Monday, December 20, 2010
By Kevin Seifert
Yes, it's true that the Minnesota Vikings upgraded quarterback Brett Favre from "out" to "questionable" for Monday night's game against the Chicago Bears.
Yes, I was mistaken on Twitter early Monday. There is no NFL rule preventing teams from classifying a player as out -- which, by definition means they have zero percent chance of playing two days before kickoff -- and then adjusting the dial to questionable on game day. The NFL's communications office has straightened me out on that one. The ability to make that kind of move further undermines what is already a shaky system for reporting injuries, but that's for another day.
Now, to the issue at hand. Could Favre really play in this game? Is this a last-minute decision to manufacture some kind of competitive advantage over the Bears? Or, more sinisterly, is it an avenue for the Vikings to give Favre a career sendoff with some kind of ceremonial snap before giving way to rookie Joe Webb?
Here are the facts:
- Favre hasn't thrown since spraining his SC joint Dec. 5 against the Buffalo Bills. In a number of media interviews, Favre -- the man who refused to sit for 297 consecutive games over 18 years-- strongly suggested his career was over.
- Favre attempted to throw before Saturday's practice, but coach Leslie Frazier said: "That shoulder and arm is not quite where it needs to be, so he definitely won't participate on Monday night." Frazier said there was some lessening in the numbness in Favre's right hand, but that his condition was "just not enough where you could put him out to play."
- In a carefully orchestrated series of events, the Vikings notified several media outlets that Favre had been upgraded. In a statement posted at about the same time on the team website, athletic trainer Eric Sugarman made this claim: "Brett Favre attempted to throw the football two days ago and was unable to, due to pain in the SC joint and residual numbness from a brachial plexus injury. He declared himself out at that time. He woke up this morning feeling much improved. His symptoms and function have improved dramatically over the past 24 hours. In fairness to him and his team, he would like to be given the opportunity to play tonight if physically able."
- The Vikings also announced they had promoted practice squad quarterback R.J. Archer to the active roster and placed guard Steve Hutchinson on injured reserve. That means the Vikings have four quarterbacks on their 53-man roster for Monday night's game.
- Favre is expected to throw about 2 1/2 hours before game time to gauge how much progress has been made, according to the Vikings.
I freely admit this turn of events has left me nearly at a loss for words.
It's hard to believe that any NFL franchise, even one that has been caught on the wrong side of the truth-o-meter several times this season, would find it worth its time to orchestrate a charade of this magnitude. The Vikings have been caught up in nostalgia this week as they celebrate their 50th anniversary, but a ceremonial farewell that impacts the actual game and roster management is almost unheard-of in the NFL.
Frazier has proved to be an honest and dignified man during his tenure as a head coach. Remember, just two days ago, Frazier said: "He definitely won't participate on Monday night." There was no ambiguity in those words. I really want to take Frazier at his word.
But on the other hand, it's no less difficult to believe that even Favre -- the bionic man of football -- could have made such a quick physical and mental turnaround over the past 24 hours. And if the Vikings thought there was a realistic chance of him playing, why would they promote a fourth quarterback onto their roster?
I will be heading shortly to TCF Bank Stadium. We can only hope that everything here is on the up and up. If not, this episode will cement the Vikings as the laughingstock of the entire NFL this season.