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Teammates Welcome McKenzie Back


If there was any resentment towards Mike McKenzie in the Packers locker room over the past several weeks, you would never know it Wednesday as the family was back together again.

McKenzie, the team's incumbent starting left cornerback before his extended absence, ended his holdout and reported to Green Bay Wednesday morning. By mid-afternoon, the cornerback was back on the practice field with his teammates, trying to get up to speed in defensive coordinator Bob Slowik's new defensive scheme.

Following the practice, everyone in the Lambeau Field locker room was glad that their teammate was back in the fold, and was looking forward to seeing him out on the field as soon as possible.

Al Harris, who teamed with McKenzie to form one of the top cornerback tandems in the league in 2003, was especially happy to see the man in the neighboring locker back with the team.

"I'm very happy Mike's back," said Harris. "Hopefully everything got worked out, but he's back and all that matters. Now we're trying to move forward."

Harris reported that McKenzie looked good in his first workout with the team of the season, and he thinks his presence will only add to the defense that held the Carolina Panthers to 14 points in the season opener.

"He looked good; he looked like he's been working out and he's ready to play," Harris said. "We're going to be the same defense; we're just going to add our other starting corner."

Brett Favre was glad to see his teammate back with the team as well.

"I think everyone welcomed Mike back with open arms," said the quarterback. "We need him. He's an important part of our defense and an important part of our team, and it's good to have him back."

Favre was one of the more outspoken players on the team regarding McKenzie's absence during training camp, and the Favre sought out the cornerback early Wednesday to clear any misunderstanding there may have been on his part.

"We talked about that briefly - I brought it up," Favre said. "I've always been supportive of Mike. I told him that I thought he should have been here because he was under contract, and I still feel the same way now that he's in. I'm glad he's in, but I wish he would have been in at the start of camp. I wanted him to know that I have no hard feelings toward him, I just thought he should have been here."

Other members of the offense were happy to see one of the men who can help get them ball back, as McKenzie led the team with four interceptions a season ago.

"Mike's one of the best corners in this league," said center Mike Flanagan. "If he comes in and plays and helps us win, that's all that matters."

Guard Mike Wahle echoed the sentiments of his fellow lineman.

"He's a part of our family, and we're excited to have him back," Wahle said. "This is a pretty tough business to be in. That's the reality of it. Things like this tend to happen from time to time. It's not really my concern, or anyone else's really, except for Mike's."

As far as McKenzie's immediate potential impact on the field, Slowik was impressed with the defensive back's showing in practice, given the amount of time he had been away from the football field.

"It takes a little bit of time to knock the rust off, get a little bit of timing back and things of that nature," Slowik said. "He's played the game for a long time and doesn't look at this stage that he lost a whole lot. It looked like he fit right in with the mix."

The coordinator was taking a wait-and-see approach on getting McKenzie back on the field for Sunday against Chicago, however.

"The way we're approaching it is to act as if we just picked this guy up and we have to play him on Sunday, and if he's not ready, then we've just accelerated his learning for the process for when he is ready to play," said Slowik. "We're approaching it as if we're trying to get him ready to play today or tomorrow, and we'll just go from there and see how things work out at the end of the week."

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