On the sidelines with Rich
By Rich Palzewic
GREEN BAY – What a difference a year makes.
Having gone through the COVID-19 pandemic in full force in 2020, attending the Green Bay Packers/New York Jets preseason game Saturday, Aug. 21, at Lambeau Field as a member of the photography media for The Press Times was extra special.
Gone were the COVID-19 pregame checks, masks (for the most part) and empty seats.
In short, it was awesome to see the stands full of smiling people, hear noise and see the crowd doing the wave.
Combine it all, and it resembled normalcy.
Having received credentials about a week before the game, like normal, I entered the stadium about an hour before kickoff.
Like in years past, I picked up my ugly brown NFL vest and made my way through the players’ tunnel onto the field.
The only locations you can’t snap pictures from are behind the teams’ benches.
You can pass through to get to another spot, but that’s it.
With this being the 25th game I’ve attended since the 2017 season, I’ve come to learn my favorite places to shoot from.
I often head to the end zones to get the best photos.
As a hack photographer, the end zones are also the spots where you have the most room and don’t have to worry about crowding into someone else’s space.
I was disappointed photographers couldn’t rush the field after the game, but I understood the reasoning under the circumstances.
Hopefully, later this season we’ll be able to do that, or at the very least, next season.
It was a hot one, with temperatures in the mid-80s with high humidity.
Luckily, besides a brief, two-minute downpour during the first half, the rain stayed away.
It was a special game for area football fans because 2015 Ashwaubenon graduate James Morgan, a backup quarterback for the Jets, and Cole Van Lanen, a 2016 Bay Port graduate and offensive lineman for the Packers, were participating in the game.
With it being preseason, I expected to see both of them earlier in the game, but that wasn’t the case.
Morgan was only 1-for-3 passing for five yards.
He mostly handed the ball off because the Jets were ahead when he entered the game and milking the clock.
Van Lanen entered in the second half as well.
The Packers sat out 31 starters for the game, so most of the names announced over the PA system were ones you hadn’t heard before.
Nonetheless, I was happy to be there sweating, snapping pictures, moving around and being in the presence of Lambeau Field.
Also this year, The Press Times invested in a new camera lens.
I don’t claim to know much about photography, but I do know it’s a much better piece of equipment than the one I used in the past.
If I was to guess, I’d say the new lens is 10 times better.
I’m able to zoom in from further away, and the pictures aren’t nearly as blurry.
As for the action, it was ho-hum, so I focused on getting as many shots as possible.
Luckily, for Morgan and Van Lanen, that included plenty of photos of them.
I stayed on the Jets sideline the entire game.
I like to do that and stay away from the hustle and bustle of the Green Bay sideline.
At halftime, I went inside Lambeau Field to drink some water, eat some food and gather myself.
On the way down back to the field, I passed Za’Darius Smith and one other player I didn’t recognize coming up the stairs as I was going down.
We exchanged pleasantries for exactly one second and went our separate ways.
I recently read a report that Smith practiced Aug. 16, but that’s the only time so far this season.
He’s out with a back injury, and his status for the opener against the New Orleans Saints Sept. 12 is in doubt.
The second half was spent doing much the same – moving up and down the sideline, taking in the action and searching for that next best shot.
It’s difficult at training camp to get quality photos because the media is restricted to shooting only during specific times.
Over the years, some of my best pictures aren’t action shots – they’re of insignificant incidents that occur randomly during the game.
One of my favorites from this game is catching a Jets player grabbing a glass of Gatorade.
After saying “adios” to my favorite brown vest for another game, I was on my way back to Lot 9 where I had parked.
It was another successful day at Lambeau Field, and I’m excited to go back again soon.
Oh, how I’ve missed you.
I hope you enjoy a few more photos from the game in this week’s edition of The Press Times.
There are plenty more to view on our Facebook page, so be sure to enjoy those and share if you feel appropriate and inclined to do so.