Packers' Family Night format up for debate

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- As Green Bay Packers president Mark Murphy said following Saturday's Family Night, it was not like the team pulled a bait-and-switch.

All the fans who showed up at Lambeau Field would have known in advance they would see a practice -- and not a scrimmage as had been in the case in past years -- and yet the 67,336 of them who turned out made it the largest crowd in the event's history.

And they paid $10 each -- plus whatever they spent in parking and concessions. The event sold out in a week even though the Packers announced the format change from the outset.

"I'd pay to watch that performance tonight," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said following the 90-minute practice on Saturday.

Well, he makes $5 million a year.

How many on working wages would do so again, however, is something the Packers might have to gauge before next year's event.

"I think we'll get feedback from the fans," Packers president Mark Murphy said. "You guys missed it, but it was a pretty spectacular laser show and fireworks [after practice]. I think from a fan's perspective, it was a whole day. People got here at 8 o’clock [in the morning] and there were a lot of activities in the parking lot and the Atrium. So I think it's still a good value for a family event."

When asked whether Murphy would prefer that the event goes back to being a live scrimmage rather than a practice that's no different from what fans can see for free at Ray Nitschke Field, he deferred to McCarthy and general manager Ted Thompson.

"That's really a football decision," Murphy said. "The most important thing is getting the team ready for the regular season."

McCarthy commended the crowd for creating a strong environment, but there were a handful of moments with usual silence during some of the individual and position-group drills.

"The environment the fans created for us was as good as it's been," McCarthy said. "I was a little curious to see what the flow was going to be like because it was totally different to the fans, but the energy from where I was standing was unbelievable. I thought it was awesome, maybe our best level of energy as far as participation and music. I know our game-day operations are looking into some new things, and I was very pleased."

The large crowd surprised some players, even those who have experienced multiple Family Nights.

"It always does, surprisingly, just because to me it's just an intra-squad play -- it's just us against ourselves," defensive tackle B.J. Raji said. "But just the atmosphere out earlier, guys were out there tailgating, people have been here the whole week just excited for Family Night. I guess it always amazes me how big it is."

Said second-year safety Micah Hyde: "There’s 67,000 people out here for a practice; that's wild. You don't see that anywhere else. We have it too good here, I guess."