Greed and grief in Titletown

"There's a lot of classic one-liners. It was pretty good overall. It had me going. It was funny."

That was Green Bay Packers running back Najeh Davenport critiquing the remake of the classic football/prison movie, "The Longest Yard." As opposed to the Packers' version of "The Longest Yard," which contains such classic one-liners as:
Ahman Green is arrested and threatened with a Tazer by police after a domestic dispute.
Al Harris is accused of sexual assault at a Florida strip club.
– The Packers signed linebacker Raynoch Thompson, who is one slip-up away from being suspended for a year by the NFL.
Javon Walker is holding out.
While there's no truth to the rumor the team will start holding practice at the Brown County Jail if there are any more arrests, it's also true that you are innocent until proven guilty in this country. After reading the excerpts of the police report, we can be thankful that the only thing Green hit was a pillow. And perhaps Harris didn't do anything wrong. Who wants to play he-said, she-said between a stripper and a football player with a sense of entitlement?

Perhaps it's the hangover from what is perceived in most circles as a less-than-productive NFL draft, but the events of the last week or so are leaving a sour taste in the mouths of the fans. Packers fans, especially the millions of them who don't live around here, are naive by nature. To think that the Lombardi- or Holmgren-led championship teams celebrated their Super Bowl triumphs by drinking milk and eating cookies with orphaned children is, of course, an exaggeration. But the days of the Packers trying to build a better team with better people are long gone. While there are plenty of good people in today's locker room, this isn't a team full of Reggie Whites, Edgar Bennetts and Robert Brooks anymore.

Sadly, the Packers are no different than any other team. That was proven by the signing of Thompson, who has two strikes against him under the NFL's substance-abuse policy. Are the Packers so desperate for any player with a pulse that they are stooping to signing players who can't be counted on? What happens if Thompson wins the starting job and then runs afoul of league policy?

Then there's Walker's holdout. From his perspective, you can't blame him for wanting more money. He has clearly outplayed his five-year, $7.5 million contract. If Terrell Owens thinks he's worth more than his seven-year, $49 million contract, then Walker is worth more than the $515,000 base salary he'll pocket in 2005.

Everyone knows contracts in professional sports are comical at best. Really, what's the difference between the Packers tearing up Mike Wahle's contract and Walker wanting his contract torn up?

With that said, why hold out? Why couldn't Walker and his agent, the meddlesome Drew Rosenhaus, go to the Packers, state their case, and quietly try to work out a long-term contract beneficial to both parties?

Well, according to Walker, that's because of the shabby treatment the Packers are giving to tight end Bubba Franks. The Packers named Franks their transition player, basically keeping him off the free-agent market. By doing so, the Packers are limiting Franks to a salary of $2.095 million - the average of the 10 highest-paid tight ends - unless they sign him to a long-term deal. The Packers and Franks are having trouble reaching such an accord, and Walker doesn't want to suffer the same ignominious fate.

"If the record would show that teams and everybody were loyal to that, then I could follow the same movement," Walker told Sirius Satellite Radio.

The transition-player salary for a wide receiver is about $6.4 million, and you can see why Walker wouldn't want to subject himself to such a humiliatingly low number. At that price, why not deliver pizzas, instead?

"Obviously, right now it's a slow process," Walker said, foreshadowing what could be a lengthy holdout. "The team's probably going to see how far I'm going to go and I'm going to see how far they're going to go. (But) I'm a strong person. I don't need the money for them to force me back in. I'm going to stick (with) what I believe in. Ain't nobody going to look after me but me.

"I hope something does come around. I do love the Packers. I would love to be there for the rest of my career, with Brett (Favre) for this year and if he decides to come back for more years, and with the young quarterback that they just drafted. I've never played for a team that has fans like Green Bay fans. I just hope they can respect the decision that I'm making."

Sorry, Javon, but the fans don't respect your decision. Come on up and flip on the sports-talk radio stations, and you'll hear your name lumped together with Sterling Sharpe, a Hall-of-Fame caliber wide receiver who forever poisoned his reputation here with a contract holdout the day before the 1994 season.

I think a lot of fans understand Walker has earned a new deal, but when you are a millionaire who basically is going on strike to protest the kind of money most of us can only dream about, that understanding goes right out the window.

Remember, Javon, who's paying your contract. Yes, the Packers are signing your checks, but we're ultimately the people putting the money in the Packers' coffers. We are the people who are paying for your precious stadium. We are the people who have to cut corners for months just to save enough money to watch you play a game for a few hours on a Sunday. All that money ESPN spent to get "Monday Night Football"? That's our money, too. That you are rich beyond your wildest dreams comes at no small sacrifice from us. In case you aren't paying attention to the news, Americans' take-home pay, when inflation is figured in, has gone down over the last year. Health-care costs are soaring. Gas prices are soaring. While the unemployment rate isn't high compared to past economic slowdowns, there are a good number of people who are looking for a job.

I realize you are condemned to eating macaroni and cheese to make ends meet as you skimp by on the remainder of that $4 million signing bonus you received, but to complain about your salary given the real-world problems the rest of us are facing makes us sick.

So to the Ahman Greens, Javon Walkers and Latrell Sprewells of the world: Shut up, stay out of jail and at least pretend to be happy when you collect your millions.

Editor's note: Huber is a copy editor for The News-Chronicle. He writes a column on Sundays. Contact him via e-mail at

Packer Report Top Stories