With increased injury concerns on defense up front, the Green Bay Packers have re-signed veteran defensive end Keith McKenzie as a free agent, GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman announced Wednesday.
McKenzie, who joined the Packers on the practice field today, takes over the roster spot vacated by the Tuesday release of defensive tackle Jared Tomich.
Sherman also announced the signing of Terdell Sands, a huge (6-7, 340-pound) defensive tackle, to the team's practice squad.
McKenzie's addition will add depth and experience to a recently shorthanded defensive line. Starter Vonnie Holliday has missed the last two games following arthroscopic knee surgery and Cletidus Hunt sat out Sunday's game at Minnesota, also with a knee problem.
Rookie end Aaron Kampman also is now hampered by a broken right hand, an injury incurred during team warm-ups prior to the Vikings contest.
McKenzie, a seventh-year professional originally drafted by the Packers out of Ball State in 1996, helped Green Bay win Super Bowl XXXI that year before signing with the Cleveland Browns as an unrestricted free agent in 2000. His 2001 season later limited to 7 games by an ankle injury, he finished the year on injured reserve.
Again an unrestricted free agent, McKenzie subsequently signed with the Chicago Bears on May 30, 2002. He played in the Bears' first four games, starting in place of Phillip Daniels (ankle) at defensive end in Weeks 2-3-4 and posting 8 tackles over that span. He then was inactive for the Bears' Week 5 Monday night game against the Packers before being released by Chicago October 16.
A seventh-round selection in the '96 NFL draft, McKenzie made an immediate impact as a Packer rookie, proceeding to lead the NFL in preseason sacks with 5.5. He went on to play in 58 games for Green Bay, primarily as a pass rusher, before being signed by Cleveland in 2000 with the lure of an opportunity to become a starter.
The author of 18.5 sacks as a Packer, he subsequently started all 16 games for the Browns that season, posting a career-high 61 tackles and equaling his career best with 8 sacks for the third consecutive season.
McKenzie has been assigned jersey No. 73, Sands No. 78.
Tomich, a fifth-year professional and out of Nebraska and a former New Orleans Saint, had been signed Nov. 7 and played in last weekend's game at Minnesota, posting one solo tackle and forcing a fumble.
Sands, a seventh-round draft selection of the Kansas City Chiefs in 2001, spent the '01 season on the reserve/non-football injury list with a broken hand. He subsequently gained playing experience with the Berlin Thunder of the NFL Europe League before returning to training camp with the Chiefs this year. Waived Sept. 7, he was signed to Kansas City's practice squad Sept. 9 and later terminated Sept. 19. He had been out football since.
In another transaction, the Packers placed running back Najeh Davenport on injured reserve. Davenport, hurt on the opening kickoff of Sunday's Minnesota game, underwent surgery Tuesday for repair of a left eye orbital floor fracture. The move leaves Green Bay with 52 players on the active roster, one below the regular season limit.