Murphy wants more talk, less litigation
GREEN BAY, Wis. — One goal of Packers team president and CEO Mark Murphy is to protect current and former players and look out for their health and well-being.
But that didn't keep him calling out the lawyers who continue to hound him and thousands of others in attempts to recruit more former players to sue the NFL.
"The attorneys are almost shameless in terms of how they're pursuing and marketing the lawsuits," Murphy said after the team's annual shareholders meeting Tuesday morning. "As a former player, almost on a daily basis now I'm getting letters and emails from attorneys asking me to join the lawsuits against the NFL. They're obviously not doing their research. It shows you, there's an active market out there."
Murphy is in the rare position of being a former player who is now a team president. He played safety for the Washington Redskins from 1977 to '84 and joined the Packers in 2007 after 16 years as athletic director at Northwestern and Colgate universities.
"Unfortunately, the reality is, as a league we're successful, profitable and you've got a lot of people looking at it saying, ‘Maybe there's a chance to get some money or to change things,' " Murphy said. "In terms of the litigation, the former players with concussions . . . first of all, if players have problems, whether it be concussions or injuries with their back, knee, whatever, and it's directly related to their participation in the NFL, we need to do everything we can to help them.
"I'd rather have those things resolved through working together than lawsuits."
During negotiations last summer for the new collective bargaining agreement, Murphy was an advocate of an 18-game regular season. However, he has recently shifted his view on that topic.
"I was in favor of it during the bargaining process because I saw it as a way to bring the parties together and to reach agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement," Murphy said. "Now, to be honest with you, I couldn't support a move to two (preseason games) and 18 (regular-season games). I just think, with all the focus on player health and safety, it would be really hard to do that.
"I would actually be supportive of a move to two (preseason) and 16 (regular-season games), reducing the number of preseason games. The challenge there is you're losing revenue. A couple other issues with that would be, do you really have enough time to develop younger players if you only have two preseason games? The reality of it is if you went to two and 16, you'd be reducing the total number of games that are played, but your starters would probably play as much as they do now in the four preseason games.
"I think those are things that we have to look at: What kind of things can we do to make sure the game is safe as possible for our players?"
Murphy was also appointed to the NFL's Competition Committee earlier this year, in which he helps the league study all aspects of the game and recommend rules and policy changes.
"You want to strive to make the game as safe as possible, but you don't want to turn it into a 7-on-7 flag football game," Murphy said. "Part of what makes the game so exciting is that it's fast and physical; finding the right balance there.
"My concern in the long term is that parents look at the game and say it's too violent, there's too many risks involved, I don't want my son to play the game. And that really starts to erode at your fan base in the future."
Murphy also addressed the bounty situation that took place with the New Orleans Saints, which has resulted in more lawsuits brought upon the NFL by the suspended players. One of the four players suspended after the bounty investigation is defensive end Anthony Hargrove, who was signed by the Packers this offseason and is set to serve an eight-game suspension.
"The bounty situation is just disappointing," Murphy said. "For me, and I'm a little old school, but what's disappointing to me is to see some of the comments that players make about the commissioner, Roger (Goodell), and the commissioner's office. To me, the commissioner should be treated with a level of respect.
"Going back to when I was playing, I couldn't imagine players being critical of Pete Rozelle (who served as NFL commissioner 1960-89). Just a different time in our society. I think those players are concerned about an impact on their careers, but I think Roger is doing exactly what he needs to do. He's protecting the integrity of the game."
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