- The Washington Times - Friday, April 7, 2006

Brett Favre and Steve McNair grew up and played college ball in Mississippi. They have led their teams to the Super Bowl and have been under center for their teams longer than any other quarterbacks.

Now, McNair and Favre, who also share agent Bus Cook, are each the focus of a crisis.

The 36-year-old Favre is keeping the Packers guessing for a second straight spring about whether he will keep playing or retire. McNair, meanwhile, was asked Monday to leave the Titans’ facility until he agrees to lower the stratospheric $23.46million salary cap number the team contends makes him too much of an injury risk even in the weight room. Cook said the Titans have offered a barely reworked deal and didn’t respond to his counter-offer.

McNair, 33, guided Tennessee to the Super Bowl in 1999, his third year as the starter. He was the co-MVP in 2003, and he passed for 3,161 yards while starting all but two games in 2005.

“You tell the guy who’s the mainstay of the organization — the leader — to get out, that he’s not wanted; that’s pretty rough,” Cook said. “I imagine Steve would have a hard time going back over there.”

Titans coach Jeff Fisher and general manager Floyd Reese weren’t on hand when the news of McNair’s banishment broke. They were at the on-campus workout of Southern Cal’s Matt Leinart, one of three quarterbacks — along with Texas’ Vince Young and Vanderbilt’s Jay Cutler — they’re considering as the third pick in the April 29 draft. Leinart won the Heisman Trophy for Titans offensive coordinator Norm Chow in 2004.

“We can handle Steve where he’s at [cap-wise],” Fisher said March 28 at the NFL meetings in Orlando, Fla. “We don’t want to, but we can.”

More than likely, they will have a rookie starter and McNair will reunite with former top target Derrick Mason in Baltimore. Maybe the Ravens saw this coming, which might explain why they haven’t signed Kerry Collins as a challenger to unreliable quarterback Kyle Boller.

Meanwhile, Favre’s No.1 receiver, Javon Walker, wants out of Green Bay in part because the quarterback criticized him last season for threatening a holdout with two years left on his contract. Walker, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in the opener, has put his house in Green Bay up for sale and has no intention of returning.

“Javon is not fond of Brett,” Walker’s stepfather, Charles Goldsmith, said. “He just doesn’t want to play with him anymore. He didn’t even pick up a phone as a leader and call Javon [after criticizing him]. Brett said he was prepared to move on without Javon. Well, you moved on quite well, Brett. You threw 29 interceptions.”

Goldsmith said Walker’s mind wouldn’t be changed by an enhanced contract or by Favre’s retirement.

“Javon just doesn’t like the environment,” Goldsmith said. “It’s not just Brett. It’s the team. He does not enjoy even thinking about Green Bay. They could give him a $15million signing bonus, and he would decline it.”

According to Goldsmith, Walker doesn’t want to be another Terrell Owens. However, he said if the Packers forced Walker to return, “You’re really going to have a terrible cancer on your hands.”

If the Packers don’t trade Walker, he would be forced to report for the final six games in order to gain an accrued season, fulfill his original five-year contract and become a free agent next March.

Hope for Hamlin — Seahawks safety Ken Hamlin suffered life-threatening injuries, including a blood clot on his brain, during an Oct. 17 assault outside a Seattle nightclub. He could be on the field for minicamp this spring, though it remains unclear whether the 25-year-old Hamlin will be given the go-ahead for full contact.

“We’re going to take it slow and see how Ken goes,” Seahawks president Tim Ruskell said. “There’s still more testing. We would never want to do anything that would harm him as we go forward.”

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