McKenzie to the rescue

Understandably, Mike McKenzie was in demand after the Packers' 24-13 victory over the Minnesota Vikings Sunday at Lambeau Field. In addition to being largely responsible for shutting down Vikings star receiver Randy Moss, who finished with a harmless two receptions for 10 yards, the third-year cornerback also returned an interception 38 yards for the game-clinching touchdown in the fourth quarter.<p>

But it was a struggle convincing one of the least accessible members of the Green Bay Packers to attend a post-game press conference Sunday.

"By the way, we're still trying to persuade Mike McKenzie to come down here," said Lee Remmel, the Packers' executive director of public relations just after coach Mike Sherman's press conference ended. "There's about a 50-50 chance."

The soft-spoken McKenzie was finally persuaded to stand behind the podium and talk at a post-game press conference for the first time in his career. You can bet this Florida native would have been far more comfortable being back out in that five-above wind chill with Moss lining up against him.

"It took a lot of convincing," McKenzie said with a smile when he was asked what it took him to attend the press conference. "I was ready to go home."

Yes, the young man with the flowing hair protruding under his helmet has always been one who preferred to let his performance speak on his behalf.

From that perspective, McKenzie has been one of the Packers' biggest talkers during the last three years. He was the surprise of the Packers' 1999 training camp after being drafted behind fellow defensive backs Antuan Edwards and Fred Vinson and went on to become a starter from the first game of his rookie season. McKenzie has elevated his play to such an extent three years into his career that he's expected to command one of the largest signing bonuses in Packers history to remain in Green Bay following this season.

"This is my first opportunity to play in the same scheme for two consecutive seasons," McKenzie said when asked to explain his emergence into a cornerback whom many observers believe is playing at a Pro Bowl-level. "I think that alone has helped a lot."

McKenzie was certainly comfortable Sunday, contributing three solo tackles, two assists, a pass defense and his pivotal interception. With McKenzie leading the way, Vikings third-string quarterback Spergon Wynn completed just 11 of 30 passes for 114 yards, with one touchdown and three interceptions.

Yes, Wynn appeared indecisive, but a Packers secondary led by McKenzie had a great deal to do with his miserable performance.

"They had a young quarterback out there and I think they were trying to be simple so they didn't really give us much to go out and challenge," McKenzie said.

But McKenzie was there when Wynn did challenge the Packers, returning an interception 38 yards in the fourth quarter for the game-clinching touchdown. Reading the play perfectly, McKenzie stepped in front of intended receiver Cris Carter and ran untouched into the end zone.

"We had a situation where we started out in man (man-to-man coverage) and they came out in a bunch situation, so we quartered it up," McKenzie said. "I read the hook up, read the quarterback and made a play on the ball."


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