Too popular stateside at home or away, Packers bide time for international invite

Packers fans travel so well that their opponents are reluctant to give up a sure sellout against them in exchange for an international game. Norm Hall/Getty Images

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Green Bay Packers know they'll someday play an international game. They also understand why they haven't -- and why they'll be opening the 2016 regular season in Jacksonville instead of playing the Jaguars in London later in the year.

Packers president/CEO Mark Murphy has long maintained that the team would never volunteer to give up a home game in order to play internationally, saying home games are too vital to the economy in the NFL's smallest market.

But Cheeseheads travel so well that opponents -- especially ones who don't always sell out their stadiums -- don't want to give up their home games against the Packers, either.

So even though Murphy knew the Packers would have a road game against Jacksonville this season, and the Jaguars are entering their fourth year of playing at least one game in London, Murphy never really got his hopes up for a trip across the pond.

Thus, he wasn't surprised that it'll be the Indianapolis Colts facing the Jaguars at Wembley Stadium in Week 4. If he was running Jacksonville's operation, he certainly wouldn't give up having the Packers come to town -- especially since, with the NFL schedule rotation, the Packers haven't played at Jacksonville since 2008, Aaron Rodgers' first year as the team's starting quarterback.

"That continues to be the issue," Murphy acknowledged last week, following a meeting with reporters about the team's finances. "I think it [could] take the league saying to another team, ‘It's worth it for you to give up your home game [against the Packers].'"

The NFL's other international games this season are a Week 7 matchup between the New York Giants and Los Angeles Rams at Twickenham in southwest London, a Week 8 matchup between the Washington Redskins and Cincinnati Bengals back at Wembley Stadium, and a Week 11 game between the Houston Texans and Oakland Raiders at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City. The Jaguars, who have committed to playing one home game each year in London through 2020, Rams, Bengals and Raiders are the "home" teams in those games.

Murphy said the NFL also has two rules that allow it to force a team to give up a home game for international purposes: If your stadium has been awarded a Super Bowl, or if the franchise is playing in a temporary facility.

"So just looking ahead, there might be some of those opportunities," Murphy said.

If that doesn't happen during the final five years of the NFL's current collective bargaining agreement with the NFL Players Association, Murphy said there have been discussions on a league level of having every team play one international game each season while decreasing the number of preseason games. Such a change would have to be collectively bargained, however.

"As you look ahead, if we're going to have more and more international games, something's got to give at some point," Murphy said. "One thought that's been discussed is to go to 17 [regular-season games] and three [preseason] and then everybody would have an international game. So nobody would have to give up a home game then."