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New Packers boss Murphy says post-Favre future looks bright

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- New Packers president and CEO Mark Murphy is too busy building new relationships and working to secure the franchise's financial future to spend much time fretting about whether Brett Favre is having second thoughts on retirement.

Despite hints and rumors to the contrary, Murphy doesn't think Favre is wavering.

"I don't see how anybody could watch his press conference and think anything other than this is something that he really struggled with and came to a decision," Murphy said in an interview with The Associated Press. "Obviously, it was a tough decision for him. But I think in his mind, he knows he made the right decision."

But in Green Bay, even the most obscure or far-out tidbit about Favre is a big deal. That's just one of the lessons Murphy, a 52-year-old former All-Pro safety with the Washington Redskins, has learned in his first few months on the job.

Murphy took over in the middle of a wild ride for one of the NFL's flagship franchises.

The Packers nearly went to the Super Bowl, losing the NFC Championship game at home on a field goal in overtime. Murphy, who was approved by the Packers' board of directors in December, officially took over a week after the season ended. He barely had settled in when Favre bid a tearful goodbye in March.

Then came a trip to the NFL Annual Meeting, where Murphy began to lay the groundwork for a long-term lobbying effort to ensure the Packers' financial future. When he returned to Green Bay early this week, there was growing buzz about Favre possibly having second thoughts on retirement.

As if things weren't hectic enough, Murphy and his family only recently moved out of a hotel and into their new house. Still, Murphy managed to make time for a history lesson.

He recently watched an 1980s documentary on the Packers recommended to him by former general manager Ron Wolf and is beginning to grasp what drives the Packers' popularity.

"It's the small-town team competing against the New York and Washington and Dallas teams," Murphy said. "It's Vince Lombardi and Bart Starr and Curly Lambeau -- and now, Brett Favre. The exciting thing about it is, who's going to be that next person? And I think there will be a lot of interest."

Murphy has a living piece of Packers history on his side: His predecessor, chairman emeritus Bob Harlan, who attended the NFL Annual Meeting and is helping Murphy ease into the job.

Murphy said the transition is easier because Harlan left the Packers in such good shape. Harlan's 19-year tenure as the team's top executive was highlighted by a renovation of Lambeau Field that turned the small-market Packers into a moneymaking machine.

"That's given me the luxury of time," Murphy said. "I don't feel as though there are really a lot of problems and I need to start changing things dramatically."

After his NFL career, Murphy worked as an executive with the NFL Players Association, a trial attorney with the U.S. Justice Department and the athletic director at Colgate and Northwestern.

"He made the most of his ability because he was smart, the right kind of person," said Joe Gibbs, Murphy's coach in Washington. "I think he's somebody that really understands the sport. So I would say you're getting somebody pretty good."

Murphy's main focus for now is building relationships inside and outside the organization. But he realizes fans are buzzing about recent comments by -- and about -- Favre.

A recent report in the Los Angeles Times said Favre's agent was shopping his services to other teams, something Favre denied to Sports Illustrated and Packers general manager Ted Thompson laughed off as "inconceivable" to AP.

Murphy doesn't think Favre will change his mind and try to play for another team. But if he does, the decision to trade Favre's rights will be left up to Thompson.

"That would be Ted's call," Murphy said. "That's really a football call. He and I might talk. But I don't think anything's going to happen there."

For now, Murphy just needs Favre to turn in his official retirement papers.

"They have to come in," Murphy said. "No, we haven't received them yet."

Murphy isn't worried about the Packers' popularity in the post-Favre era, but he already is working to assure the franchise's financial future.

Despite playing in a tiny media market, the Packers rank among the NFL's most profitable teams -- a trend that continued in 2007, although the team hasn't finalized the financial figures it will release later this year.

"We'll get those soon," Murphy said. "But it was another very good year for us."

Murphy wants to make sure it stays that way. The current collective bargaining agreement between NFL owners and the players association could be scrapped, and there's no guarantee that a new agreement would keep the salary cap and revenue sharing structure that has helped the Packers remain competitive.

Murphy already began lobbying at the NFL Annual Meeting last week, but doesn't want to come on too strong. His first step is to bond with league and team executives so he can make a credible case that the NFL's current financial structure is good for the game.

"Business is a lot that way, too," Murphy said. "It's connections and relationships you've made. And it was similar in collegiate athletics -- votes on important issues (in a) conference or at the NCAA level, trying to work with people. On the one hand you're competing against each other, but sometimes I think you have to step back and see a broader perspective."

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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