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Packers Prepared To Move On Minus McKenzie


Technically, cornerback Mike McKenzie's failure to arrive at the Green Bay Packers' annual post-draft mini-camp isn't a holdout. Not yet.

According to GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman, the mandatory portion of the camp doesn't begin until Friday. Thus McKenzie will not be fined for missing Wednesday's practice, which was for veterans only.

But should McKenzie choose to sit out the entire five-day mini-camp, or even longer, Sherman said it won't be a distraction for his team.

"We plan to win with Mike or win without Mike, either way," Sherman said. "I don't anticipate it to be one bit of a distraction.

"These things happen to a lot of other teams a lot of times. They haven't happened to us many times ... but before I came here we had guys who didn't always come to the mini-camps. So this is not an abnormality. This is something that does happen and you work through it."

McKenzie's absence is presumably related to his recent trade demands, which surfaced less than three weeks ago based on a request submitted to the team by his agent.

Since then, McKenzie himself has never gone public with his complaints, but reports have suggested he's dissatisfied with a number of things, chiefly his existing contract, which he signed in January 2002, but which doesn't expire until after the 2006 season.

Wednesday, many of McKenzie's teammates expressed a desire to see the situation resolved. But, if need be, they seem prepared to move on without him.

"It's an unfortunate situation for his side and for this team, more so for this team," quarterback Brett Favre said. "He is one of the top corners in this league, I'll say that. But when you sign a contract, you sign a contract.

"And we all make a lot of money and sometimes it doesn't seem fair that other guys make more who you know you're better than. But that's the way this business works, and as bad as it may seem at times, it will work itself out ...

"I don't know what (more) the team can do. I think they've done what they're supposed to do ... He obviously is very important to us. But, as we've done in the past, we'll find a way to overcome that."

If McKenzie isn't with the Packers next season, it's unclear who would take his place opposite Al Harris.

The team could look to rookie Ahmad Carroll, who was the 25th player taken in last weekend's NFL Draft. For now, however, fifth-year veteran Michael Hawthorne is working with the starting unit.

Prior to joining the Packers in September 2003, Hawthorne made seven starts in three seasons with the New Orleans Saints. Last season with the Packers, Hawthorne twice started in place of McKenzie -- who was sidelined with turf toe -- and amassed three passes defensed, including two interceptions, plus six tackles in those games.

But even though McKenzie's departure could give him some personal gain, Hawthorne said he hopes to have his teammate return.

"As a teammate, I don't want to see him go," Hawthorne said. "As a friend, it's a business decision for him. It's his decision and friends respect other friends' decisions, as long as it doesn't hurt anyone."

How much McKenzie's absence could hurt the Packers remains to be seen. To a man, the Packers appear to respect his status as one of the league's top defenders. But they also know they must move on.

"There's nothing more valuable than a lockdown corner on the defensive side of the ball," safety Darren Sharper said. "I might throw safety in there because that's what I play. But, really, cornerback, quarterback (and) left tackle are the top positions on the football field ...

"Would we love to have him here? No question about it. And everyone in this locker room feels that way. And if he does come back, we want to accept him with open arms.

"But the fact of the matter is, we have to prepare as if he's not here, because that's how it is in this mini-camp."

How it will be in the future, perhaps only McKenzie knows for sure.

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