<
>

Walker tears ACL, to miss rest of season

GREEN BAY, Wis. --The records Pro Bowl receiver Javon Walker now will chase are all about rehabilitation and not
receptions.

Brett Favre's best receiver will miss the rest of the season
after tearing up his right knee in Green Bay's opening loss at
Detroit on Sunday, the very thing his agent Drew Rosenhaus feared
when trying unsuccessfully to get Walker a new contract over the
summer.

Walker will need an operation once the swelling subsides to
repair the torn anterior cruciate ligament and will require between
eight and 12 months of rehabilitation.

"Talking to him last night, he's very positive and upbeat about
it, understands what's ahead of him and is planning on breaking all
kinds of records on getting back sooner," coach Mike Sherman said
Monday.

Walker, who made the Pro Bowl last season after catching 89
passes for 1,382 yards and 12 touchdowns, threatened to hold out
this season if the final two years of his contract weren't
renegotiated.

But he showed up in training camp on time, saying he wanted to
prove he was worthy of a blockbuster contract through his play. The
risk, of course, was a serious injury that would limit his earning
power -- just like the one he suffered Sunday.

He's due $515,000 this season, the fourth of a five-year deal he
signed in 2002 for $7.485 million, and Rosenhaus said last summer
he couldn't let Walker risk his health for that kind of money. He
even requested the Packers trade their star receiver if they
couldn't accommodate him.

The Packers refused and Walker said he couldn't fathom missing
any practices, much less any games, in a contract dispute. So, he
set out to have another big season in hopes the Packers would make
him very, very rich soon.

Rosenhaus was on a flight Monday and unavailable for comment,
according to a colleague who answered his cell phone.

Fans who chastised Walker should understand now why he wanted
the new deal, some of his teammates suggested.

"I understood where he's coming from," wide receiver Robert Ferguson said. "I understood then and I understand now."

Walker's injury is a serious blow to the Packers and quarterback
Brett Favre, whose team had never been held to as few as three
points in any of his 226 consecutive starts, counting playoffs.

They sorely miss guards Marco Rivera and Mike Wahle, whose
departures Favre felt dearly in Detroit, where he was sacked four
times and knocked down another eight times.

The Packers will have to make do without one of the league's
best deep threats and rising stars.

"Unfortunately, those things happen in the league," general
manager Ted Thompson said. "The mark of the better teams and the
better organizations are the ones that get back up off the
ground."

Without Walker, Ferguson will start alongside Donald Driver, who
will move from split end to flanker. Second-round draft pick
Terrence Murphy, who missed much of training camp with a knee
injury, will be force-fed the offense so he can serve as the No. 4
receiver behind kick returner Antonio Chatman.

Ferguson is the Packers' best special teams player. but he said
he asked to be taken off the coverage units.

"I'm not playing special teams anymore," Ferguson said. "I
don't have a choice. I had to go in and get IVs during the game. I
can't do that and start [at receiver]. I told them, yeah. I'll
probably do kick return or something like that. But as far as being
on every special team, I can't do that."

Ferguson has been pining for a bigger role in the offense ever
since injuries cost him a starting job last year and opened the
door for Walker to have a breakout season.

Now, Ferguson hopes to do what Walker did a year ago.

"I was going to [have a Pro Bowl year] regardless of whether he
got hurt or not," Ferguson declared. "Football is all about
opportunities. I definitely didn't want it to happen this way. But
it is what it is now."