GREEN BAY, Wis. — For one of the most storied franchises in the NFL like the Green Bay Packers, expectations are typically very high. But with less than three weeks before training camp opens for the 2012 regular season, Packers team president and CEO Mark Murphy still views last year as somewhat of a success.
“When you’re with the Green Bay Packers and you set a record for the most wins in the regular season, you’ve had a pretty good year,” Murphy told FOXSportsWisconsin.com “But the goal was to win the Super Bowl and we didn’t achieve that.
“That doesn’t mean the season was a failure. There’s a lot of positive things, and we’re still a relatively young team. We’re all hopeful we can learn from that experience.”
Coming off a Super Bowl victory in 2010, the franchise’s first since 1996, the Packers began last season by winning their first 13 games. Including Green Bay’s playoff run from the season prior, the Packers won 19 consecutive games before losing in Kansas City in Week 15.
Green Bay bounced back from that unexpected loss with back-to-back wins over NFC North rivals Detroit and Chicago to close out the regular season, ending with a 15-1 record. However, despite earning the No. 1 seed and home-field advantage until the Super Bowl, the Packers were thoroughly beaten by the New York Giants at Lambeau Field in the Divisional Round of the playoffs.
One issue that continued throughout the season was defensive pressure on opposing quarterbacks. After finishing second in the NFL with 47 sacks in 2010, Green Bay had only 29 sacks last season. Only the Tennessee Titans and Tampa Bay Buccaneers had fewer sacks.
Partially as a result, the Packers gave up more passing yards last season than any team in NFL history.
But with the Packers using their first two draft picks this offseason to address that issue, outside linebacker Nick Perry in the first round and defensive lineman Jerel Worthy in the second round, Murphy believes that area is now much improved.
“Pressure covers up a lot of problems,” Murphy said. “If we can get pressure, that’s really going to be a key for us.”
Due to the 130-day lockout last offseason, players didn’t get a chance to work out with the coaching staff. Though every NFL team was equally affected by that, Murphy believes it had a major impact on several of Green Bay’s younger players.
“Rookies last year had no chance,” Murphy said.
Even with the lockout-shortened offseason, wide receiver Jordy Nelson made the biggest improvement of any player on the team, going from 582 yards and two touchdowns in 2010 to 1,263 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2011.
Now, Murphy may have spotted the next Packers player to make that major career jump.
“Sam Shields, he really lost key time for him to develop (during the lockout),” Murphy said. “I think he’s somebody that can be a very good player. It’s just whether he’ll play to that level consistently.”
Shields, acquired as an undrafted free agent in 2010, had a very good rookie season. However, despite increasing his interception total to four in his second year, Shields frequently struggled with tackles and missed coverage assignments last season.
Murphy also provided an update on the new additions to Lambeau Field, with the scoreboard now completed and highest steel beams and structures all in place. That expanded area in the south end zone is on schedule to be ready for the 2013 season.
More than $67 million was raised for the stadium additions through the team’s stock sale. In less than three months, the Packers sold 268,000 stocks to raise nearly half of the total for the $143 million project.
“It was a phenomenal response from our fans,” Murphy said. “First of all, I’m never really surprised by our fans. Their support and passion for the Packers is great. I think the timing of it was very good. We were 13-0 and coming off a Super Bowl. But the last time we did it was right after a Super Bowl, too.
“We budgeted fairly conservatively and we exceeded it pretty quickly, which is good. The result of it is that we’ll have to borrow less. That’s great for everybody.”