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posted 03/14/2003

The offseason is a great time to catch up on questions submitted to Ask Packers.com.

In this edition we cover topics ranging from NFL scheduling, to actor Matthew McConaughey (or his father, to be exact), to why Packers.com doesn't include photos of cheerleaders.

With the addition of the Houston Texans last year, schedule irregularities were to be a thing of the past. Every team would visit every other team's home stadium once every eight years. According to next year's schedule that is not the case with our visit to Tampa Bay again. Why is the NFL not holding true to their word? -- Nick (Mauston, WI)

Several people asked questions regarding this topic, and the truth is that the Packers could potentially play at Tampa for a third straight time in 2004. But the NFL is holding to its word, it's just somewhat confusing to understand.

Here's how it works: Every year 14 of the 16 games are predetermined. Six games are reserved for divisional opponents, which in the Packers' case is the NFC North. The other eight games operate on the rotating schedule mentioned, which over the course of eight seasons allows each NFL team to meet once at home and once on the road.

Those eight games are split in half, with four opponents coming from another division within the conference (NFC), and four opponents coming from a division in the other conference (AFC). It was this rotation that had the Packers face NFC South teams Atlanta and Carolina at home and New Orleans and Tampa Bay on the road last season. The second half of that rotation plays out in 2005 (Packers host New Orleans and Tampa Bay, face Atlanta and Carolina on the road).

The reason that the Packers have to play at Tampa again in 2003 stems from the remaining two games, which are scheduled based upon a team's finish in the standings the previous season. In 2003 and 2004 the Packers are scheduled to play on the road against the NFC South team that finishes in the same place within its division the prior year.

In 2002, the Packers and the Buccaneers each won their division, so the Packers play at Tampa Bay in 2003. If in 2003 the Packers and the Bucs again win their divisions (or both finish second, third or fourth), the Packers will again hit the road to play Tampa.

Before you complain that the system is unfair, know that eventually it balances out. In 2006 and 2007, for example, the Packers get to host the NFC South team of identical divisional finish. Could be Tampa both times, who knows?

Why are we told continually that the Miami Dolphins are the only undefeated NFL team? Didn't the 1929 champion Packers go undefeated? -- Graeme (Washington, D.C.)

True, the 1929 Packers team went without a loss, but they also finished in a 0-0 tie with the Frankford Yellowjackets (Nov. 28). Also, the Packers played only 13 games that season, compared to when Miami went 14-0 in 1972. Also of note for you trivia buffs, at the end of the 1929 season, the Packers lost a non-league (non-counting) contest to the Memphis Tigers, 16-6 (Dec. 15).

Which player in Packers history played with the team the longest? -- Paul (St. James, MN)

Bart Starr leads the way with 16 seasons in a Packers uniform, 1956-71. Ray Nitschke is second with 15 (1958-72), Forrest Gregg is third with 14 (1956, 1958-70).

This is actually a comment about the weekly Trivia Challenge question. The question was: "Who was the last Packers running back to lead the team in rushing three consecutive seasons?" The answer reported as correct was Edgar Bennett. However, I believe Dorsey Levens led the team during three consecutive seasons ('97-'99). Please tell me if I am correct in this. I will be disappointed to hear that the staff of Packers.com couldn't get a question like that correct, but I will also eat my words if I am proven wrong. Thanks. -- Dustin (Terre Haute, IN)

Dustin, I hope you're hungry. You are correct that Dorsey Levens led the Packers in rushing in 1997 (1,435) and 1999 (1,034). But in 1998 Levens missed all of training camp as a contract holdout and then suffered an ankle injury that left him active for only seven games. As a result, Levens had 115 carries for 378 yards. Darick Holmes led the Packers with 93 carries for 386 yards.

On a trip to Green Bay in December for the Buffalo game, I was told by several Green Bay people that the Packers practice indoors (Don Hutson Center) all week for home games. Is this true, and why? -- William (Mobile, AL)

The information you received is correct, for the most part. In the late winter months, the Packers often practice inside the Don Huston Center, but not always. Walkthrough practices the day before a game are held outside on Lambeau Field, for example, and the Packers had more than a few particularly chilly practices outside on Ray Nitschke Field last season, too.

As to why they don't practice outside all the time, there are two factors. First, you need only think of what the Lambeau Field turf looks like after a winter game and then imagine what a field would look like after a week's worth of use. Quite simply, the Packers' outdoor practice fields couldn't hold up to a day-in, day-out pounding. That leads us to the second factor, which is that playing on a hard, chewed-up field only increases the risk of injury.

Of course, Coach Sherman likes the Packers to be conditioned to the cold for a competitive edge, but that's achieved just by living in the frigid temps. At some point practicing outside every day would be detrimental for the Packers both physically and mentally (Brett Favre often reminds that Packers players get just as cold as the visiting team, they're just not as shocked by it. That from a guy with a tremendous record of success in the freezing temps.).

One thing the Packers did in January that they might do more of in the future is to practice in the Don Hutson Center with all of the doors open to let in the outside air. That allows the best of both worlds: a chance to get conditioned to the cold, while not elevating the risk for injury that comes with playing on a choppy, frozen surface.

Also, don't forget that the Packers aren't just running the same plays over and over again in practice all year long. With each game comes new schemes, new things to teach and to learn. If players are simply focused on trying to stay warm, or trying to avoid injury, it's hard to focus on the new material being taught by the coaching staff.

Another advantage of the Hutson Center is that the Packers can blast crowd noise through the stereo system to prepare for hostile road environments.

Many websites claim that the actor Matthew McConaughey's father James (Jim) McConaughey played for the Green Bay Packers. Most websites say he played in 1967-1968, although another says he was drafted by the Packers in 1953 from the University of Houston. Then Matthew himself said on David Letterman that his father played for the University of Kentucky under Paul Bear Bryant. Can you give me the real facts? - Ken (Lexington, KY)

Deciphering this puzzle is pretty difficult. Even as recently as the 1980s, records and statistics of transactions aren't as detailed as today. That said, the Packers did in fact draft James (Jim) McConaughey out of the University of Houston in 1953.

According to the University of Houston, McConaughey was a two-year letterwinner there in 1951-52. Paul Bear Bryant coached at the University of Kentucky from 1950-53, so the only season McConaughey could have played for Kentucky under Bryant was 1950. Although it's possible he was in the program, McConaughey didn't earn a letter at Kentucky.

As for his professional career, after being drafted by the Packers as an end in the 27th round in 1953 (319th overall pick), McConaughey failed to see action in either a regular season or playoff game. Thus, he is not listed in the Packers' all-time roster, nor is he listed by the Elias Sports Bureau as playing for any other team.

Preseason records are thin in the early 1950s, but it is entirely possible that McConaughey played for the Packers in a preseason game and was cut before the regular season. Records are comparatively plentiful in the late 1960s, however, and there is no indication that McConaughey was ever on the roster in 1967-68.

In short, to say whether James (Jim) McConaughey played for the Packers depends on your definition of "played for."

I've noticed for a while now that Packers.com doesn't have a cheerleader section. I know that they exist because I've seen them on TV. I'd just like to know if there are any plans to put cheerleaders on the website. Thank you very much. -- Kevin (Superior, WI)

No, there are no plans to put pictures of cheerleaders on the website. Why? Because the Packers don't have official cheerleaders. The cheerleaders you see on game days are either from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay or St. Norbert College.

I know that the Packers currently use a college cheerleading squad, but a friend of mine insists that they had a dedicated squad of their own a few years back. Is this true? And when was it discontinued? - Chris (Milwaukee, WI)

Yes, the Green Bay Packers once had official cheerleaders, but after the 1988 season the decision was made not to reinstate them. While some Packers fans supported the official cheerleaders, many were opposed or indifferent, at best.

Helping the Packers make the decision to discontinue the program was a television news poll in which fans were generally split over whether they wanted the program to continue.

Then the Packers' executive vice president of administration, Bob Harlan was quoted in an official release Feb. 7, 1989, saying: "In general terms, the poll disclosed there were as many fans who expressed opposition to the return of the cheerleaders as there were those in favor of restoring them. On that basis, we felt the appropriate decision at this time would be to continue without them."

Now the president and CEO of the Packers, Harlan says there are no plans to return to official cheerleaders.

In the previous edition of Packers.com Answers, we couldn't come through for Jason from Green Bay, who asked: "I need to know the title and artist to that song before the start of the games. It goes like "oh oh oh oh oh...oh oh oh oh...oh...oh oh oh oh oh."

Packers.com couldn't name that tune, but several readers identified the song as Zombie Nation, by Kernkraft 400.