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saintz08 10-05-2005 10:52 PM

McKenzie can't wait to return
McKenzie can't wait to return

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) - Mike McKenzie can't wait to return to the city he couldn't wait to leave.

"It's always a good opportunity to come back to Green Bay, where things all got started for me in my career," the New Orleans Saints' cornerback said Wednesday in a conference call.

McKenzie and the Saints visit Lambeau Field on Sunday for the first time since he engineered a trade to New Orleans a year ago after spending his first five-plus seasons in Green Bay.

"I just needed a change of venue," said McKenzie, who soured on the organization after the fourth-and-26 debacle in Philadelphia in the 2003 playoffs cost the Packers a shot at the NFC championship and Lionel Washington got passed over for the defensive coordinator job after Ed Donatell's subsequent firing.

McKenzie first requested a pay raise, then a trade and reluctantly returned to the team on the advice of agent Drew Rosenhaus after a protracted holdout. He played just nine snaps in the Packers' dime defense last season before a puzzling hamstring injury sidelined him and he was dealt to the Saints for a second-round draft pick and quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan on Oct. 4, 2004.

When team president Bob Harlan stripped coach Mike Sherman of his general manager duties in January, Harlan cited the McKenzie mess as an example of Sherman being too wrapped up in personnel matters at the expense of his coaching duties and his health.

"I regret the fact that we couldn't get it worked out with Mike," Sherman said Wednesday. "I always liked Mike, and Mike was a very good player here. He's playing very well right now."

And the Packers aren't. They're 0-4 for the first time since 1988.

McKenzie said there was nothing the Packers could have done to make him happy in Green Bay.

He acknowledged the city's lack of night life and cultural diversity were difficult for him to handle.

"Me being from Miami, it was definitely different," McKenzie said. "But it was an experience that I definitely relished and I wouldn't rewrite one thing about it. I mean, I enjoyed my time there. The fans were tremendous, the organization was a first-class organization and I think I'm a better person as well as a better player for my time there."

Although McKenzie had outperformed his five-year, $17.1 million contract, he said his unhappiness in Green Bay didn't stem from his paychecks.

"A lot of folks may have thought it was really about the contract with me. That was never the front runner issue. It was a lot of underlying things that really ultimately led to me wanting to be elsewhere."

Such as coming up short in the playoffs year after year.

"There were some championship teams when I was there and to not find a way to at least be in the game and not have a chance to be in the Super Bowl was very disheartening," McKenzie said.

McKenzie got a new contract from the Saints last summer, a five-year deal worth more than $22 million that included a $7 million bonus. In an ironic twist, Rosenhaus, who was in Green Bay to visit with client Javon Walker, consummated the deal in the Lambeau Field parking lot.

Although Packers quarterback Brett Favre criticized McKenzie last year for holding out, McKenzie said he won't be motivated by payback come Sunday.

"It's not about getting even or anything," McKenzie said.

McKenzie said he's never had any regrets about his departure from Green Bay, not even when Hurricane Katrina wiped out his condo in downtown New Orleans.

"Oh, not at all. I mean, that was a situation where God ultimately had the say-so in that and once again I was happy to have the opportunity to play here," McKenzie said.

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