Perfect Packers enjoy 'quiet' 8-0
8-0 seasons in the modern media age, they're darn close to it.
As the only undefeated team left in the NFL and home to a quarterback playing with unprecedented statistical excellence, you would expect the Packers to be living behind boarded-up windows to stave off a tsunami of attention.
But on Thursday afternoon, it was the regular local media crew, plus or minus a few, and just one representative from a national magazine. No bloggers, no NFL columnists, no national television or cable reporters, just the locals collecting their material before the Packers' "Monday Night Football" game against Minnesota.
Ask any player in the locker room, and he'll tell you 8-0 hasn't affected his life one bit.
"It hasn't been any different," said tight end Jermichael Finley, an emerging star. "I don't think we're getting the love we should, but at the same time I don't think anyone in this building cares. We're just focusing on being the No. 1 in rings."
To be fair, there have been representatives from national outlets at some of the Packers' games this season and quarterback Aaron Rodgers was on the cover of Sports Illustrated with his receiving corps last week.
But it isn't as if reporters are crawling over each other to get the story on Rodgers, the first quarterback in NFL history to post a 110-plus passer rating in the first eight games of a season. Rodgers is performing so well that his league-leading passer rating of 129.1 is 28.5 points higher than the second guy on the list, New Orleans' Drew Brees.
When Brees got off to this kind of start in 2009, reporters flocked to New Orleans to cover the resurgence of the Saints. But that also doubled as a post-Hurricane Katrina storyline.
The Packers are defending Super Bowl champions, but they don't live in that realm anywhere but on the field. There, opponents are charged and determined to add a green and gold pelt to their wall
But away from the field, they live in peace and tranquility far away and well-insulated from media hubs.
"We like it that way," receiver Greg Jennings said. "We like kind of being under the radar. We're a small city, small-town team. We just go to work with our lunch pails every week.
"We're not trying to be seen on every TV show and sports show out there because we're 8-0. "
According to public relations director Jason Wahlers, who left the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to join the Packers in August, there has been nothing unmanageable about the attention the team has received.
He was on the public relations staff of the 2002 Super Bowl-winning Buccaneers team, which featured a football rock star in head coach Jon Gruden, controversial defensive tackle Warren Sapp and quote-a-minute receiver Keyshawn Johnson. And it was all heightened by the fact the Buccaneers had never been to a Super Bowl.
According to Wahlers, no more media have requested credentials for the Packers-Vikings game than other Lambeau Field Monday night games. It's not a marquee matchup because the Vikings are 2-6, but it does feature the third start of Vikings rookie quarterback Christian Ponder.
As for the first eight weeks of the season, Wahlers said: "We've seen a steady and consistent number of national media requests this season. I've been told it's comparable to last season."
Given the Packers were
5-3 at this point last year and second fiddle to the eventual NFC North-winning Chicago Bears, that's not saying a lot. But then again, no one seems to care.
"I think part of it is being in Green Bay," receiver Jordy Nelson said. "I know everyone says Green Bay is well-covered, but you have ESPN New York, stuff like that, so they're right there in the city. We're by ourselves and so we just take care of business. We don't need it (the attention)."
There are a number of reasons why the Packers have been somewhat ignored.
For one, they don't have a bunch of star players who are willing to speak their mind on anything and everything. For another, fewer news organizations are sending out reporters during the middle of the week.
And then there's the accessibility. It's a lot easier to get a direct flight to Chicago, Denver, Philadelphia or Dallas than it is to Austin Straubel Airport.
"We're a small local Midwest town, small airport," B.J. Raji said. "It's just a different venue."
Regarding the team's stars, Rodgers guards his privacy vigilantly and won't speak of the one subject reporters want to address most: his relationship with Favre.
If the Packers continue to win, the attention will come. As they get closer to the possibility of 16-0, they can expect the knobs to be turned up on the coverage meter.
For now, however, they'll gladly accept the peace and quiet.
Last updated: 6:56 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012