The fact that offensive lineman Bryan Bulaga‘s season ended when he tore up his knee during the scrimmage at last August’s Family Night has not been lost on the Green Bay Packers as they announced that the already-glorified-practice will be just that this coming Aug. 2, sans the scrimmage.
In addition to reduced practice and contact rules that are part of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), NFL teams are trying to balance the need for contact and protecting players.
Head Coach Mike McCarthy noted this week that the significantly reduced number of practices is affecting how the Packers plan … here’s what he toldRob Demovsky of ESPN.com
“You get to training camp, I think we’re at 21, 22 practices [now] down from 35, 36 from three years ago. The team reps, how you utilize them is, you look into that a lot more.”
That’s why Packers President Mark Murphy made the announcement late yesterday that the team would make the annual love-fest a regular practice and not a full contact scrimmage as in the past.
But it will still cost $10 per head.
More than 60,000 attended last year’s event – an opportunity for those who don’t have the opportunity to attend regular season games – for various reasons – to see the Packers on the August preseason tundra.
In a press release, here is what the Packers said:
"As the team has continually assessed its preparation methods in recent years, it was determined a full practice is necessary to accomplish its preparation goals for the regular season. The full practice will include 11-on-11 sessions that will feature live contact.”"
Pulling the controlled contact portion of the night could be a game-changer for the event. How many will want to pay the $10 to see the Packers practicing technique and strategy when they can see them do the same thing for free at a week-day practice?
I understand the need to comply with league and player rules as established through the CBA, but everyone should be aware that things, including Family Night, must change because of the rules. The reaction of Packers fans who may have attended this event in the past, might be different this year without the scrimmage. Will they spend the $40-$50 for their family without the promise of seeing the Packers play football?
Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy have never been fans of Packers hitting Packers. Nobody likes to see injuries – especially Packers fans.
Aaron Rodgers celebrates a touchdown pass by doing the Lambeau leap; during the 2012 family night scrimmage at Lambeau Field. Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports photograph
But with the incidence of injuries in Green Bay seemingly increasing, not decreasing, one has to wonder about the effectiveness of the no contact, limited practice aspect of the agreement. Many would say the game is being “sissy-fied.” Many would say the players are not in “football shape” because of the limited contact.
Much will continue to change across the league because of these changes … not all of it will be good. We simply have to live with that fact.
The issues that are now coming to the surface because of the new rules will need to be noted and addressed when the current CBA expires in about six years. Much will change between now and then.
Resolving these issues is a process – a lengthy process. It’s all connected to the evolution of the league.
Football is a fast-changing sport, unlike baseball.
What it looks like today is not what it will look like tomorrow. I’m not sure that’s a good or bad thing. I do know that it will affect all football fans, not just us here in Green Bay.
Family Night is a footnote to the coming changes in promotion and game-day experiences.
Family Night is not a huge money-maker for the Packers when considered among all their sources of revenue, but it does help. If Family Night goes away, the Packers are thinking now about how to replace and even improve their revenue stream.
Stay tuned on this issue …