Both Brett Favre and Vikings coach Childress say they saw ‘small window, big opportunity’ to team up

Brett Favre
MinnPost photo by Bill Kelley
It was all smiles today when Brett Favre and Vikings owner Zygi Wilf met the media this afternoon.

When Brett Favre — a vision in purple and red (his quarterback practice jersey) — walked onto the Vikings’ practice field at 1:29 p.m. today, the hopes and dreams of the team and the 24/7 eyes of the blogosphere arrived with him.

Moments earlier, Tarvaris Jackson had strolled out of the locker room, smiling at members of the assembled media. Sage Rosenfels followed, more purposely, sans smile.

Then the Favre chapter officially began.

Decision came together Monday, today
For those who might have seen this as the plan all along – skip the two-a-days and the grind of training camp in Mankato, show up in Eden Prairie with a month left to prepare and one fewer exhibition game to navigate – people should know that it all came together from Monday afternoon to this morning. Childress called Favre to “verify” that Favre’s decision from three weeks earlier was his final decision. Their casual phone chat turned urgent pretty quick.
“I felt like it was a small window that we had to reconsider adding him, potentially, to our football team,” Childress said at a packed late-afternoon news conference. “I can’t quantify for you how long was too long … I knew we had a month left. I felt it was a small window. We still were in training camp. The worst he could say was no.”
For those who have viewed this wholly as a matter of Favre the diva, Favre the dilettante, Favre the lover of the spotlight, the quarterback shared information today that put that in a difference perspective. Everyone knew about his surgically repaired right biceps muscle, but Favre revealed that he was nervous about a tear in his right rotator cuff, too.
The tear is still there. Favre just has been assured that it is an old injury, something he played through before and could play with again. The Vikings shuffled through magnetic resonance imaging exams (MRIs) with him, seeking the same sort of assurance for a player who will cost them a reported $10 million to $12 million for the 2009 season.
“That scared me,” Favre said told the assembled media. “Being a quarterback or a pitcher just coming off surgery for something different, I was – to say reluctant would be an understatement. I just kept thinking I didn’t want to go through what I went through last year [after tearing the biceps with New York].
Dr. James Andrews, the orthopedic surgeon who repaired Favre’s biceps, told him there was enough calcification around the rotator cuff to suggest it had not hampered his play, which was stellar, through the first 11 games last season.
“I had to be reassured, not from Brad but from the doctors, we all know there’s no guarantees that this wouldn’t be an issue. Once again, you never know,” said Favre.

“My arm has felt, I wouldn’t say 100 percent but it’s felt pretty good,” he said. “Good enough for me to feel confident about making the throws I need to make. Once I knew that was OK, and I was fortunate enough to get the phone call from Chili {Childress] yesterday, I said, as a lot of friends and family have said, you won’t know unless you take the chance.”

Legacy questions
Favre said he didn’t think signing with Minnesota will harm his legacy with the Packers. Besides, it’s “my legacy,” he added. Though it felt “different” to don purple, he expected to quickly get used to it. “The bottom line is, it’s football,” he said. “Once you start chasing, one you step into the huddle, I don’t look at the helmets. I look at the faces. I think the guys will know I’m in it for the right reasons. That’s because I still like to play. I still feel I can help whichever team was willing to take a chance.”
Wait, not just any team. “Everyone who I talked to – former players, coaches, just people in general – said, if you were to go back, this is a perfect fit,” he said. “It really is. Once again, no guarantees. They have a very good football team here. Very good running game. From my standpoint, I felt all along like I could offer some experience and some leadership.
“I have to admit, through this whole process, after I said no three weeks ago, at times I was OK with it. Other times I felt, ‘Boy, I could really help that team.’ I think that’s the competitive fire in me. As a player, regardless of the sport, you’ve got to feel like you can make a difference. I just didn’t want to look back. I have no idea how I’ll feel a year from now, five years from now, 10 years from now. I didn’t want to say ‘What if?’ ”

Today’s news conference capped a hectic day for Favre and fans. Everything up to this afternoon’s  practice-field appearance today had been prologue — news leaking that the Hall of Fame-bound quarterback with the deep roots to a hated rival had signed, and team owner Zygi Wilf’s private jet landing in St. Paul after its flight from Hattiesburg, Miss.

The scene outside Winter Park today was equal parts throwback to Herschel Walker’s ballyhooed arrival in 1989 and, say, an Obama presidential visit.

Fans everywhere to greet him
A couple of hundred fans crowded along Vikings Drive opposite the team’s headquarters in Eden Prairie. They constantly pushed into traffic that already was slowed by gawkers. They cheered when head coach Brad Childress’ black Escalade SUV carrying Favre pulled into the driveway and then rushed across the road hoping for a glimpse as Favre entered through a back door.

Most fans were gone by the time practice started, although a few snuck peeks from behind the privacy fence of the adjoining property, a Rasmussen College campus.
Favre’s early minutes of practice were long on handshakes and smiles exchanged with new teammates. Then, the quarterback quickly settled into the daily grind he had seemed so eager to avoid — stretching, taking snaps practicing a few drop-backs, and looking for a few receivers down the field.

Favre threw behind receiver Nick Moore coming across the middle. He threw high to Vinny Perretta to the left. Then he threw low for Glenn Holt. No one, however, seemed bothered.

Later in practice, Jackson, John David Booty and Favre alternated snaps while Rosenfels, in a baseball cap, watched from the side, still nursing a sore right ankle from Friday’s pre-season opener.

Word around Winter Park is that Favre could play — and, perhaps, start — as soon as Friday in the exhibition game against Kansas City at the Metrodome.

Viking players react
Some Vikings players talked about Favre’s signing as they walked off the practice field:

Tight end Visanthe Shiancoe: “There was a lot of promise you could see in people’s eyes. A little different look or gleam in their eyes. People in the huddle had a little extra jump here and there. You could tell people were really excited. Just like a pink elephant in the room.”
Ryan Longwell, Vikings punter who played nine years with Favre in Green Bay: “We’ll see excitement, we’ll see energy, we’ll see a will to win and a rocket arm. He can throw the ball like not many who have played in this league. So it’ll be fun to watch him.”
Center John Sullivan: “You talk about a guy with that much experience, he’s a great resource. I’ll make sure that I pick his brain every chance I get, whenever questions come up. I’m looking forward to learning some stuff from him.”
Quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, whose role obviously is changed. He goes from competing for starting job to battling for the backup role: “It’s not a good feeling. I just have to take it for what it’s worth and try to get better.”
Quarterback Sage Rosenfels, facing similar situation as Jackson now: “When the team needs me this year, I’m going to be ready. I’m going to keep working as if I know I could start. From that perspective, my work ethic [and] my attitude are not going to change.”

Steve Aschburner has been writing about sports for nearly three decades.

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Comments (2)

  1. Submitted by Brian Simon on 08/19/2009 - 09:22 am.

    All these articles about Favre seem to think he’s still the 26 year old superbowl quarterback. As a Packer fan, I have to remind the Vikings fans that he throws a lot of interceptions too. I think there are going to be some disappointed fans by midseason. When’s the last time a team hired a 39 year old QB three weeks before the season began and went on to win the Superbowl? Seriously: let the dream die now, it’ll hurt a lot less in August/September than November & December.

    Having said that, I’m looking forward to him playing for the hometown team. He is a lot of fun to watch – each time he lofts that ball skyward, you just don’t know which team is going to catch it. Get ready for the rollercoaster ride!

  2. Submitted by Paul Gustafson on 08/19/2009 - 09:23 am.

    You Must Be Bret Farve If…..

    1. You can show up for the first day of work in a dirty baseball cap, t-shirt and cargo shorts.

    2. You con an NFL team owner into shelling out $12 million for one season to you when you are 39 and have a newly rebuilt arm – but still have a tear in your rotator cuff.

    3. You get to call your new boss “Chilly”, and you don’t have to tip him when he picks you up at the airport.

    4. Your new team sells 2,500 new season tickets before you throw a single pass in a game.

    5. You get the media to hang on your every word at a press conference even though you’ve lied repeatedly to them over the past 4 months.

    6. You hint that your decision to play was made after you suddenly find out your teary-eyed daughter really does want you to play another year.

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