News and views on Barnett, Harris

It's the start of the lengthy Fourth of July weekend, and with's Steve Lawrence's thoughts on picking up a grab bag of fireworks, here are a grab bag of thoughts on the Green Bay Packers.

Nick Barnett vs. the city of Green Bay

Barnett's battle with the city of Green Bay has become national news, and the reports make city officials look like a bunch of buffoons, at best, or racists, at worst.

A Cliff's Notes version to recap: Barnett opened the FiveSix Ultra Lounge in Green Bay's historic — and sometimes troubled — Broadway district. Recently, Barnett lost his liquor license because of a litany of troubles at, and outside, his establishment.

Then, earlier in the week, another troubled downtown Green Bay club, HipCats, had its liquor license renewed. The laundry list of police calls to HipCats dwarfs the calls to FiveSix, though FiveSix is the only club of the two to have complaints from neighbors.

On the surface, the city's decision doesn't make sense. Is it making an example of Barnett? Is the city somehow scared of a minority-owned business drawing a largely minority clientele?

The big thing a lot of outsiders are failing to note is that FiveSix was licensed to be a restaurant, first, and nightclub. Instead, FiveSix basically is just a nightclub.

That Barnett misled the city about his intentions with FiveSix is wrong. But the fact that a marquee member of the Green Bay Packers would want to build a business in an area that has been a revolving door of opening and closing businesses should be reason enough for the city — as Mayor Jim Schmitt is urging — to work with Barnett instead of against him.

Al Harris vs. the Packers

You know this simmering saga. In September 2004, the Packers' standout cornerback signed a five-year, $18.6 million contract extension. In May and June 2006, Harris skipped the voluntary minicamp and organized team activities to protest the contract.

Most of Packers Nation is rightly irked at Harris. But, put yourself in Harris' shoes. Only members of Charles Woodson's immediate family would rank the oft-injured Woodson above the rock-solid Harris in the NFL's pantheon of cornerbacks, but the Packers gave Woodson a seven-year, $39 million contract to sign as a free agent this past spring.

I don't know about you, but if I'm a better employee than Joe Blow, I want to be paid more than Joe Blow. It makes no difference if you're making $12 per hour or $3 million per season.

Pro Football Weekly rankings

The magazine recently released its yearly rankings of players, and here's the good news: Brett Favre is ranked fourth among quarterbacks by the magazine's editors, who talked to numerous scouts and general managers for guidance.

Here could be some good news: Ahman Green somehow is the sixth-ranked running back, even though he is coming off a season-ending and career-threatening thigh injury, and didn't show much burst when healthy last season.

Here's the bad news: Donald Driver is ranked 26th among wide receivers. PFW ranked 33 receivers — and 13 emerging veterans — and not surprisingly, Robert Ferguson didn't make the cut. In fact, it's hard to imagine Ferguson, or whoever winds up starting opposite Driver, could start for more than a team or two in the league.

So, in the very real possibility Green circa 2003 and 2004 is never seen again, PFW's rankings confirm what most of us realize: The Packers' offense is going to be as explosive as a wet firecracker.

And speaking of firecrackers, have a happy and safe Independence Day, and keep our troops fighting for us overseas in your thoughts.

Lawrence is a regular contributor to Send comments to

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