Here are the opening remarks from Chairman/CEO Jeffrey Lurie's State of the Team Address which was given Thursday night at Lincoln Financial Field prior to the game against the Jets ...
"We are, as you all know, entering the second year of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. And really, the first offseason that was part of the Collective Bargaining Agreement in a normal schedule sense. By all accounts, the NFL is incredibly strong. The popularity of this sport—over 182 million fans, broadcast ratings through the charts; best ever, coming out of a lockout, incredible interest throughout the products of the NFL, such that you’re going to see… there’s so much success, but the thing that I think makes the NFL really successful is it doesn’t take the success for granted.
"This year, we’re going to have increased access to games with increased primetime NFL games, and more ways to engage the NFL as the NFL embraces social media in a huge way. NASCAR is by far the second most successful sport in America today, but if you take all the other sports and multiply it times four, you still don’t get to the ratings of the NFL. Myself, I told you that I thought the key to the Collective Bargaining Agreement was that we make sure that every game is critical. That separates the sport. And the other thing that absolutely separates the sport is the fact that small markets, medium markets and large markets have an equal opportunity to win. It doesn’t sound like a very complicated formula, but it’s the formula that drives its success.
"We know it’s a great sport. But if you know going in that you’re only going to have four or five markets that have a much better chance, it changes the whole dynamic. And it allows people from every market to feel that every game is important the way we have it. I am very thankful that we were able to maintain that formula going forward.
"Another thing that’s happening, I think, is we had a wave of new stadiums. And there’s been a lot of investment in the new stadiums. And I’m really pleased to be able to say that two great franchises are going to have new stadiums in the 49ers—the first in California in, I think, over 50 years—and the Vikings. (It is) very important for the league for stability and for fan bases that are great. Minnesota and San Francisco (have) wonderful fan bases and wonderful traditions, like the Eagles. And they’re going to have state of the art stadiums as well now.
"I think also, lastly, with the NFL, it’s taking on in a great way, serious issues with safety and improved on-field monitoring and long-term counseling and teaching apparatus that goes from youth football all the way through the pros. So it bodes well.
"I think, in terms of this offseason, it came after a very aggressive free agency in 2011 that has, I think been, really outstanding, with 5 very key players—four through free agency and one through trade. Obviously talking about
"I think that this offseason was more about signing our excellent young core of players. Terrific young players, and players that have contributed really terrifically over the last several years. I’m very pleased that we were able to do that. I myself usually don’t even comment on drafts because I don’t think you can really know for two or three years. But I’ve never been more excited about a Draft than this past Draft. And even more so because of some of the undrafted and late drafted players who really have a chance to be special players. I think that the popularity of the team is a credit to our fan base.
"I almost never get up here and say ‘It’s another sold out season’. It’s just an obvious thing. Our fan base is spectacular. We have some of the strongest television ratings in the National Football League. Our preseason game against New England rated higher than the Olympics in Philadelphia. Amazing. And if you take the top 25 programs nationally, in the whole country, the Eagles played in three of those games. When the Eagles play, fifty percent of Philadelphia is watching. And that’s remarkable.
"We talk a lot about the fan base and how great it is, but we have one of those lucky franchises that has a great tradition; a great history in certain ways, with a lot of opportunity to be better. And it’s reflected in that popularity. It just doesn’t wane, it gets stronger. We’re trying to connect with our fan base in ever-increasing ways. One kind of crazy statistic is that we haven’t even launched the Angry Birds game yet, there have just been some trailers and things on it. YouTube has had 900,000 views of the Angry Birds (trailer) once that announcement was made. Off the charts. I’m looking forward to tributes to our great players like Steve Van Buren and Brian Dawkins.
"And another measurement of the team and the state of the team is your websites and your apps and what do fans want, and consistently our apps and our websites are of the most popular tier in the NFL by far. And it’s, again, a credit to our fans. It all goes back to them.
"I think that there is an attempt to try to be more accessible. I’ve tried to be a little more accessible in the offseason. It’s my philosophy that you should try as an organization to be accessible. It’s not every moment and every personality that you have. You may have an outstanding executive or a great coach or a great owner or under-executive talking at a different time. But you’re going to have an opportunity if you philosophically believe in being accessible, and I do. That’s always been my philosophy. Sometimes it can’t be executed perfectly, but I think there’s a feeling that when you’re talking to fans, you’re talking to the fans via the press, and that’s the way it works. Whether it’s bloggers, newspapers, television, there’s respect there.
"I think giving to the community has continued in a great way. We had over 26,000 fans for our successful Flight Night, which is just remarkable. (I am) still very proud of the Beyond Sport Award, and that rings true of what you can do as an organization. It’s just something to be proud of. The energy project is on time, and once that’s completed, that will make Lincoln Financial Field the greenest facility in the National Football League. So I think those commitments never wane.
"This was an offseason like no other. I think that in many ways, coming off a disappointing season or us with high expectations, we felt even more humbled and even more determined going into both this offseason and the 2012 season. I think that there was a theme that there’s a consistent reminder often that change is all a part of our lives, and we all experience that. Also, there’s a consistent reminder that the Eagles go on no matter what. And you have Steve Van Buren leaving us and you have Brian Dawkins coming home. You have Joe Banner moving on and you have (general manager) Howie (Roseman) and (President) Don (Smolenski) doing outstanding jobs. You have changes in my family, as you know, and of course you have the tragedy in the Reid family. So I have to say, we’re all human, and there’s probably an offseason of a lot of tears and a lot of celebrations.
"Our fans have been incredible supportive throughout this. There’s no better place to own a football team. Fans here both demand excellent football and deserve excellent football, and at the same time, their humanness comes out and their support comes out in phenomenal ways. This is a city that is just galvanized and wants the very best for this franchise. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the support.
"I also want to thank all of (the media). You’ve had to cover some sensitive topics this offseason. Again, I said this is an offseason like no other. And whether it’s involved my family or Andy Reid’s family, the moving on of Joe Banner; whatever it’s been, I think you’ve covered it with sensitivity and integrity. And I’m proud of the way you’ve all handled it. I think it’s a great message to the rest of people handling sports teams around the country with the issues. You’ve handled it really, really well. And yet you’ve focused us all on the season coming up at the same time, in a big, big way.
"I think that when you go through a lot of the changes we have, it kind of makes the games seem even more live and much more important, because it’s what brings everybody together. It allows you to really look forward to something in a really great way. We’re all in this because we love football, but this has been a particularly valuable offseason in the sense that we can’t wait for this to happen. And coming off the disappointment of last season, this is something we’ve been waiting for since December when the team was playing extremely well.
"My expectations, I’ve said it before and I did say it after last season, I expect a substantially improved team. We all thought we were a lot better than 8-8, and we weren’t. Your record tells you what you were. Yeah, we were playing great football at the end. I think what I’ve noticed, and I hope it continues, as we all expect it will into the regular season. (There has been) tremendous energy; tremendous working together. I think it started in the practices in December when our record was poor and we were struggling to make the playoffs and it was a long shot, yet we came close. I think that energy and excitement, and the team just came together has been more noticeable this offseason than almost ever before. So I’m hopefully that will carry over as far as talent and common purpose.
"I think we all know we’ve had a terrific run and he’s been a great coach. This is an opportunity for the football team to have a terrific season. At the same time, I think I’m looking at it in a way where, professionally, we tend to put our resources into everything we can think of to make the team better. And whether that’s scouting changes, coaching changes, player transactions, different approaches and different ways, you always try for that. There’s an added emphasis, I would say this year, out of necessity. Which is I feel responsible to be there personally, as I think we all do, for Andy and for Tammy.
"The team, the organization, the players and our fans; the Philadelphia community have been galvanized to support this family. It’s an unmentionable pain, I think, that they’re going through. It provides a terrific sense of common purpose to have everybody so wanting this to be successful. It’s kind of like Team Andy. We so much want this to work out in a great way, and to maximize the talent we have. We’ll know at the end of the season whether that unity that’s occurred and whether that common purpose that we all share, and that excitement for the season we all share, comes to fruition. But there’s a real opportunity for success.
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