<
>

Walker says 'it's best for me' to be off Broncos

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Javon Walker stopped short of demanding
a trade like he did two years ago in Green Bay, but he suggested
Monday that it might be best for everyone if the Denver Broncos
sent him packing.

"It's not that they don't want me here, but I just don't think
it's the best fit for me," Walker said as he prepared to meet with
coach Mike Shanahan for his exit interview.

The Broncos (7-9) expected to compete for a championship but
they lost Walker for two months after he underwent a third
operation on his right knee and Denver posted its first losing
season since 1999.

So, big changes are expected this offseason, perhaps starting
with the departure of defensive boss Jim Bates, although Walker
sounded as though he'd like to be the first one out the door.

Walker said he wouldn't ask for a trade but just didn't see
himself fitting into Denver's plans in 2008, when he's due to make
about $7.5 million in salary and bonuses.

He has said he wouldn't be amenable to restructuring his
contract despite his injury-riddled season and that he just needs
an offseason of rest to return to his Pro Bowl form after catching
only 26 passes for 287 yards and no touchdowns this season.

In his absence, second-year pro Brandon Marshall blossomed into
the Broncos' primary receiver with 102 catches for 1,325 yards and
seven TDs, and slot receiver Brandon Stokley played so well that he
received a three-year contract extension.

In a rambling eight-minute group interview in front of his
locker that was eventually cut off by the team's public relations
staff, an unusually jovial Walker said he can still be a great
receiver but probably for somebody else.

"I just don't see it happening for me here," he said. "What
it boils down to at this point is I've got to go where the best fit
is for me. ... And if it's not the best situation for me [in
Denver], it's the best situation for Brandon Marshall."

This was the first indication that Walker was unhappy in Denver,
although he acknowledged last summer that he initially wanted out
after cornerback Darrent Williams died in his arms in a New Year's
Day drive-by shooting that remains unsolved.

Walker asked out of Green Bay after missing the 2005 season with
a knee injury that occurred in the Packers' opener, the very thing
his then-agent Drew Rosenhaus feared when Walker was threatening to
hold out for more money.

Walker was upset that the Packers dismissed his contract
complaints and also didn't appreciate Brett Favre telling him to
put up and shut up, so he was traded to Denver on draft day in
2006, signed a five-year contract extension worth more than $40
million and had a stellar season for the Broncos.

But it's become apparent to Walker that he had it good in Green
Bay, where the Packers capitalized on his deep threat ability much
more than the Broncos have.

"Green Bay made me who I was for a team like this to want to
bring me here," Walker said. "So, maybe it takes a team like that
to go back."

Walker suggested, however, that he could find happiness if he
stays in Denver.

"Yeah, if they do want me back, I greatly appreciate it," he
said. "If not, you've got to move on."

Shanahan, who has called this the toughest season of his 13-year
tenure in Denver, was unavailable for comment. He's scheduled his
season-ending news conference for Jan. 7.

Plenty of players and some coaches are steeling themselves for
another offseason shuffle in Denver.

Coordinator Larry Coyer was fired last year despite a top-10
defense but the Broncos proved unable to master Bates' system that
worked so well in Green Bay and Miami.

The Broncos eventually ditched the hallmarks of Bates' system
and went with smaller tackles and put eight men in the box.

"I just don't think we had any consistency or any confidence at
any point in ourselves as players or in the scheme that we were
running," defensive back Domonique Foxworth said. "I think it's
important that we build that into the next season, that we find
something that we're good at and we stick with it from start to
finish."

They ranked 19th in overall defense and 30th against the run.

"It was unfortunate it didn't work here because I like his
system," said defensive lineman Kenny Peterson, who was with Bates
in Green Bay. "He has a good system, it's proven, it's tested."

Linebacker Nate Webster said too much youth put the Broncos in a
pickle, but Foxworth suggested the problems stemmed from the scheme
actually being a hybrid.

"I think we tried to hold over some techniques from what we had
been doing, which don't necessarily blend well with what we were
switching to," Foxworth said. "It wasn't 100 percent commitment,
I don't think, from Day 1 to the new scheme."

The Broncos sorely missed the leadership of linebacker Al
Wilson, waived for health and salary concerns, and quarterback Jake
Plummer, who retired after losing his job to Cutler.

Receiver Rod Smith missed the whole season with a hip injury and
is facing the possibility of career-ending hip replacement surgery.
Other veterans who might not be back are safeties John Lynch, who
is pondering retirement, and Nick Ferguson, who was benched over
the final month, and offensive linemen Matt Lepsis and Ben
Hamilton. Center Tom Nalen, who missed most of the year with a torn
biceps, hopes to return.

Although the Broncos dedicated their season to the memories of
Williams and running back Damien Nash, their deaths hung over the
team all year.

"Everything pretty much I've done this year is something that I
would have done with D-Will, so everything is a reminder,"
Foxworth said.