Packers veterans reported Tuesday for pre-minicamp physical testing and meetings. McKenzie and defensive end Joe Johnson were the only players who did not report. The Packers, however, asked Johnson not to attend. They likely will release him after June 1. McKenzie has not attended the spring training program, and has threatened never to return to Green Bay.
"I'll treat him like any other player that I've had in the past and take care of it with discipline," said Packers head coach and general manager Mike Sherman. "If he's not here by the mandatory camp, then I'll deal with it in-house." A number of Packers coaches and players have spoken over the phone with McKenzie, but all are tight-lipped when asked to reveal why he is unhappy. McKenzie is entering the third year of a five-year, $17.1 million deal that he signed in January of 2002.
"You have to ask Mike," said cornerback Michael Hawthorne, who started two games in place of McKenzie when McKenzie was injured last year. "I can only talk for Michael Hawthorne, but for whatever it is worth, we wish he was back. Like everybody else in Wisconsin, you have a decision to make when you do certain things. The decision is his."
Hawthorne said he has spoken with McKenzie in recent days, but he declined to elaborate on their conversation.
"What he said to me is between Mike and Michael," Hawthorne said with a smile.
The Packers have given McKenzie's agent permission to talk to other teams about a trade, but the Packers have yet to receive an acceptable offer. Extending or reworking McKenzie's current contract reportedly is not an option for the Packers, either.
McKenzie is scheduled to earn $10.9 million over the next three seasons – $2.75 million this season, $3.43 million next year and $4.1 million in 2006, plus $200,000 workout bonuses each year.
"I talked to him a couple times this off-season, but I never once asked him what's going on, what's the riff, or anything like that," said cornerback Al Harris. "We just talked about life, basically."
McKenzie's unhappiness also could be stemming from the coaching moves the Packers made this off-season. He reportedly is unhappy that secondary coach Bob Slowik replaced Ed Donatell as defensive coordinator and that assistant secondary coach Lionel Washington was passed over to replace Slowik.
"He is one of the top corners in this league, I'll say that," said Brett Favre. "But when you sign a contract, you sign a contract. As bad as it seems at times, it will work itself out. ... One man doesn't make a team, but he obviously is important to us. Hopefully, he'll wake up and come back."