Since the 2003 football season ended, Green Bay Packers cornerback Mike McKenzie has made trade demands through his agent and boycotted the team's offseason mini-camps.
Yet GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman made it clear Thursday, that if the sixth-year veteran wants to reconsider his stance, there's still a home for him in Green Bay.
"He's played good football here," Sherman said of McKenzie, after the Packers closed their June mini-camp. "He's never been late for a meeting and he's made a lot of great plays for us. It's unfortunate when we get into these situations, people say things through different parties that aren't always communicated directly and so things get skewed a little bit.
"But my hope is that Mike comes back to (training camp). Now, that's my hope. He's under contract with the Packers. And that's my goal -- to get him back into camp."
How realistic it is that Sherman can meet that goal, probably only McKenzie knows for sure.
At the center of McKenzie's complaints is his existing contract, which doesn't expire until after the 2006 season. McKenzie, reportedly, would like the Packers to sweeten the deal; the Packers, obviously, believe the 28-year-old should play out the contract as it reads.
But if Sherman is understandably disappointed by McKenzie's absence over the past few months, he also seems willing to separate the professional from the personal.
"I've never had a problem with Mike previous to his non-commitment to these last two mini-camps," Sherman said. "I'm hopeful that things can be resolved. But when money is a factor, things change and things get distorted sometimes.
"I've always said that money can screw things up a little bit, and in this situation it probably has. But Mike's a good guy. I hope I get him back."
Couch No Closer
Although not yet officially released by the Browns, quarterback Tim Couch appears to finally be on his way out of Cleveland.
But that doesn't necessarily mean he's on the fast track to Green Bay, even though the Packers and Couch have gone in and out of contract negotiations over the past two months.
"Now that he is on the market, there's less hoops to jump through," Sherman said, referring to the fact that the Packers wouldn't have to agree to a contract with Couch and to a trade with the Browns to acquire their first overall pick of the 1999 NFL Draft.
"Now there's just (Couch) and us," Sherman said. "So, in that way it's easier. But obviously there may be more competition for his services."
The Packers have reportedly been trying to get Couch to sign a two-year deal to be a backup and potential successor to Brett Favre. But if a deal can't be struck with Couch, Sherman seems open to the idea of sticking with Doug Pederson and Craig Nall.
"I was very pleased with our quarterbacks in this camp," Sherman said. "We'll just have to see what happens."
As the 2003 season came to a close, 11-year veteran Pederson wasn't sure if he'd see another season in the NFL, never mind in Green Bay.
But even amidst the Couch rumors, he's starting to feel more confident now.
"In the bottom of my heart, I feel like I'm going to be here," Pederson said Thursday. "Yeah, there's a chance we could bring a guy like Tim in here. And if he can help the Packers win football games, great. More power to him.
"If that works out, then it works out. I'm going back home. I've got six weeks to prepare for camp, and I fully anticipate being back here, ready and competing for a spot."
Even if Pederson doesn't win the No. 2 job, there's a good chance he could stick as the No. 3 quarterback.
Not only does Pederson have a vast understanding of the Packers' offense, he's also been Ryan Longwell's holder for the past three seasons. And that by itself is reason enough to have confidence.
"Every year's the same, and that's why I don't worry about it too much," said Pederson, who has played with four different teams over his career. "If I worry about all that stuff, man, my hair's going to be even more gray.
"I can't worry about it. At 36, if it happens and I'm not here, then I move on to the second phase of my life."