Yes, here we are again. It’s that time of year, where we sit and make fun of ourselves being on “on the edge of our seats” regarding Brett Favre’s decision to play in the NFL again or not.
Personally, I hope he calls it quits. In my 6 Fantasy Football leagues, I didn’t pick up a single Vikings Wide Receiver, or Brett himself, due to not knowing who will be tossing the rock this season.
Let’s turn back to last year, when Favre was last suited up. The New Orleans Saints had just administered a physical and psychological beating to the NFL’s all-time passing leader who refused to submit. The Vikings’ crushing 31-28 overtime defeat in the NFC championship game, where Favre whipped an interception in the closing seconds of regulation, left him with a swollen ankle and a severe thigh bruise the color of eggplant. “People can talk about the ankle and my thigh and all that stuff, but those will mend. I just said, ‘I can’t take this. It’s just too hard to digest.’ ” The NFL fined Saints defensive end Bobby McCray for improperly hitting Favre in third quarter. He was sandwiched high and low, injuring his left ankle when blindsided below the knees.
Favre changed his mind and decided not to retire immediately on the Vikings’ charter flight home after the loss. One after another, Viking players, coaches and personnel walked to Favre’s seat and thanked him for his valiant effort. “I mean, there were tears flyin’,” Favre says. “By the time we landed, I am like, ‘I don’t think I can let these guys down.’ I know football is a business, but more than anything I felt like there was unfinished business. All of a sudden, ‘Oh, man, as much as I don’t want to go through that again, I almost feel as if I owe these guys something.’ “And that is something, I admit, I have not felt in a long time. It has made it so hard to make a rational decision.”
Most folks believe Favre merely is trying to avoid training camp; he says that isn’t so. “That’s the strange thing,” he says of the yearly Favre watch. “Even I don’t know. Every year, I think the decision either will be made for me, making it easier, or I will know. I’m just trying to do that right thing. If it were about money, I would have said ‘Yes,’ the next day,” to his $13 million deal for 2010.
Vikings coach Brad Childress told KFAN in Minneapolis last week that it wouldn’t surprise him if Favre retired because of the “mental grind of it is equal to the physical grind.” With a high threshold for pain, and a tolerance for his critics, Favre continues to work out in his native Mississippi, testing his ravaged body. He says the thigh feels “great.” The left ankle may be a different story. Dr. James Andrews operated on the joint nearly 10 weeks ago in an attempt to reduce Favre’s pain, not restore additional mobility. After multiple surgeries on the ankle, Favre compares it to “doin’ patchwork on a your truck or lawn mower. “If you do enough patchwork, eventually you’ve got to a get a new one,” he laughs. “Hell, you gotta quit sometime. Then again, maybe I will be doing this when I’m 50 years old, who knows?”
In reality, it is not so funny. “I wake up in the morning, your feet hurt and the rest of you feels like (expletive deleted), you know?” Favre says. “The ankle still feels like it did before surgery. As the day goes by, it loosens up a bit. But I keep telling myself, ‘Hey, you’re 40. You have had three (ankle) surgeries, so you ought to pretty thankful it’s not worse than it is.’ ”
No quarterback of Favre’s vintage posted the kind of campaign he did in 2009 — 33 touchdowns and 4,202 yards, plus only seven interceptions and a 107.2 rating. Moreover, his productivity since turning 38 during the 2007 season is unprecedented for an NFL player at any position. During that span, Favre has thrown 83 touchdowns and averaged 3,943 yards passing. Last year, in his 19th season, he was selected to his 11th Pro Bowl.
Part of Favre’s conundrum is this: Unless his surgically repaired ankle gives him enough mobility and is less painful, can he continue to be as effective? Favre has started 285 consecutive regular-season games — 309 counting the playoffs. He believes, in some ways, that he is a victim of his success. “Everyone expects me to play (a whole season),” he says. “If you look at other guys (who played the position), it is a bit harder than it seems. Then, to play at that high of a level, well, that’s hard to do at 25. Thinking about the upcoming season, that enters my mind. It’s like, ‘Hey, even you can’t live up to those expectations.’ “