|Packers exec Harlan delays retirement as successor takes leave|
|Written by Admin|
|Saturday, 26 May 2007 13:38|
The Packers announced Saturday that Jones is taking an indefinite leave of absence from the team because of ``management concerns.''
In a hastily arranged news conference, Packers executive committee member Peter Platten said he could not provide specifics about the nature of the concerns.
``But I will tell you that they did not involve personal conduct or ethical violations,'' Platten said.
It was not clear whether the concerns are related to Jones' recent health problems, although Jones seemed to hint at that in a statement issued by the team.
``It's been a very difficult year but also a wonderful year in many respects,'' Jones said. ``I need to step back and recharge my batteries.''
Jones had open-heart surgery in June 2006, but has appeared to be in good health in recent months. He represented the Packers at NFL meetings in Nashville earlier this week.
Jones was not present at the news conference on Saturday.
``The issues have been discussed in detail with John,'' Platten said. ``Ultimately, it was mutually decided it would be beneficial for John to take a leave of absence while the executive committee continues our evaluation and considers the next steps.''
Platten was unwilling to discuss any concerns the team's leaders might have about Jones' health.
``I'm not going to talk about health concerns,'' Platten said. ``I can't. OK?''
Jones' surgery last year came less than two years after Mark Hatley, the Green Bay Packers' vice president of football operations, died at his home July 28, 2004, of a heart attack at the age of 54.
Asked about Jones' statement, Platten said, ``Those are his words. It's just not appropriate for the Green Bay Packers to comment on them.
Platten said the team was ``constrained by certain legal parameters of what we can say about that situation.''
He said Jones will be paid during his leave of absence, and he hoped the issue would be ``fully resolved'' within a year.
Harlan, who was on the verge of retirement after 18 seasons as the team's top executive, now will remain in place indefinitely. Harlan was supposed to have stepped down as chairman and CEO this week, but remain with the team as chairman emeritus.
Harlan said the team has informed NFL commissioner Roger Goodell about the situation, and sought to reassure Packers fans the team is well prepared to move forward.
``We're going to fight to keep this organization among the elite organizations in the National Football League, and I'm very comfortable that we're going to get that accomplished,'' Harlan said.
Harlan, who earlier this week became emotional as he contemplated the end of his tenure, said he didn't have any second thoughts about abruptly putting off retirement.
``I was adjusting myself to change the way I was going to live,'' Harlan said. ``But as the executive committee knows, I would do anything for this organization. I didn't think an extra second when they asked me if I would come back and do this. I'm honored to do it.''
Both Harlan and Platten said their management concerns about Jones have been apparent for months, but they were hoping the issues would be worked out in time for Jones to take over for Harlan.
``Management issues came to light several months ago, but when you consider how much John has done for the organization already, we were hoping that they would subside enough to that he could take the title,'' Platten said. ``They did not, so we felt it was in the mutual interests for John and for us for him to take the leave.''
Harlan picked Jones, a journalist for 13 years before joining the league and becoming an administrator for the NFL's management council, to become his eventual successor in 1999. Harlan said he didn't have any concerns about Jones' character.
``No, not at all,'' Harlan said. ``This is a management situation. I was the one that brought John Jones in here eight years ago to be my successor, and I told him that when I hired him.''
Harlan said he and the team are not beginning to look at other potential candidates to become his successor.
``We haven't even started a conversation like that,'' Harlan said. ``This is something that we're just dealing with now.''