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Monday, October 5, 2009 3:09:03 PM(UTC)
Eden Prairie, Minn. Brett Favre has overcome so much.
An addiction to painkillers. Excessive drinking. The death of his father. A cancer scare with his wife. The hurricane that washed away his hometown.
The side effects of his profession - injuries to his ankle, thumb, elbow, arm and shoulder that would've sidelined many and could have sidelined him.
But there was always another game on the schedule and Favre has never missed a start - 272 regular-season games in a row, more than anyone else who played the game. As he tuned out the world and dialed in to the game, his teammates rallied around him and Packers fans supported him. Sometimes, Favre played his best football at the worst times.
Still, Favre has never quite faced anything like the game Monday night.
When he steps on to the field in the Metrodome, it will not be as the Green Bay Packers quarterback he was for 16 years but as a Minnesota Viking. The unmistakable enemy.
In the past, Favre's teammates rallied in his honor.
Kicker Ryan Longwell remembers the Monday night in Oakland in 2003 when Favre took the field after his father died - his insides a mess, his head clogged from crying.
"It was as a surreal circumstance as I have ever played in," said Longwell, Favre's former teammate in Green Bay for nine years before leaving for the Vikings as a free agent. "Great game on the field, but there's also something going on beyond the game that's pretty intriguing."
Favre played brilliantly and so did his receivers and other teammates under the lights that night.
"They were phenomenal," said Minnesota offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, who was Favre's position coach in Green Bay. "That was a surreal experience, and then when we played it was just like everyone played at a different level. He made incredible throws but then I remember some of the catches that Javon Walker made and Wesley Walls made in the end zone."
Today, both Bevell and Longwell said the 3-0 Vikings badly want to beat the 2-1 Packers in a big NFC North division matchup - maybe not as much for Favre as for themselves.
"I think we want to win for the Minnesota Vikings," said Bevell. "We've been here fighting; this is our fourth year continuing to improve every season. I think we're doing that and we want to take the Minnesota Vikings to the next step."
Favre joined the Vikings only seven weeks ago, so the Vikings may not completely comprehend the magnitude of this game for him.
"I couldn't imagine," said Minnesota linebacker Ben Leber. "You play 16 years in one organization and now have a chance to play them. When we played San Diego a couple years ago it was a big game for me and I was only there for four years. So I couldn't imagine what he's feeling like."
Added Longwell: "I don't know that we want to win for him more than we want to win for ourselves as a team. But you'd certainly like to help him to be part of the story."
One sign that the Vikings aren't burdened with the baggage of bad history between Favre and the Packers is how obvious the Vikings were unaffected by the week leading up to this game.
"Nobody is tight (expletive) around here," said tight end Visanthe Shiancoe. "We have a common goal and we know what we want to accomplish."
The Vikings are almost basking in the attention of a playoff type atmosphere in the first week of October. The pressure is not on them.
The pressure is all on Favre. And Bevell said Favre's discomfort in news conferences Thursday was more of a snapshot of one moment, and not a barometer of how Favre is handling his emotions leading up to this game.
"Brett's a huge story and this is going on two years, you could see how it could get old," said Bevell. "But I see the same guy, personality-wise. He still jokes around with all the players. He's got great camaraderie with all of them.
"You could see that with Jared Allen. People asked him after the San Francisco game, what were you thinking?"
This was moments after Favre launched a miracle throw to Greg Lewis, who made the stunning touchdown catch for the Vikings' last-minute comeback win.
"And Jared said, 'I was thinking, please just be Brett,' " recalled Bevell. "That kind of tells you what everyone feels about him."
Favre isn't on his own.
One of his most important allies is star 24-year-old running back Adrian Peterson. Peterson's overnight connection to Favre makes him want to beat the Packers all that much more.
"This is a big game coming up Monday night, big rivalry, an opportunity to take a firm hold in the divisional lead - it's a big game not only for Brett but for the Minnesota Vikings," Peterson said.
"But inside, I definitely want to get this win for him, too. Favre is the type of guy you can just feed off his energy and the passion he plays with. You saw him running down the field last week wanting to block guys. . . .
"Just the way he plays the game - you've got to lay it on the line. I respect it because I play the game the same way. And I see guys right now, to this day, that don't play with that same energy and excitement and that love for that game and he's still playing with that passion. It's what makes him who he is, Brett Favre."
Monday, October 5, 2009 3:26:49 PM(UTC)
I love the respect AP has for Brett.
Makes me want to sniff AP's jock that much more. =P
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