Packers Notebook - McKenzie Makes Case

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Green Bay Packers cornerback Mike McKenzie, who missed the last two games with a case of turf toe, seems to have proven himself ready for Sunday's Wild Card playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks.

Returning to practice Friday, McKenzie impressed GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman with his speed and change of direction as the Packers practiced outdoors on Lambeau Field.

"I thought McKenzie had a very good practice," Sherman said afterward. "He was tested on breaking to the ball and changing direction, had a nice interception for a touchdown.

"I thought he looked good running the football, so I think he'll be fine."

McKenzie has been a regular starter for the Packers since his rookie season of 1999, but was replaced in recent weeks by Michael Hawthorne while he nursed his injured foot.

McKenzie's four interceptions this season are second only to safety Darren Sharper's five, while his 20 passes defensed lead the team.

Splint-Free?

Having ditched the splint protecting his broken thumb for the first time Wednesday, Favre continued to practice without the device Thursday and Friday.

Favre downplayed his splint-free practice earlier in the week saying that it was purely experimental and that he'd re-attach the splint for protection.

But after three splint-less practices, Sherman isn't so sure Favre will return to the device.

"I don't imagine he'll put it on not having practiced with it (this week)," Sherman said Friday. "Today was a good test for him to do it outside in the elements and to see how it felt.

"That's his call, obviously, in regard to the splint. If he feels he can function without it, he will. If he thinks he needs the support, he'll do that. I don't think either way it would matter one bit to him."

Favre broke his thumb against the St. Louis Rams, Oct. 19. Doctors informed Favre that his thumb was healthy enough to go without the splint prior to the San Diego game, Dec. 14, but Favre left it on until Wednesday.

Clubbin'

Starting right guard Mike Wahle and reserve defensive end Chukie Nwokorie are down to one good arm apiece due to injuries sustained in the Packers' regular-season finale, but it appears only Wahle will play Sunday against the Seahawks.

Wahle and Nwokorie broke bones in their left hand and right wrist, respectively, against the Denver Broncos, but Sherman indicated Friday that Nwokorie will be unavailable this weekend.

Wahle, however, will make his 52nd consecutive start -- including playoffs -- with his left hand heavily wrapped in a club-like fashion that allows him to stay in the lineup, while causing some limitations.

"Otherwise I'd wear it every week," Wahle said of the heavy wrap. "You can't grip, but I don't think it'll be too big a deal.

"I'm not trying to make it an issue. The biggest problem is that I have to spend an extra 25 minutes getting (my hand) clubbed up every day. Besides that, I think I should be all right."

Wahle is hardly the first Packers player to suit up with a mummified arm.

In 2001 and 2002, respectively, both left guard Marco Rivera and defensive end Aaron Kampman played with club-like wraps to protect broken hands.

Kampman said this week that the drawbacks of the heavy wrap can be overcome by utilizing the few benefits of the 'club.'

"You just have to learn to use it as a weapon," Kampman said. "You put it in a guy's throat if you need to. You don't let it become a handicap. You get aggressive with it."

According to Rivera, officials inspect the wrap early in the game to ensure that it's satisfactorily padded, but from there the limitations are few.

That's good news to Wahle, who had some of his requests to modify the club shot down.

"They won't let me put a steel plate in it," Wahle said. "I already asked. And they won't let me stick any spikes out the front, but you can kind of jab people with it and try to get them under the chin, things like that. The reality is you'd rather not have it, but what are you going to do?"

Emotionally Charged

Having spent three years in Green Bay as an understudy to Brett Favre, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck knew his adrenaline would be flowing last October when he made his return to Lambeau Field for his team's regular-season meeting with the Packers.

Apparently everyone else knew it, too.

In the days leading up to that Week 5 game, Hasselbeck said this week that he was constantly reminded that he'd have to subdue his emotions in order to succeed.

But after subscribing to that theory in what ended up being a 35-13 regular-season victory for the Packers, Hasselbeck suggested that he wouldn't make the same mistake this time around.

"I did that and it didn't help me," Hasselbeck said of containing his emotions. "I didn't play very well. I was very average. Didn't make any major mistakes, but didn't do anything good either. I think that hurt me."

After an excellent first half in which he completed 12 of 15 attempts for 133 yards, Hasselbeck wasn't as sharp in the second half, going 11-for-24 and 92 yards.

He had no interceptions, but no touchdowns either.

Meanwhile, his former mentor completed 19 of his 25 passes for 185 yards and two touchdowns, posting a 122.9 passer rating that far exceeded Hasselbeck's own 64.6.

"One of the things that I definitely learned form Brett is you have to play with intensity and passion and a fire inside," Hasselbeck said. "You've got to let your emotions drive you a little bit, and I didn't do that the first game.

"I'm just going to go out and treat this like it's any other game and just play hard and play until the whistle blows and hopefully give my team the best chance to win the game. I'm definitely not going to look at this any differently and treat it like I did last time."

Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren, who coached Favre for seven seasons in Green Bay, said this week that he favors emotion out of his quarterbacks, so long as the players don't become overwhelmed by them.

"That's the great thing about football," Holmgren said. "It's not all Xs and Os. Even with the quarterback, although I would qualify that in saying he has to stay kind of above the din, so to speak, and kind of keep thinking and stay cool, inside he's playing the game emotionally, too ... That's one of the thing that makes (Favre and Hasselbeck) great players."

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