Henderson publicly admits that he would love to be back with the Packers in 2006. Walker publicly stated that he'll retire before returning to Green Bay. In reality there is a good chance that neither of them will return to Green Bay, and that would be a shame. Both are excellent football players and have the ability to contribute in a big way to the organization, both on and off the field. But the organization has been reluctant, with good reasons, to make the kind of financial commitment that both players are seeking. Henderson isn't getting any younger, and Walker is coming off a serious knee injury. So Henderson, now is out visiting with other teams, including the Minnesota Vikings today. And Walker, under contract for 2006, is simply out rehabbing his knee, and pouting.
Henderson, 35, said this weekend at the annual Fan Fest that he wants to be back in Green Bay. But he wants a three-year contract because he doesn't "want to go to the table again." The Packers have spoken with the veteran fullback, but obviously are offering less than what he is seeking, and have encouraged him to seek a better deal.
The assumption here is the Packers are unofficially treating Henderson like a restricted free agent. If he receives an offer from another team, the Packers probably will match it, or offer a little bit sweeter of a deal. If that's the case, Henderson will return to the Packers because he knows the grass isn't always greener on the other side of the fence, something Walker has yet to realize.
"The Packers have been honest and upfront with me and let me know that they are interested in having me back," Henderson said. "They also were encouraging me to see what the market offered me, so business man to business man, I'm going to see what the market offers me. Unfortunately, I've got to look elsewhere, but that's the nature of the business at this point. Free agency offers an opportunity to better your family or lifestyle, or whatever. It's not a money issue. I'm not one of those ‘salary' guys that causes too much complication for any organization, but my goals are to win and to finish my career in the next three years. That's all I plan to play is three more and to be on a team that wants to win and is encouraged to win, and to do everything it can to secure personnel. I want to be a happy person. I don't want to go somewhere where I'm not happy."
The Packers have the money under the cap to re-sign Henderson. Unless he receives a whopper of a deal elsewhere, look for him to be in a Packers uniform next season. He keeps himself in excellent physical condition and can continue to help instruct the up-and-coming Vonta Leach as well as other young fullbacks in off-season minicamps and training camp.
Walker? General manager Ted Thompson has indicated that he expects the Pro Bowl receiver to honor his contract and play in 2006. Whether the he will wake up, like he did last season just before training camp, remains to be seen. But Walker has little leverage. He has nothing to gain by sitting out a season and much more to lose in his professional football career.
Why Walker suddenly feels that Green Bay is an awful place to play is unrealistic and an unfair accusation. The Packers treat their players and personnel like kings. They have one of the top facilities (stadium and training) in the National Football League. The Packers are trendsetters, not followers. Other organizations routinely send representatives to Green Bay to take notes and implement programs that the Packers initiate for their players and fans.
"I've been fortunate enough to spend my entire career here, and I've seen many guys who have asked to go elsewhere, or have felt this place wasn't for them for whatever reason," Henderson said. "As soon as they had a chance to see what it was life was like on a different field or with a different team, or whatever other teams have promised them, they quickly found that those dreams and aspirations of being bigger and better and going other places have fallen well short of what they had in front of them here.
"Basically I would say the grass isn't always greener. Really and truly look at your opportunities here and what you can make of them. This organization is one of the best in the world. I would encourage him to think about what he's doing. Don't ever burn bridges."
Though there is a chance that both players may not be in a Packers uniform next season, there is still is a better chance that they will return. Henderson gladly will come back to Green Bay, and hopefully Walker will, too.
Todd Korth is managing editor of PackerReport.com and Packer Report. E-mail him at email@example.com.