Sidelines: Walker is replaceable

Let me begin by acknowledging some basic facts: Javon Walker is a fine wide receiver with an outstanding future in the National Football League. His exploits during the 2004 season have been well-documented.

Starting 12 of 16 regular season games, Walker snared 89 passes for 1,382 yards, 12 touchdowns and a respectable 15.5 average yards per catch. He ranked eighth in the NFL (tied with Isaac Bruce) in yards receiving and in Packer annals he currently holds down the number six spot all-time in receptions. He made the Pro Bowl.

Having said all of that, the view here is that the Packers should definitely not give in to his demands for renegotiating his contract with two years remaining. No way. The precedent would be disastrous and the line of other players who will try to pull the same stunt will be long and distinguished.

No doubt, many a fan will watch the upcoming training camp anxiously looking for number 84 to show up and pick up where he left off last year. Count me among those who hope Walker does come back because he adds a great dimension to the Packer offense. But if he continues his holdout, count me among those who believe the Packers still have plenty of firepower amongst their wide receivers.

For openers, the Packers have two solid veterans in Donald Driver and Robert Ferguson. True, Fergy needs to find a way to stay healthy for an entire season, but he has great ability and the heart of a lion. He's fearless over the middle, is an outstanding special teams cover man and a fine blocker. Driver enjoyed an excellent season in 2004, pulling down 84 passes good for 1,208 yards and nine touchdowns. He still has great quickness and a true knack for excelling on crossing patterns and slants. He still knows how to use his exceptional jumping ability to beat the defender to the ball.

The Packers also added rookie receiver depth in the draft with third rounder Terrence Murphy of Texas A&M. The coaches expect him to contribute immediately on special teams and in mini-camps he displayed explosive speed and an ability to run solid pass routes.

No doubt, there are plenty of question marks with this team but Driver still flashes that boyish smile and exudes genuine confidence. He likes the Packers' chances. "This team is a great team," said Driver. "The tradition has always been here and we always make it to the playoffs. I think the biggest thing with us is we've got to get past that first round. If we get past that first round, anything can happen. We've got to make sure we make our fans happy and move on to the second round. After that, we're in the show and the sky's the limit."

Ask Driver what his personal goal is this year and there is absolutely no hesitation. "Super Bowl ring!" is his reply.

True, the Packers have plenty of questions to answer, especially on the defensive side of the ball, for Driver's dream to become reality. But the team can't afford to knuckle under to Walker and expose themselves to financial chaos. Sterling Sharpe thought he was irreplaceable and the Packers discovered Robert Brooks. Murphy could be the undiscovered star this time around. Or perhaps it will be someone else. With or without Walker, the Packers will find a way.

Tom Andrews

Editor's Note: Tom Andrews began covering the Packers in 1974 as a reporter for Milwaukee radio stations WZUU and WOKY. He has been a contributing writer to Packer Report since 1999 and his articles have also appeared in the Green Bay Packers Yearbook, Packer Profiles, Packer Tracker and Sports Collectors Digest among other publications. Andrews is also president of Andrews Media Ventures, a Milwaukee area media and communications consultancy. He will be contributing columns for

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