As the curtain fell on the Mike McKenzie era in Green Bay Monday with the cornerback being traded to the New Orleans Saints, players who have shared the locker room with him over his five-plus seasons with the Packers wished him well with his new team.
Safety Darren Sharper, the longest-tenured member of the Packers defense, spoke in the locker room about his feelings on the trade.
"We wish Mike the best," Sharper said. "He's done a lot for this organization in the past and we wish him the best of success in New Orleans.
"I just think that for both parties, we can just move on like a separation of marriages. It was one of those ugly divorces, but that happens and that's part of the business and you just hope that both sides move on. Right now, I know that we really need to focus on moving on and moving in a positive direction."
Defensive back Bhawoh Jue echoed Sharper's sentiments a few lockers down when asked about McKenzie's departure.
"He's a good guy and he's a good football player," said Jue. "We have to do what we have to do, and this is what he feels he had to do. I wish him the best."
It was well-known that McKenzie wanted to be traded away from Green Bay, but GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman said that he didn't think the cornerback had been a negative influence in the locker room after returning to the team three weeks ago. However, the situation did appear to have its effects on the team.
"Mike posed no distraction in the locker room in regard to his behavior or whatever," Sherman said. "I constantly had contact with players to see if it was an issue and it was not, but I just felt like from a focus from the outside in, it became a distraction because of the recognition and the attention that it was getting. In an indirect way, I think it became a distraction."
The media attention that McKenzie's contentious relationship with the organization had generated was there, but his teammates insist that it was never an issue for them.
"I don't think us as players have been making as big a deal about it as everyone else has," Jue said. "He's been here - he was just one of our guys, so that's the way we've been playing it. He's a friend of mine and I wish him luck."
When asked if he was offended that McKenzie demanded to be traded away from the team with which he had spent his entire professional career, Sharper acknowledged some hurt, but also stated that he knew much of what happens in football is driven by things off of the field.
"Sometimes you might get a little bit offended if a guy doesn't want to be with you, but the fact of the matter is, there's two parts to this game. There's what happens on the field, and there's what happens on the business side of it. Whenever those decisions are made, you really can't connect the two too much because then you'd have a lot of feelings hurt. You have to know that it's a game, but there are a lot of other factors that are a part of that game."
Marco Rivera, a teammate of McKenzie's since the cornerback arrived in 1999, seemed glad that the situation had come to a close.
"Basically, he got what he wanted - he got a trade, and hopefully the Packers got what they wanted," said Rivera. "I think it's a good situation for both, and hopefully we can move on and start concentrating on football."
Like Rivera, Jue knows that he and the rest of the Packers must put the McKenzie to bed and turn their focus 100% on the field and get the young 2004 season turned around, as he stated Monday.
"We have a lot more games to go, so we have to worry about who we have here."