Talk about guilt by association. All three situations differed, all bringing their own brand of ridiculous behavior to the table.
Mandarich's high-profile rookie holdout isn't unusual, except for the fact that offensive linemen are made, not born. In the NFL's version of check-kiting, Mandarich took the hype to the bank without having the slightest idea if he could pay up against the big boys on the field. He couldn't. My lasting impression of Mandarich is seeing him carry Brent Fullwood's spare shoes from the lockerroom to the sidelines in what turned out to be one of his most productive moments at Lambeau.
The McKenzie mess is still fresh in our minds and doesn't need much rehashing. What's the rationale for a prima donna act when you're part of a pass defense that plummeted from a No. 3 ranking in 2002 to No. 23 in 2004? Let's not even talk about 4th-and-26. McKenzie also made it no secret that he opposed the hiring of Bob Slowik as defensive coordinator. In hindsight, McKenzie's opinion had validity, but refusing to give 100 percent because you don't like the "boss" is grade school stuff at best.
Then there's Sterling Sharpe. More than 10 years later, I have to admit that I still hold a grudge. Sharpe was undoubtedly the most talented of these three infamous holdouts, but also the most devious when it came to contract talks.
Already under contract to the young and improving Pack, Sharpe picked the eve of the 1994 regular season to make it known that he felt under appreciated. Sharpe, who was already refusing to speak to most Wisconsin media members, showed his true colors.
Happily, other key members of the organization showed their real characters as well. In stark contrast to Sharpe, Brett Favre and Mike Holmgren provided the voices of reason and reality. We didn't know them then nearly as well as we do now, and in retrospect it is certainly no surprise. Back in '94, a 24-year-old QB and a coach with just two seasons under his belt refused to mince words. Favre took his leading receiver to task for the stupid stunt while Holmgren held the line.
Sharpe was back in the fold by kickoff as the Packers beat the Vikings in the home opener. He caught a 14-yard pass from Favre for the first touchdown of the season. He finished as the team's leading receiver with 1,119 yards on 94 catches and 18 touchdowns, despite missing the final games of the season with what turned out to be a career-closing neck injury . While the numbers were piling up, his appeal was down. Sharpe had so distanced himself from the fans in Green Bay that the end of his career was quietly received. What a contrast to LeRoy Butler, who is still among fan favorites.
Walker, who already boasts some fairly fancy numbers of his own, may want to not that while Sharpe's amazing contributions will not be forgotten, neither will his disregard for the team and fans. Considering his name pops up in every receiving records category and is still atop a few of them, we don't see many Sharpe jerseys in the stands.
Favre's opinion now of a receiver's holdout is the same as it was then. Whom will Walker trust with his future? An NFL legend who has never caused the Packers one day of contract nonsense or an agent who is famous for villifying former fan favorites and who handled the McKenzie case with a distinct lack of grace? With two years left on his current contract, Walker best be thinking more of the game, the team and the fans and a little less of agent Drew Rosenhaus before another No. 84 jersey will be on the clearance rack.