when testing at the NFL Combine revealed a heart condition. Matt Miller of Bleacher Report talked with scouts, executives and coaches from more than 10 teams who seemed to feel Hurst’s condition would prevent him from playing in the NFL.

Michigan defensive lineman Maurice Hurst (73) goes up against the Rutgers line during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017, in Ann Arbor, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Michigan defensive lineman Maurice Hurst (73) goes up against the Rutgers line during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017, in Ann Arbor, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio) AP Photo

One angry official from a team Miller spoke with told him the Raiders’ pick was “irresponsible,” and he felt it would be best for Hurst to “never put a (expletive) helmet on again in his life.”

The Raiders and Hurst, though, both agree he will be able to play in the NFL and he should excel after Oakland’s team doctors deemed him fit enough to play.

Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie told reporters this week the team will continue monitoring Hurst.
“He’s good,” McKenzie said. “He does have a heart condition, but it’s a situation that he’ll get checked every year. But right now, he’s good.”

Hurst, who plans to participate in the Raiders’ minicamp in Alameda on Friday, was dumbfounded he fell so far in the draft.

“I was a little surprised just because I was cleared through Harvard and Michigan, but every team can’t bring you in and do their own tests and formalize their own opinion,” Hurst said. “I’m just blessed to be a Raider.”

NFL executives are offering increasingly scathing takes on Josh Rosen, the most polarizing quarterback in the draft – Business Insider

josh rosen
Ross D. Franklin/AP

Josh Rosen was not shy about his feelings when he fell to 10th in the NFL draft before the Arizona Cardinals traded up to select him.

“I thought I should’ve been picked at 1, 2 or 3,” Rosen said. “I dropped, and I was pissed. I was really, really angry. I wasn’t really showing it. I was trying to keep calm, cool, composed.”

To many in the NFL, Rosen’s reaction was indicative of the scouting report on him heading into the draft — he may be the most talented, complete quarterback in the draft, but he can also be outspoken and brash.

Since the Cardinals drafted Rosen, there has only been growing criticism of Rosen’s attitude, both on the record and off, and murmurs that he is not well-liked.

On the Monday after the draft, Cleveland Browns vice president of player personnel Alonzo Highsmith told a confusing story about how he came to the conclusion that he didn’t like Rosen. Highsmith said he met a UCLA volleyball coach at the airport and asked him about Rosen. When the coach said to ask Rosen’s girlfriend, Highsmith decided he had heard enough (via the Canton Repository).

“So I asked one of the volleyball coaches, ‘What’s Rosen like?’ He said, ‘Aaaa, you should probably ask his girlfriend. She’s one of the players. She’s over there.’

“I’m like, ‘All right, coach. That’s good enough.’ I don’t know what all this means, but there was something about him that bothered me.”

On Wednesday, ESPN’s Mike Sando released an overview of NFL executives’ thoughts on each team’s draft. When it came to the Cardinals, several executives, speaking anonymously, didn’t have flattering things to say about Rosen.

“Everybody recognizes the talent with Rosen, but he is not the top guy in the draft because nobody likes him,” one executive told Sando.

Another seemed to echo Rosen’s former college coach, Jim Mora, that Rosen needs to be mentally challenged or he will get bored.

Cardinals offensive coordinator “Mike McCoy can speak the kid’s language and talk fast enough to try to stay ahead of the kid so he does not get bored,” another “insider” told Sando.

One team reportedly compared to Rosen a combination of former quarterback Jeff George and Jay Cutler, the polarizing quarterback most recently with the Miami Dolphins, saying he doesn’t think Rosen could lead a team.

Another executive referenced Rosen’s wealthy upbringing, calling him a “cake eater,” and saying Cardinals quarterback coach Byron Leftwich won’t allow Rosen to act like an “a–hole.”

Rosen himself seemed aware of his reputation after the draft, saying he knows he has to work hard and that he won’t think he’s entitled to play right away.

“I’m not going to come in and be an a–hole and think that my s— don’t stink. Sorry to say that,” Rosen said. “I understand the situation. I’m going to come in, and I’m going to be respectful.”

Russ Brandon resigns as Bills, Sabres president –

Russ Brandon has resigned as the president of the Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres, Pegula Sports Entertainment announced Tuesday.

In a statement released by Pegula Sports and Entertainment, owners Terry and Kim Pegula accepted Brandon’s resignation.

Kim Pegula assumes Brandon’s previous responsibilities as president of the organizations, while Terry Pegula will continue to oversee the team operations.

“We have a tremendous amount of confidence in the strong leadership teams we have built within each of those entities over the last several years,” the Pegulas said in the statement. “We are excited about the direction of our teams, especially after this past weekend’s NFL Draft and the NHL lottery results. Our focus remains on building championship teams on and off the field for our fans and community.”

“I have been contemplating transitioning out of my role for some time,” Brandon said in a statement obtained by NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo. “My goal when the Pegula’s purchased the franchise was to reach 20 years with the Bills in which I achieved this past November. Given where we are from a timing standpoint, particularly with the conclusion of the NFL Draft, now seems like the time to make that transition. As grateful as I am for the amazing experience and the incredible people I’ve had the privilege to work with the past two decades, I am just as anxious for the professional opportunities that lie ahead.”

Brandon has been a mainstay within the Buffalo organization over the past two decades, serving as director of non-football operations, general manager, CEO and president.

Before joining the Bills in 1997, Brandon served in the front office of the Florida Marlins.

Around The NFL will have more on this story as it develops.