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Monday, October 25, 2010
Favre's injuries shift control to Childress

By Kevin Seifert

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Brett Favre was diagnosed Monday with two fractures in his left foot. Will the injuries give Minnesota Vikings coach Brad Childress the necessary leverage to reassert his authority in what has become a clear power struggle within the team's offense?

That was the question sifting through my head Monday after hearing Childress detail the injuries, reiterate his disappointment in Favre's three-interception performance Sunday night and suggest that Favre might now be more receptive to coaching.

"My experience with quarterbacks," Childress said, "is that when they're a little bit more humbled, they're always much more receptive."

And that's the crux of the issue facing Childress, Favre and a franchise that has poured its efforts into an all-or-nothing run at the Super Bowl this season. To varying degrees over the past 14 months, Childress and Favre have battled over what Childress calls the "confines of the offense." Sunday night at Lambeau Field, however, that tug-of-war spilled over into a public anger from Childress and palpable exasperation from Favre.

Childress was calmer Monday but still on message. "As a quarterback," he said, "you have the power of choice. We always talk about the decision-making. Turnovers are tough. There are probably some other spots we could have gone with it. [Favre] knows that, and he knows that as he's looking at it."

Childress normally provides the minimum level of injury information required by the NFL, so it was notable that he said Favre has an "avulsion fracture of the calcaneus," also known as the heel bone, as well as a separate stress fracture. Favre was in a walking boot Monday, and the nature of the injuries give Childress the cover he would need to bench Favre for a week -- or simply to create the perception he would be willing to -- without making it appear performance-based to the public.

Childress said Favre will play "once he's functional" and said he would prefer to see him practice at some point during the week if he is to start Sunday. But it seems likely that backup Tarvaris Jackson will take most practice repetitions this week as the Vikings prepare for a tough game at the New England Patriots.

If anyone has demonstrated an ability to play through injuries, it's Favre. He's pushed through any number of them while compiling a streak of 291 consecutive games played. But does Childress want him to push through this week? I don't know about that.

I asked Childress if he believes Favre is on the same page with him and the offensive scheme.

"Absolutely," Childress said. "Yep."

Then why is he so upset when Favre has "a couple nights at the improv," as Childress referred to the issue yesterday? Ultimately, Childress said, those incidents are isolated but potentially damaging because it influences other players to break from the scheme. On several occasions this season, Favre has ignored a wide-open No. 1 target on a play -- tight end Visanthe Shiancoe in Week 2 against the Miami Dolphins and receiver Percy Harvin on Sunday night, among others -- to throw a more dangerous downfield pass that was ultimately intercepted.

"Usually it's telling somebody something that's off the reservation," Childress said. "Those guys are going to listen, now."

Childress said he would not consider the consecutive-games streak in his decision-making process and indicated that Favre's own opinion will represent only a portion of his knowledge base on the issue.

"He's got to be able to do all of the things that the position does," Childress said. "You can't put a guy that's a sitting duck out there. His competitive nature I'm sure will come into it, but a lot of times you've got to protect people from themselves. Really, I'm taking it day by day. He's got great pain threshold and great competitive zeal."

I couldn't hazard a guess about how this week will play out. But if Childress was looking for an opportunity to reclaim control of this situation, he's been handed it. On a platter.