Brett Favre's limp to the finish line

December, 14, 2010
12/14/10
12:35
AM ET
Brett FavreAP Photo/Carlos OsorioBrett Favre ended his streak of consecutive starts and may have played his final NFL game.
DETROIT -- I looked carefully and waited patiently Monday night as Brett Favre addressed his first "DNP" in 19 years. His camouflage hat pulled low over his forehead, I assumed it was only a matter of time before the blubbering began.

Three minutes passed.

Five minutes.

Ten.

In a 15-minute news conference in the bowels of Ford Field, Favre neither shed a tear nor so much as expressed disappointment about sitting out the Minnesota Vikings' 21-3 loss to the New York Giants, thus ending his 297-game streak of consecutive starts. Instead, Favre seemed resigned to the fact that he has likely played his final NFL game and in some ways relieved that an intersection of factors -- the Vikings are eliminated from playoff contention and his own play this season has been far below his career standards -- has made it almost a natural course of events.

Favre said he will undergo another examination Tuesday on his sprained SC joint, one that he believes has exacerbated numbness in his right hand, but never suggested he could return for any of the Vikings' remaining three games.

"I won't play again if I can't feel my hand," Favre said. "I think it would be foolish to even consider playing if you don't have total feeling in five fingers."

Favre and Vikings interim coach Leslie Frazier spoke extensively Monday night and are planning to speak again after Tuesday's exam. Frazier refused to rule out Favre's return -- and I don't blame him after watching backup Tarvaris Jackson stink it up Monday night -- but that will be Favre's call.

Monday's decision was a "no-brainer," Frazier said, and Favre never so much as attempted to throw a pass during pregame warm-ups. As he spoke later to reporters, Favre's right hand was a deep shade of purple and his complexion pale.

"I've played through a lot of stuff," he said. "I think this is something different that I've got to be more cautious of. ...Whether [the streak] ended today, in several weeks, end of last season, it's been a great run. A great run. So I'm very proud of it. ... I think it is a very difficult thing to do. I realize that more so now because it seems like I've been hurt a lot worse. I can't believe that something like this hasn't happened before. Pretty amazing."

Favre twice used a form of the word "relief" to describe his reaction to watching the game from the sideline -- where he stood in sweatpants and a stocking cap and watched Jackson take four sacks, throw an interception, complete 50 percent of his passes and leave three times because of injury.

"Relief was in the sense that there wasn't a lot of pressure on me," Favre said. "It was different. It's been a long time. I'd much rather be playing. And that's just my nature. I don't want to say it was time, [but] it's probably been long overdue. There has probably been a lot of times when the streak should have ended. It wasn't really a flood of emotions. I just couldn't play. I didn't feel like I could function good enough."

Place-kicker Ryan Longwell, his longtime friend and teammate, sounded like he was delivering a commencement speech for Favre's career.

"He's in a great place," Longwell said. "He's really at peace with everything and OK with the streak ending. ... Now that it's over, I think it's a relief."

My sense Monday was a little different. I wonder if Favre wasn't trying to conjure relief as a facade to cover for what has been a legacy-altering season.

He will obviously still be a first-ballot Hall of Fame player who was statistically tougher than any player in the history of the game. But there is no way to sugarcoat it: Favre is going out a beaten and battered man, one who tried and failed to squeeze a final triumphant season out of his career. It will forever be part of his career tapestry.

Favre has tried to characterize this season as a "favor" to his teammates, and his continued assertions that he had "nothing left to prove" this season is code for "this season doesn't count." Unfortunately for him, it doesn't work that way. It all goes into the crock pot in the end.

But no matter what we say about this season, and the way it appears to be ending, we should make clear that Monday marked a historic moment in pro football. The chances of another player matching this feat -- starting all of his team's games over two decades -- are pretty low.

In fact, I found myself nodding in agreement as Favre described a recent conversation with some acquaintances who said they would "hate to see the streak end like this."

Favre said he responded: "End like what? It's been a great run. I will not hang my head one bit because it ended today."

Nor should he. Brett Favre was the Iron Man of football. And now it's time to move on. After five years of thinking about it, he finally appears ready.

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