Friday, September 28, 2012

Remembering Steve Sabol

Sharp-eyed viewers of last Monday's game might have noticed that coach Mike McCarthy was wearing an unusual pin on his team-issued jacket.

The black and white pin, featuring an "SDS" logo with a sprocket-hole border, honors Steve Sabol, who passed away last week. As a co-founder (with his father) of NFL Films, Sabol had a profound impact on the way the game has developed in the last half-century. It seems to me inarguable that professional football wouldn't be the colossus it is without his highlight films bringing us all the action in slow-motion over an orchestral score.

At the risk of seeming a contrarian, I also wonder if Sabol's influence wasn't entirely benign; those same highlight films glamorized and glorified the hard-hitting style of football now causing the NFL so much trouble in court at the moment. He went a long way to giving so many in the press and at the League the (mistaken) impression that it was those hits football fans crave. But that's a conversation for another day, and shouldn't diminish his other accomplishments as he remember him.

The memorial logo was worn last weekend by all NFL Films personnel.

Pins were distributed to all NFL clubs, and it appears that several head coaches wore one (Seattle's Pete Carrol, notably, did not).

And if you noticed all that, you were watching the game more closely than some other people I could mention.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A Banner Year to Come

Per Uni Watch, we now know that the Packers will be partaking in at least three league-wide uniform promotions this season.

First up is the NFL's annual Brest Cancer Awareness festival. Every week in October, as they have since 2009, players will wear pink accessories on the field. Stadiums will be draped in pink banners, and helmets will be festooned with NFL shield/pink-ribbon decals. For the Packers, that means October 7th in Indianapolis, October 14th in Houston, October 21st in St. Louis, and home on the 28th against Jacksonville. I expect pink gloves and shoes to continue to play a major role in this promotion, as they have been a particular point of focus since Nike took over the contract.

The next event will be the "Salute to Service", held in November. For Weeks 9, 10 & 11 (that's November 4th against the Cardinals and November 18th at Detroit; week 10 is the Packers' bye week), NFL stadiums will pay tribute to the troops. In addition to a fundraising initiative, we can expect goal post wrappers, end zone paint, players will be wearing a special NFL shield/digi-camo ribbon decal on the back of their helmets. The "Salute to Service" promotion was introduced last season, but didn't extend to the helmets. That changes in 2012.

Finally, the NFL will be marking the 50th Anniversary of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. During Weeks 14 and 15 (with the Packers hosting Detroit on December 9th and at the Bears on December 16th), teams will wear a commemorative Pro Football Hall of Fame patch. By this, I presume they mean on the left breast, the traditional spot for a jersey patch. The Packers have a special connection to the Hall of Fame; although not represented at the original formation of the League in 1920 at Ralph Hay's auto showroom, Curly Lambeau's men joined the League in its sophomore season and have been fixtures ever since. The Packers currently boast twenty-one players and coaches enshrined in Canton, more than anyone save the Bears, and that inaugural Class of 1963 included four men of Green Bay.

And there you have it. Of the thirteen remaining games on the Packers' 2012 schedule, nine of them are scheduled to involve uniform markers as part of one of these league-wide events.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Small Details Often Elude Us the rule for "Shared Possession", apparently.

But as embarrassing as the officials were last night, there was some uniform news to come out of the game. The Packers have updated their helmet labeling this season. You can see it in this photo from the end of the game:

The player identification label is a football-shaped circle with the player's number and name within it. Here's a closer look:

Numbers were added to the back of the helmet in 2009:

In 2010, the green numbers were replaced with a decal featuring a "G"-logo oval surrounding the player's number and his name (in the jersey font) beneath it. The decal was originally placed on top of the white Braisher stripe:

Later in the season, the decal was moved off the Braisher stripes to the gold shell:

And that's where it's been ever since. At least until this season.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Oh Sure, NOW We Get It.

I just received this email from Time Warner Cable.

They couldn't have done this before Week 2? I had to watch the Packers/Bears game on their useless Internet feed.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The NFL is Seeing Red

On Sunday night's game against the Detroit Lions, San Francisco cornerback Tarell Brown made what undoubtedly to most seems like an innocuous fashion statement. Several of his teammates were wearing undershirts to ward off the Northern California evening chill, but only Brown's was in the Niners' famous crimson.

The League noticed the discrepancy, and the next day sent him this greeting:

It begins:
Tarrel Brown
c/o San Francisco 49ers
4949 Centennial Boulevard
Santa Clara, CA 95054

Dear Tarrel:

     During the Detroit Lions-San Francisco 49ers game on September 16, 2012, you were in violation of NFL Uniform and Equipment Rules.

     Specifically, you wore red undergarment sleeves. Your team designated undergarment color is white. Rule 5 Section 4, Article 5(a) of the 2012 Official Playing Rules of the National Football League states that all members of the same team who wear approved undergarments with exposed necks or sleeves must wear the same color on a given day.

     NFL policy on uniforms and equipment and the "On Field" program is disseminated to players through playbook inserts, locker-room posters, and training-camp videos. In accordance with the document entitled "2012 GAME-RELATED DISCIPLINE", which was among the playbook materials distributed to you earlier this season, the League is imposing on you a fine of $5,250.
The remainder of the letter explains the process for appealing the fine, but that's the part I'm most interested in.

You can see that the other 49ers were wearing their League- and team-approved white undershirts in that game:

I wasn't aware that teams had to designate an undershirt color, although that makes sense.

I do with the Packers would make a change to theirs, though. The contrasting undershirts have long bothered me.

Contrasting undershirts needlessly clutter up the uniform, and matching them to the jersey color would at least give a hint of the old long-sleeve aesthetic.

Even if the Packers won't incorporate the compression shirts into their uniform design, at least the team could ensure that they don't work against that design. It would look something like this photo of AJ Hawk at training camp a couple years ago:

Maybe for 2013.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Yes, 62 Years Ago Today.

The Press-Gazette website has corrected yesterday's article on the Packers switching to green and gold in 1950. It now reflects what we said yesterday—that the Packers and the color green go back at least as far as 1935.

When the Packers switched permanently to green and gold
7:58 AM, Sep 18, 2012

It was 62 years ago today, Sept. 17, 1950, that the Green Bay Packers wore green and gold uniforms for the first time.

They debuted the new look in the season opener at old City Stadium. However, the Packers were routed by the Detroit Lions 45-7 that day.

Before that, the Packers had worn blue and gold, or gold and white uniforms.


An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the Green Bay Packers started wearing green and gold uniforms in 1950. The story has been revised to reflect that they did so as early as 1935.
Here's how it appeared yesterday:

Unfortunately, even that's not entirely correct.

Coach Ronzani's green-and-gold overhaul lasted exactly as long as his tenure—through the 1953 season. Even he didn't ditch Lambeau's navy blue entirely, using the 1949 solid blue jersey as an alternate at least through 1950.

But when Lisle Blackbourn took over the head coaching duties in 1954, he brought back navy blue jerseys with gold numbers and gold Northwestern stripes on the sleeves. He did use a green alternate jersey during this period, but he also experimented with navy and white uniforms, which I believe to have been the first time the Packers took the field without any gold at all. I don't have a photo of that, but I do have a photo of the road version of that uniform, with a reversed white-with-navy-trim jersey:

I don't want to harp on them; the Press-Gazette usually does a fantastic job chronicling the Packers' history (better at times than the Packers have done, in fact). This incident should just tell us that there's a great deal more to learn, and there has to be a better way to share that information once gleaned.

Monday, September 17, 2012

62 Years Ago Today?

The Green Bay Press-Gazette has this little nugget:

Packers started wearing green and gold 62 years ago today
10:52 AM, Sep 17, 2012

Green Bay Packers quarterback Bob Thomason kneels along the sideline with coach Gene Ronzani during a 31-20 loss to the Chicago Bears at old City Stadium on Sept. 30, 1951. The Packers started wearing green and gold uniforms a year earlier. Photo courtesy of the Tom Pigeon collection

It was 62 years ago today, Sept. 17, 1950, that the Green Bay Packers wore green and gold uniforms for the first time.

They debuted the new look in the season opener at old City Stadium. However, the Packers were routed by the Detroit Lions 45-7 that day.

Before that, the Packers had worn blue and gold, or gold and white uniforms.
It's a nice little "this day in history" story. Too bad it's flat-out wrong.

Although blue and gold were certainly the traditional colors during Curly Lambeau's tenure, they were not exclusive.

Lambeau experimented with green and gold as early as 1935.

For two years, including a World Championship season in 1936, the Packers wore green jerseys with gold raglan sleeves.
Here's a look at those uniforms in action at 1935's training camp in Rhinelander:

And against the Chicago Cardinals on September 13, 1936:

Off-tackle power play (above) gains ground for the Chicago Cardinals against the Green Bay Packers. The Cardinals, wearing light-blue pants and bright-red jerseys, have made a big hole for Al Nichelini, No. 43, their fast ball-carrying back. Harry Field, No. 31, Cardinal tackle, is cutting back toward the center of the line to block the Packers backfield men.
This is one of those things that drove me to start chronicling this stuff in the first place - there's so much bad information out there. Not to unfairly single out the Press-Gazette; even the Packers get their own history wrong (although the team's website does list "Packers introduce green uniforms" under "1950").

So, if you want to confirm things like when the Packers first wore green - try the chronological uniform database. It's not exhaustive (yet), nor is it infallible, but it would have helped avoid this error.

Monday, September 10, 2012

If the Shoe (Color) Fits...

Well, the Packers' 2012 season is underway.

That's about the sum of the good news we can take away from today's miserable performance. Well, that and the fact that some Packer players will still be allowed to wear their traditional black cleats.

Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers reacts during the second half of an NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers Monday, Sept. 10, 2012, in Green Bay, Wis. The 49ers won 30-22. (AP Photo/Mike Roemer)
The Packers have traditionally worn black cleats, from the team's founding until the early 1970s. By 1974, most Packers had switched to the white cleats popularized by Joe Namath in the prior decade. The NFL later introduced a rule requiring all members of the team to wear a designated shoe color, either primarily white or primarily black (with team-color accents), and the Packers remained a pale-cleat team through the 2008 preseason.

For Week 1 in 2008, Aaron Rodgers' first game as a starter, the Pack had a surprise for the fans, racing out of the tunnel in throwback black cleats, and that's been the team's look ever since. Players who stepped outside of the all-black look were financially penalized by the NFL, as Clay Matthews was last season for accenting his throwback uniform with gold cleats.

This year, with Nike taking over the league-wide uniform contract, the NFL has relaxed its shoe rules somewhat, allowing players to choose special Nike cleats in team colors in addition to the team-standard black or white. Greg Jennings wore the new Nike cleats in last January's Pro Bowl, and Donald Driver tweeted a picture of his recently.

San Francisco 49ers' Michael Crabtree (15) gets past Green Bay Packers' Tramon Williams (38) during the second half of an NFL football game Monday, Sept. 10, 2012, in Green Bay, Wis. The 49ers won 30-22. (AP Photo/Mike Roemer)
A closer look shows us Tramon's team-colored cleats, different in design to those tweeted by Donald Driver:

I'm not a huge fan of these green-and-gold cleats (either pattern). Cleats are one of those things I don't like to see emphasized, and I like having one more visual link to Lombardi's original Packer design. I'm just glad that the green-and-gold cleats are optional and not yet mandatory.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Not Quite Ruby Slippers, but...

A few days ago, wide receiver Donald Driver posted this on his Twitter account:

The cleats themselves appear very similar to those unveiled earlier in the year with a swoosh change from white to gold:

If the "custom made" part refers to design, it would seem to be Driver's number on the inside and his name on the back of the tongue.

"Quickie" refers to the title character (and authorial avatar) in his children's book "Quickie Makes the Team" and its two sequels.

Driver's teammate Greg Jennings wore these Nike cleats in the Pro Bowl earlier this year:

New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis (24), of the AFC, breaks up a pass intended for Green Bay Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings (85), of the NFC, during the second quarter of the NFL Pro Bowl football game, Sunday, Jan. 29, 2012, in Honolulu. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia)
In previous years, teams had to choose either white cleats or black for the entire team, which could then be accented in team colors (the Packers switched from white to black to inaugurate the Aaron Rodgers era). I don't know where these new team-colored cleats fit in, if the entire team will be required to wear them or if they will supplement the team's base color. We'll know soon enough.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Number *Three* in Your Programs?

Continuing our series on the Press-Gazette's photo gallery from Training Camp in 1962.

From left, guard Jerry Kramer (64), kicker Ben Agajanian (3), quarterback Bart Starr (15) and fullback Jim Taylor go through drills as training camp begins on the practice field across from new City Stadium in mid-July 1962. Press-Gazette archives
Number 3 was retired for Tony Canadeo in 1952. So what is it doing on the practice field ten years later?

Canadeo should need no introduction. A ninth-round pick out of Gonzaga, his prematurely-gray hair earned him the nickname "The Gray Ghost." He played for the Packers from 1941-44 and again from 1946-52, spending the 1945 season in the Army. He was the first Packer (and third NFL player overall) to rush for 1000 yards in a season.

Canadeo retired after the final game of the 1952 season, where his number became the second to be retired by the Packers (Don Hutson's #14 had been taken out of circulation the year before). He immediately moved to the broadcast booth, broadcasting Packer games on television before joining the Packers' Board of Directors in 1958. The following year, he was elevated to the Executive Committee, which is where he was on November 18, 1961.

On that day, Vince Lombardi signed kicker Ben Agajanian to take over placekicking duties to replace Paul Horning, recently inducted into the Army. Known as "The Toeless Wonder" after having lost four toes on his kicking foot in an elevator while at the University of New Mexico, Agajanian had been in the league since 1945.

Green Bay Packers kicker Ben Agajanian (3) practices as training camp begins on the practice field across from new City Stadium in mid-July 1962. Press-Gazette archives
Agajanian had worn number 3 since college, and when he reported to Green Bay Lombardi issued it to him. Canadeo later told the Milwaukee Journal:
"Vince and I were good buddies. but Vince didn't give a damn. If Ben wanted No. 3, he could have it."
Later, Canadeo indicated that Lombardi might not have realized that the number had been retired, noting that he "hadn't told (Lombardi) anything" when Agajanian was given it.

It was truly a different era, a time before old highlights on television and mass-produced media guides, before retired numbers were proudly displayed under the main scoreboard. It seems plausible that Lombardi might not have realized that the number had been retired at all.

As inconceivable as it is that the Packers would re-issue #15 or #92 (or even #4) to an incoming player today, it did happen back then (more than once, even—but that's a story for another day).

Saturday, September 1, 2012

1962 Training Camp Gallery - Pads

In a previous post, we saw this photograph of a player wearing a unique set of pads at training camp in 1962.

Green Bay Packers rookie receiver Oscar Donahue (89) goes through a drilll as training camp begins on the team's practice field across the street from new City Stadium in mid-July 1962. Coach Vince Lombardi watches at right. Press-Gazette archives
From the front, the pads look like aprons.

Green Bay Packers halfback Tom Moore (25) is pursued by linebacker Dan Currie (58) and defensive end Bill Quinlan (83) during the team's first full scrimmage on the team's practice field across the street from new City Stadium on July 21, 1962.Press-Gazette archives
They appear to have been very common at Training Camp in '62.
Green Bay Packers center-linebacker Ken Iman (53) reaches out to tackle running back Paul Dudley (21) during a drill as training camp begins on the practice field across from new City Stadium in mid-July 1962. Press-Gazette archives
We've seen other unique pads; these screencaps from other years show players wrapped in what appears to be multiple baseball catcher's chest protectors.

Safety first, gentlemen.