Their greed is sickening

So on the most-hyped day of the football year not named Super Bowl Sunday, you wonder what was going on in the head of Packers cornerback Mike McKenzie. What were the thoughts inside the previously sane brain of top overall draft pick Eli Manning?<p>

The selfish depths the fan-favorite McKenzie has sunk to in the last couple weeks was enough to leave you shaking your head in disgust. Dismay is the right word when it comes to Manning, who has thrown out more NFL ultimatums than he has NFL passes. Then a guy like Pat Tillman dies fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan and you wonder if these idiots emerged from their self-absorbed lives long enough to notice. You wonder if the death of a man who sacrificed NFL glory in exchange for his life will mean a thing to a couple of egomaniacs who have had life served to them on a silver platter but have the audacity to come back to the trough demanding more.

Who knows what McKenzie is mad at. More than likely it's money, but perhaps he was having a bad hair day. Either way, all we know is he wants out of Green Bay, where millions of dollars, a leadership role in the locker room and a chance to win a Super Bowl aren't enough.

Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, I side with the athlete in cases involving money. Fans don't shell out their hard-earned money to watch the owner. Fans pay to see great players make great plays, and thus the players deserve the money. But with real people, and now a colleague, dying to protect our freedoms, you wonder how players like McKenzie and Manning can sleep at night. Are they not sickened by their childish antics when they hear the name Pat Tillman?

With $3.6 million on the table from the Arizona Cardinals, Tillman entered the office of coach Dave McGinnis. Tillman wasn1t meeting with McGinnis to demand a trade or more money. No, eight months after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Tillman was telling McGinnis that he was going to tackle Osama bin Laden's Taliban instead of Jerry Jones' Cowboys. Why? Because "I haven't done a damn thing" with my life, was Tillman's reasoning.

On Friday, it was learned U.S. Army Ranger Tillman was killed in Afghanistan on Thursday. On Friday, McKenzie probably was pouting at his home, miffed at the paltry $17.1 million he is being forced to live on over five years. On Friday, Manning, through his formerly classy father Archie, was continuing his threat to sit out the season if the Chargers had the audacity to select him with the first overall pick in the draft.

Their selfishness is sickening.

Is McKenzie underpaid by NFL standards? Perhaps. But it's not like playing for the league minimum while making the Pro Bowl year after year. McKenzie is an above-average player making an above-average salary. Isn't that enough?

McKenzie signed his five-year deal a year before being eligible for free agency. By doing so, both sides took a risk. The Packers gambled by giving big bucks, but not huge bucks, to a solid cornerback. If McKenzie thrived, which he has, then the Packers struck a bargain. If McKenzie's career plateaued or he was sidelined by a serious injury, then the Packers would have suffered a costly financial hit. McKenzie, meanwhile, chose the financial security of big bucks today instead of a crack at huge bucks tomorrow.

Certainly, professional sports contracts mean nothing, especially in the NFL, where the only guaranteed money is the signing bonus. So I realize it's a two-way street. If teams can release underachieving players or purge payroll in salary-cap-related moves, then the players should be able to demand a new contract when they clearly deserve more money.

But McKenzie deserves more money as much as the done-nothing Manning deserves the right to strong-arm the Chargers. And if they didn't realize that before, maybe, just maybe, the death of a true hero like Pat Tillman will jolt them back into reality. Don1t bet on it.

Note: Huber is a copy editor for The Green Bay News-Chronicle. He writes a column every Sunday. Contact him via e-mail at

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