While fans of the other 31 NFL teams remain content watching highlight videos and ESPN clips, Green Bay Packer fans continued to enjoy a Wisconsin spring ritual: Packers Fan Fest.
What is Fan Fest? A weekend-filled bonanza of player appearances, fan excitement and countless autograph sessions with the players and coaches of the Packers organization.
Not only was it a time for players and coaches to show off, creative fans also were able to display their burning loyalties to the Green 'n Gold in typical fashion—or apparent lack thereof.
The atmosphere was incredible—everyone was in a good mood and hustling from speaker to autograph session to stadium tour for the better part of two days. Jerseys, game programs, Super Bowl posters and player helmets were proudly displayed for all to see in wonder and awe (like the autographed Reggie White and Fritz Shurmer Super Bowl XXXI helmet by one fan).
Mark Murphy, Packers president, along with Bob Harlan and Ron Wolf (pictured), mingled with the crowd, answered tough questions, and signed enough autographs for the more than 3000 in attendance.
What other NFL organization would expose the inner workings to the general public? None have any incentive to. When this reporter asked Mr. Wolf if he favored Jimmy Cantler's for bay crabs, he told me he actually moved away from Annapolis. And judging by the deep tan Mr. Wolf carried, the move was someplace warm and sunny.
Along with the players and presidents, the entire defensive coaching team was present. Winston Moss spoke for over an hour on the X's and O's of the new 3-4 system.
Dom Capers introduced himself and was slightly overwhelmed by all the activities. One fan pointedly asked Dom if other teams had this kind of fan support and fever, even during the off-, offseason?
Dom answered that he had never been a part of something like this, and in his experience the only other organization with this type of fan base was the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Lastly, new linebackers coach and former Pro Bowler Kevin Greene signed autographs for the crowd. He looks like he could still play today, with only the glasses and gray hair betraying his true age.
The weekend activities also included touring the players' facilities, including the Green 'n Gold's locker room. All three quarterbacks are next to each other. All the wide receivers and tight ends are as well.
Brett Favre's locker was physically removed, to some holier place I assume. Several lockers remained empty, reminding fans of the work that lies ahead for draft day.
Fans were free to wander as they pleased and the atmosphere was pleasant, welcoming, and always positive. I found myself to be the only fan there making disparaging comments about the failed 2008 campaign or Ted Thompson.
Atari Bigby, pictured poorly here, was the most vocal of the current players I encountered. He posed for each photo, signed the items clearly, and made small talk with everyone.
I asked him if the pressure was on this year since every other Packers starter in the secondary had made the Pro Bowl but him. Smoothly he answered that the Pro Bowl was all about politics and "getting enough votes," but not to worry because 2009 was going to be his signature season!
John Kuhn, wearing his No. 30 jersey, was the funniest. I had to wait extra long in this line for some reason and spoke with him for several minutes.
One thing I was dying to know was whether players in attendance like Aaron Kampmann, Greg Jennings, and Donald Driver were contractually obligated to attend?
John quickly responded no, that attendance at these events was strictly voluntary and he enjoyed doing them. He said is gets him pumped up for the next season when so many people are excited and positive about things as well.
Once again this proves that Green Bay Packer players are the shining examples of how modern NFL players should be in the 21st century. Open, accessible and able to give back to the community. They carry on the tradition of the great players before them as well.
Packers Fan Fest is not only about current players but remembering the past as well. Jerry Kramer, James Lofton, Lynn Dickey, and Jan Stenerud were all present signing autographs and enjoying the moment.
After the glories on the field fade for players, former Green Bay Packer players can rest assured that they will be celebrated and memorialized for decades to come by a loyal fan base.
Time heals old wounds and we hope Favre will make appearances in 2010 and beyond.
Down this tunnel and past the green doors is historic Lambeau Field—the path each player takes on game day. Their steps are filled with purpose and certainty. The mission of the day lies just ahead and the path is clearly defined for both players and fans.
Packer fans are also ready for the next step. Back into the playoffs, the spotlight, and back to dominating the NFC North. Certainly that is not asking too much from a team with so much talent, both on and off the field.
The fans are ready and waiting...