NFL\'s Green Bay Packers Have Respect For Uniform Tradition, But Respect Nike, Too

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NFL's Green Bay Packers have respect for uniform tradition, but respect Nike, too

Print Email >Allan Brettman | The Oregonian/OregonLive By Allan Brettman | The Oregonian/OregonLive The Oregonian

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on April 05, 2012 at 5:10 PM, updated April 06, 2012 at 11:50 AM

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packers.jpgView full sizeAllan Brettman / The OregonianA mannequin stands in for Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, one of the 32 models outfitted with Nike-designed NFL uniforms at event held Tuesday in Brooklyn. Rodgers' jersey is the top seller in the league.

Tradition trumped trendy for the Green Bay Packers when Nike came calling with the company's structurally altered football uniforms.

But that doesn't mean the publicly owned franchise, founded in 1919, will not one day adopt Nike-suggested changes, a Packers spokesman said today.

"We've had that basic look for decades and we're going to maintain that look in honor of the tradition and history of the uniform," said Aaron Popkey, Packers director of public affairs.

finley.jpgView full sizeAllan Brettman / The OregonianChange the venerable Green Bay Packers uniform? 'No doubt,' says tight end Jermichael Finley.

"But we're open-minded and we're looking forward to working with Nike in the future on technologies they develop with the NFL."

The Packers were one of five teams -- with the Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, Oakland Raiders and Philadelphia Eagles – that declined any of Nike's innovations.

Raiders' spokesman Mike Taylor said, "Our owner has previously stated you have the Yankee pinstripes, you have the (Raiders') silver and black and you have the Dodger blue. I'll just leave it at that."

Spokespeople for the other three teams could not be reached.

As the league's uniform and on-field apparel supplier, Nike worked with the NFL's 32 teams to incorporate structural changes into the team's existing uniforms. Only the Seattle Seahawks chose to undergo a uniform makeover, a rarity in the league that allows a team to do so only once every five years. With its five-year contract with the NFL, Nike succeeds Adidas AG-owned Reebok, which held the contract for 10 seasons.

Top-selling NFL player jerseys 1 Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers 2 Tim Tebow, Denver Broncos 3 Eli Manning, New York Giants 4 Tom Brady, New England Patriots 5 Troy Polamalu, Pittsburgh Steelers 6 Victor Cruz, New York Giants 7 Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints 8 Clay Matthews, Green Bay Packers 9 Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles 10 Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys 11 Miles Austin, Dallas Cowboys 12 Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots 13 Patrick Willis, San Francisco 49ers 14 Wes Welker, New England Patriots 15 Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys 16 Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys 17 Ray Lewis, Baltimore Ravens 18 Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts 19 Brian Urlacher, Chicago Bears 20 Darren McFadden, Oakland Raiders 21 Jason Pierre-Paul, New York Giants 22 Mark Sanchez, New York Jets 23 Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers 24 Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers 25 Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens

Nike is among seven apparel partners, along with New Era Cap Co. and Under Armour Inc., the NFL chose in 2010. Nike's deal started Sunday; jerseys go on sale on-line April 15 and at stores on April 26.

(Neither the league nor the Packers have an official supplier for Cheesehead and Cheesehead-related products. Because neither the Packers nor NFL logo is incorporated into the Cheesehead designs, the predominant producer of Cheeseheads and Cheesehead-related products, Foamation, Inc., of Wisconsin, does not need a license with the team or the league, Popkey said.)

Packers jerseys are the third top sellers in the league behind the Pittsburgh Steelers and the first-place New York Giants. The jersey of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is the league's top seller. The NFL does not disclose unit sales.

With tweaks here and there, the Packers' forest green, yellow and white color scheme has remained consistent since 1959, according to the team's media guide. The jersey introduced Tuesday at a Nike event in Brooklyn appears to be virtually identical to the jerseys Nike produced for the Packers in the last year before Reebok took over the contract.

The home jersey worn on Tuesday by Packers tight end Jermichael Finley -- the team's representative at the Nike event -- had a torso with mesh fabric and shoulders of solid fabric, just like the olden Nike days.

The new "Nike Elite 51 Uniform," whose features were adopted either entirely or in part by the league's other 27 teams, includes a jersey with panels of fabric "zoned mesh ventilation" and stretch twill numbers.

(For anyone who thinks that "51" is an homage to the greatest football player to ever wear the number -- the Chicago Bears' Dick Butkus -- it is not. It is an homage for the Nike figure for whom there may never be enough homages: Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman, who made his international name as a track coach but played football at the University of Oregon where he wore No. 51. He also coached football at Medford High School.)

The "Elite" jersey also includes Nike's "flywire technology," a structural support the company introduced four years ago in its Summer Olympics rollout of running shoes. In the jersey, flywire is sewn into the collar for what the company says is lighter and a better fit that previous jersey collars.

Finley's jersey did not have flywire. The former University of Texas standout said on Tuesday he would have liked to have seen that and other Nike features built into the uniform.

"We all know the Packers," said Finley, who signed a new two-year contract with the team in February, reportedly worth nearly $15 million. "The Packers don't change things too often. So, I don't see things changing.

"But as a player, I'd love to see it. No doubt. It's not a fashion statement. The whole league is doing it, so why not switch it up and let's get on the same bandwagon?"

Finley spoke while standing in a high-ceiling room where Nike, minutes earlier, introduced the league's 32 uniforms. He was flanked on his left by LeGarrette Blount of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and on his right by Justin Blalock of the Atlanta Falcons.

Still, Finley said he was pleased with the slight alterations Nike had made to the fit of the new jersey.

"You look good, you play good," Finley said. "Nike and the NFL have put together a nice feel for us."

Top 10 NFL team jersey sales 1. New York Giants 2. Pittsburgh Steelers 3. Green Bay Packers 4. New England Patriots 5. Dallas Cowboys 6. Chicago Bears 7. San Francisco 49ers 8. New Orleans Saints 9. Denver Broncos 10. Philadelphia Eagles

And if football uniform purists are agog that Finley would suggest altering the Packers' look, his tradition-tweaking didn't stop there. The former Texas Longhorn said the school's untouchable uniform could use some improvement.

"Real simple, just like this," Finley said, with a sigh, of the Texas uniform. "Straight white and orange."

So, change it up?

"No doubt. Not change their colors, but put a stripe that goes into the pants," he said, pointing to the side of his jersey. "Something like that. Spruce it up a little."

And like every player interviewed on Tuesday, Finley was very familiar and very approving of the look of the Oregon Ducks.

"The Ducks got a nice little thing going. They always look fresh."

-- Allan Brettman; twitter.com/abrettman

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