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Teammates Would Welcome McKenzie's Return


It wasn't going to be easy. Not for the guy who has played 210 consecutive games. But Brett Favre did his best anyway.

Standing in the Lambeau Field media auditorium this week, Favre, the man who has always been there for the Green Bay Packers, tried to put himself in the shoes of cornerback Mike McKenzie, the man who has failed to show up for any of the team's offseason workouts this spring.

"Just guessing what Mike McKenzie's going through, he probably feels like even if he wants to come back the hole is getting deeper and deeper," Favre said, in reference to McKenzie's absence and recent trade demands.

"But we'd welcome him back. If he's not (going to return), he's missing out on something good, in my opinion."

And at the same time, so are the Packers.

With starters set to return at almost every position on both sides of the ball, McKenzie's cornerback spot could be one of just two positions with undetermined starters as the Packers head into training camp in late July.

Having added a number of corners in the offseason, including draft picks Ahmad Carroll and Joey Thomas, the Packers have done their best to build depth to their secondary, regardless of McKenzie's status. Of course, that doesn't change the fact that McKenzie is the Packers' most experienced corner.

And so even though McKenzie's mini-camp boycott has forced the team to assume that he might never again walk through the doors at Lambeau Field, his teammates are keeping the gates unlocked anyway.

"We're preparing as if he wasn't here, but me and everybody else would like him back," said fellow cornerback Al Harris, whose locker neighbors McKenzie's. "Hopefully they get everything worked out."

The 'they' in that statement would be McKenzie and the Packers.

Although McKenzie hasn't spoken publicly about his complaints, what seems to be driving his trade demands is a dissatisfaction with the terms of his existing contract. A third-round draft choice in 1999, McKenzie signed an extension in January 2002, which could keep him in a Packers uniform through the 2006 season.

But a few years later, and with a few seasons to go, McKenzie apparently wants the Packers to sweeten the deal. Something Favre doesn't think needs to happen.

"I like Mike," the three-time NFL MVP said. "I think he's a great player -- we all think he is. But I really feel like in his situation, he's wrong.

"I mean, there are quarterbacks out there right now making more money than me. Whenever the peak of my career was -- I think it's now, but whenever it was -- there were guys making more money than me and there were guys doing more commercials and all that.

"Maybe I was just naive or didn't really give a damn, but it never really concerned me. All I cared about was playing football ... And regardless of if someone else is making more money, I'm going to play like there's no tomorrow. And that's the business of this sport."

In that business sense, there are many players who agree with Favre. On the other hand, some of McKenzie's teammates feel that his contract and trade dispute is a personal business matter that's not for them to judge one way or the other.

"He believes what he believes and you can't fault him for it," Harris said. "He's human. And I will welcome him back with open arms, and I'm pretty sure everyone else will."

Of course, McKenzie would first have to come back in order to be welcomed back.

Safety Darren Sharper assumes that McKenzie's boycott will last well into training camp -- if not indefinitely. But the Packers don't appear to be on the verge of cutting the disgruntled corner loose.

Pro personnel director Reggie McKenzie said that the Packers have received "feeler" calls from other NFL teams, but no legitimate trade offers to this point. Thus, all the Packers can do is wait, and hope that McKenzie comes around.

"You go in and ask most of those guys (in the locker room), they'd kill to make the money Mike McKenzie's making," Favre said. "And I know Mike McKenzie feels like he should be paid more. He's probably deserving of it, but that's just the way it goes.

"You honor a contract. You honor a team. You honor you teammates, and that's part of it."

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