Trade McKenzie away

Mike McKenzie doesn't want to play for the Green Bay Packers. He wants to quit on the team that gave him a chance to make a name for himself in the National Football League during the last five seasons. The best thing the Packers can do at this point is take a line from Vince Lombardi's book of coaching and grant the cornerback his wish.<p>

McKenzie apparently wants out of Green Bay for a few reasons, though, he has yet to state publicly exactly what they are, but here are a few that have surfaced in the last week:

- He has expressed his displeasure over Mike Sherman's decisions on rearranging the coaching staff. Sherman fired defensive coordinator Ed Donatell and promoted Bob Slowik to Donatell's position. But Sherman passed on promoting assistant defensive backs coach Lionel Washington to defensive backs coach and hired Kurt Schottenheimer;

- He is still steamed over the team's lack of aggressiveness on defense in Green Bay's playoff loss to Philadelphia;

- And he is unhappy with his current contract. McKenzie signed a five-year, $17.1 million deal in January 2002 with a $3.5 million signing bonus. His base salary next season is $2.75 million, rising to $4 million for 2006.

McKenzie has skipped the Packers' off-season workout program and, thus, forfeited a $200,000 incentive to participate. He has vowed never to play again for the Packers. It is uncertain if he will attend the team's post-draft minicamp at the end of this month.

Sherman, to his credit, has spoken with McKenzie to try and iron out any differences, but it doesn't appear that the rift is any better.

"He said what he had to say and I said what I had to say," Sherman told the Associated Press. "He totally understands his position with the club contractually."

That's the bottom line. McKenzie is under contract and is expected to honor it. But Packers fans know that doesn't always happen (see Sterling Sharpe).

This is the time of the off-season when every NFL team is re-configured based on its salary cap and weaknesses from the previous season. The Packers need McKenzie if they want to make a run at an NFC title, but they don't need his attitude. His current boycott is a distraction and will only worsen if it lingers into training camp, or the regular season.

Chemistry is such a key to success in the NFL. The New England Patriots have proved that in recent seasons. Teams need talent, but also the right mix of players. One bad apple can spoil any chance a team has of advancing deep into the playoffs. McKenzie is flashing all signs of turning into a bad apple, and it would be wise for Sherman to weed him from his bushel basket of players. Maybe that's easier said than done, especially when other teams know that McKenzie wants out. But it would be worth a try for the Packers to shop McKenzie. If they can trade him away for a chance to move up in the first round of the NFL draft and get a top-flight cornerback who is eager to play for the Packers, all the better. McKenzie obviously is not thrilled about returning to Green Bay, so it's time to cut the cord and get as much as you can for the unhappy camper. Jerry Kramer, the great Packers guard, recently spoke about the simple expectations Vince Lombardi had of his players. "I remember the first meeting, the first time the coach addressed a group," Kramer recalled, "He said, ‘If you're not willing to pay the price, if you're not willing to sacrifice, if you're not willing to subject your needs, wishes and wants for the benefit of the team, if you're not willing to give everything to the team, then get the hell out!'" Lombardi's teams achieved greatness because of teamwork. Even though we're in the middle of a me-first era of the NFL, teams can win without star players at every position. McKenzie is a good player, not a Pro Bowl player, but can help the Packers win with the right attitude. If he's not willing to subject his wishes, needs and wants for the benefit of his team, then it would be best for the Packers to show him the door.

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