NFC North: FavreWatch

Almost a full year has gone by since our last FavreWatch post. As it turns out, there is a little-known codicil in the NFC North blog constitution which gives the blogger unlimited power to preserve order in times of emergency. And 365 days without a FavreWatch post most definitely qualifies.

Those of you who are hoping for an imminent reconciliation between former quarterback Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers would be disappointed to learn what former team president Bob Harlan told ESPN 540 on Tuesday morning. According to Harlan, it appears Favre has declined an invitation to attend and/or participate in former coach Mike Holmgren's induction into the Packers Hall of Fame this summer.

Harlan envisioned the appearance as a first step toward a reconciliation and still holds out hope that Favre himself will be inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame before his presumptive 2016 enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The full podcast of Harlan's appearance is available, but here is a portion of what Harlan said:
"We had a meeting about two months ago and talked about who should be invited back [for Holmgen's ceremony] -- Jon Gruden, Andy Reid, people like that. And, we talked about players. And I said to the group, 'What about No. 4? This would be the perfect time for him to come back, come into Green Bay.'

"The crowd at the Hall of Fame banquet is an adoring crowd, they're as loyal to the Green Bay Packers as anybody. And unfortunately, I don't think he’s going to do it. We did approach his agent, and I don't think Brett's going to do it. I feel badly about that."

It's reasonable to think Favre and the Packers will come together sometime in the next five years. But it doesn't appear that will happen in the summer of 2012.

FavreWatch: Two visual reminders

July, 25, 2011
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Brett FavreAP Photo/Andy KingThe final image of Brett Favre in a Vikings uniform might be why he wants to come back.

And so it begins. Sort of.

As you might know, a Philadelphia radio host speculated over the weekend that the Philadelphia Eagles might have interest in Brett Favre as the backup for Michael Vick in 2011. Favre has a long-standing relationship with Eagles coach Andy Reid dating back to their days together with the Green Bay Packers.

[+] EnlargeY.A. Tittle
AP Photo/Dozier MobleyY.A. Tittle illustrates why Favre shouldn't come back.
It's a preposterous idea on many levels, not the least of which is thinking Favre would be interested in a backup role. But preposterous has degenerated into reality too often in FavreWatch. For now, I'll comment in the form of two photographs we've seen before on the NFC North blog.

Above, this is why Favre might possibly consider playing in 2011. Otherwise, the final on-field image of his career would be lying face-down with a concussion on a frozen field.

And here to the right is why Favre should squash any consideration he might or might not have. This iconic 1964 photograph of Hall of Fame quarterback Y.A. Tittle, dazed and de-helmeted in the final year of his career, is the classic illustration of someone who played one year too many.

FavreWatch: A first pitch

May, 26, 2011
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Wednesday's post on the fate of Brett Favre's NFL records generated the usual chatter about when, not if, Favre will get the itch to resume his career. I'm nowhere close to believing that will happen, based on his 2010 health and performance, and we are now seeing some evidence that Favre is at least trying to find other outlets for his sporting attention.

Favre has been closely following the Southern Miss baseball team, attending games in Hattiesburg, Miss., and sitting in the dugout for a few games. On Wednesday evening, he threw out the first pitch for the first round of the Conference USA Baseball Championship.

Southern Miss, the conference's No. 2 seed, defeated Tulane 7-1.

For your (possible) lockout-induced interest, here is some video of Favre's warm-up and faster-than-usual first pitch, courtesy of Conference USA. He also told a group of reporters that he hadn't thrown a baseball in 25 years and that he had no thoughts "whatsoever" about the NFL's labor issues.
OK, it's time to generate a few final page views with a Brett Favre post.

(Wait, did I say that?)

It's around this time of year when we start hearing from Favre, the once-and-future retired NFC North quarterback who tends to "get the itch" to play one more year in late spring and with NFL training camps on the horizon.

Favre
Favre expressed nothing of the sort during the clips of an interview posted Friday by WDAM-Ch. 7 in Hattiesburg, Miss. The closest a conspiracy theorist/mind-reader could get was this thought: "Will I get bored at whatever it is I'm doing? I'm sure I will. But I'll take it as it comes."

I've always believed that Favre's career would end when not a single of the 32 NFL teams wanted him. There is little doubt that at some point this spring or fall, Favre will wish he was playing. But will a team, even one whose quarterback is injured or otherwise holding it back from greater success, wish he were playing for it?

Favre's physical meltdown last season with the Minnesota Vikings made the baggage associated with signing him untenable. I'm not sure if another team would put itself through a similar situation even for the shortest period of time.

In reality, the next step in Favre's football life will be a reconciliation with the Green Bay Packers and subsequent retirement ceremony. ETA: Sometime prior to his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Brett Favre hasn't practiced with the Minnesota Vikings in 26 days, felled by multiple injuries that now include a concussion. Wednesday, the NFL fined him $50,000 for a lack of cooperation with its investigation into possible violations of NFL policy. So how will Favre spend what he has said will be the final four days of his NFL career?

Favre
Apparently, the options include making one final start -- Sunday against the Detroit Lions in the Vikings' 2010 season finale.

Vikings interim coach Leslie Frazier, in fact, said Wednesday that Favre will start if he can pass a post-concussion impact test as early as Thursday.

It makes all the sense in the world for Favre to fade quietly and inconspicuously into retirement, and there is no doubt the Vikings would like to see more of rookie Joe Webb. But Frazier, who is awaiting word on his long-term future with the team, would prefer to take his chances with Favre if that option avails itself.

"It's really not a hard decision for me," Frazier said. "Brett is a terrific player. We feel very comfortable when he's on the field that we have a great chance to win. So you always want to put the guy out there who is going to give you the best chance to win. If Brett is healthy, I think our entire team feels very confident that we have a great chance to win when he's the starting quarterback.

"And nothing against Joe -- Joe's going to be a terrific player in our league. But if Brett is able to go, he'd be our starting quarterback."

It's possible that Frazier is simply offering Favre the public benefit of the doubt when he knows the chances of him playing are minimal. But just two weeks ago, Frazier set the precedent for initiating a game-day swap. So we have to be on guard here. For old time's sake, if nothing else, it looks like we're headed to one final exciting conclusion of FavreWatch. Stay tuned.

FavreWatch: Ready to call it a career

December, 16, 2010
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Lost in the insanity of a still-unconfirmed game site Thursday was that Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre ruled himself out indefinitely because of continued numbness in his right hand.

Favre
Interim coach Leslie Frazier has held out hope that Favre could play Monday night against the Chicago Bears, but Favre strongly downplayed that possibility. He confirmed that he had an ultrasound test earlier this week, but said it was to look for a blood clot, not to identify nerve damage. The test proved negative for a blood clot.

Instead, it appears that rookie Joe Webb will start the game with veteran newcomer Patrick Ramsey as his backup.

"I don't see any change today," Favre said. "... There is still some numbness and discomfort, so ... there's no way I would even consider it with those symptoms still. I think it would be foolish to even think that way."

Although the Vikings haven't placed him on injured reserve, I strongly suspect Favre believes he won't play again this season. Asked if he would resume practicing if the numbness dissipated, Favre smiled and said: "I suppose." He also was vague on the protocol for recovery. "I think time would be the best remedy," he said.

And to be clear, I don't blame Favre one bit. If the Vikings want to use his continued presence on the active roster as a ruse in the name of competitive advantage, that's up to them. But he has taken a beating this season, and with the team eliminated from playoff contention, there is no reason for him to try playing in anything close to the condition he's in.

In his 20th season, Favre didn't seem interested in returning to the field just for a so-called final hurrah.

"If it is meant to be, it is meant to be," he said. "I am not going to beat myself up over it one way or the other. I know up to this point, I came in and did everything I could do, don't regret it one bit. If it is meant to be over, then so be it."
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- As far as I know, the Minnesota Vikings' plan as of late Thursday morning was for quarterback Brett Favre to practice on a limited basis to begin determining whether it will be possible to play through a sprained SC joint near his right shoulder. So it's worth noting, but not quite time to panic over, the fact that Favre did not participate in the portion of practice open to the media.

Instead, Favre stood by the rest of the quarterbacks during individual drills. I saw him flip a few balls left-handed but never with his right. It's possible he'll do more now that reporters have left the practice facility. We'll find out when the injury report is distributed later Thursday.

So what does this mean in terms of Favre's availability for Sunday's game against the New York Giants? I don't know yet. Remember, Favre also missed the first two days of practice earlier this season while nursing two fractures in his left foot. He returned for the Friday practice and started that Sunday against the New England Patriots.

An injury that inhibits the ability to throw is more significant, of course, so at the very least, I think we have a very interesting situation brewing here. For those keeping count, Favre has never missed a start in his career. The streak is 297 consecutive games. Stay tuned.

FavreWatch: Parsing the statements

October, 29, 2010
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- If you were expecting a detailed account of Brett Favre’s return to practice Friday, you haven’t been watching the NFL for long. Minnesota Vikings coach Brad Childress said “I’m not giving any scouting reports” on how Favre looked, and the quarterback made only a brief appearance in the locker room during media availability. Suffice it to say, details were scarce.

In reality, both men have already fired their verbal and figurative salvos. On Monday, Childress provided far more information about Favre’s fractured left foot than he usually does. A conspiracy theorist would suggest Childress wanted it known how serious Favre’s injury was to grease the lane for benching him for Sunday’s game against the New England Patriots.

Favre, meanwhile, lobbied hard Wednesday to be given a chance to show he can play through the injury and maintain a streak of 291 consecutive starts. If nothing else, he painted Childress into a corner. If Favre believes he can play from a physical standpoint, as he suggested, then he was basically daring Childress to bench him for performance reasons.

Friday, Childress was asked about the hypothetical scenario of Favre not playing Sunday. Would it be because of the injury or performance?

“Those are things for you guys to ponder and write about,” Childress said.

Eventually, I asked Childress if he wanted Favre to play Sunday. Here’s what he said: “If he gives us the best chance to win, yeah. There is a couple of litmus things. There is, ‘Can he protect himself?’ And then, ‘What gives us the best chance to win?’”

You hate to overly parse the words of what was a pretty clipped news conference. But I thought Childress’ answer was revealing. Obviously, he needs to decide whether Favre is healthy enough to perform the basic duties required of him on the field. On that count, all I can tell you is that Favre was limping pretty noticeably during the brief portion of practice we watched Friday.

But it seemed as though Childress was suggesting that he also must determine, independent of the injury, whether Favre gives the Vikings the best chance to win Sunday. Would the Vikings be better off with Tarvaris Jackson starting? I obviously don’t know for sure, but it sure looks like Childress wouldn't mind if that's the case.

I can’t defend how Favre has played this season, committing 14 turnovers in six games. But whether Jackson would fare any better is pure speculation. Childress faces a tough decision no matter which way he goes. Luckily, we’ll be here and available to rip away regardless. Stay tuned. I don’t think we’ll have an answer until a few hours before Sunday’s kickoff.

FavreWatch: Feigning fiasco

September, 23, 2010
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. --- The last thing Brett Favre wants to do, he said Thursday, is "raise red flags." But if you listened during Favre's weekly news conference, you heard these gems:

[+] EnlargeBernard Berrian
AP Photo/Jim MoneVikings receiver Bernard Berrian has just 3 receptions for 27 yards after two games this season.
"I'm not really sure who I'm throwing to on particular plays."

"If I sat here and told you that I knew exactly what we're doing right now I'd be lying."

"When I leave the building, I don't know what goes on in our staff meetings. That's not our concern. We all need to be on the same page more. I don't want to raise red flags. We've got to get on the same page, because we're 0-2."

I threw a few of those quotes out on Twitter, and @throwingcandy was quick to respond: "Oh Please! I smell possum."

I'm inclined to agree, even though Favre's play this season has at times reflected all three statements. Two of the Vikings' five wide receivers joined the team after training camp. The Vikings haven't displayed a clear idea of what type of offense they intend to be. And it's been clear that different people have different ideas.

But this was also a classic example of Favre figuratively throwing up his hands as if to suggest he's doing the best he can under the circumstances. It's a brilliant tack that thrusts him into the hero's role should the Vikings eventually get straightened out.

Regardless, Favre offered a glimpse of his current reality as the Vikings prepare for Sunday's game against the Detroit Lions. For one, Favre said he skipped Wednesday's scheduled news conference because he didn't want to be late to a meeting and film study. He admitted that he and receiver Bernard Berrian "have not hit on all cylinders," insisted the team has enough receivers after the failure to acquire Vincent Jackson and said he needs to limit his aggressiveness during this transition time.

"I've got to err a little more with caution on some of these decisions," Favre said. "And history has shown with me that when we're struggling a little bit, I try to press the issue and try to make something happen. I think that's what's made me the quarterback I am and has benefited me throughout my career. But it's also hurt me. It's hard to be patient and try to get this puzzle pieced together."

Finally, Favre semi-joked that he has appealed to offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell to protect him by calling plays that minimize the chance he will throw a risky pass. Bevell said that role is "something I'm always conscious of."

"We [talk about that] all the time," Bevell said. "How do you manage him? How do you make sure you put him in the best situation? He's always got the one guy on [his left shoulder] telling him what to do. I try to be the guy on the other side to settle him down and continue to remind him that this is not one man versus 11. He's got those guys out there. He's got to let them do their jobs. He doesn't need to get out of the box. He's doesn't need to have out-of-body experiences. Just trust the system and we'll make sure the guy on the other end is making plays for him."

That is, if Favre even knows who they are.

FavreWatch: The Camarillo factor

September, 15, 2010
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- We've spent some time discussing why receiver Bernard Berrian wasn't more involved in the Minnesota Vikings' offense during last week's a 14-9 loss to the New Orleans Saints.

[+] EnlargeCamrillo
AP Photo/Jim MoneMinnesota quarterback Brett Favre says Vikings receiver Greg Camarillo is "everything they said he would be and then some."
You can pick your reason -- the Saints' coverage priorities, simply not getting open or the failure to develop a connection with quarterback Brett Favre. But the bottom line is that in 17 regular-season games together, Favre and Berrian have connected for 56 passes, a total surpassed by three other Vikings players over the same stretch. So if Berrian doesn't emerge as Favre's top wide receiver option during Sidney Rice's absence, then who will?

We don't have much to go on here, but I wouldn't rule out newcomer Greg Camarillo, who arrived from Miami on Aug. 25 and will face his former team Sunday at the Metrodome. As we've discussed, Camarillo has excellent hands and is the type of player who should engender immediate trust from a quarterback. My sense is Favre will gravitate quickly toward him moving forward, provided the Vikings get him on the field more often than they did against the Saints.

"He's money," Dolphins running back Ricky Williams said Wednesday. "It seems like every time we needed a big play [or] needed a first down, the ball was in the air and it was going to him. You pretty much know it's a catch. He's a hard worker and a very intelligent guy and he's just a great teammate."

Wednesday, I asked Favre if he had bought into Camarillo's reputation as a sure-handed receiver and if it had influenced his trust factor.

"I had heard that," Favre said, "[but] you still have to see it for yourself. It makes you wonder why they traded him. I do think he is everything that they said he would be and then some. We're only going off of ... I think he had one catch last week and I think four or five with me against Seattle [in the preseason]. He runs very good routes. Seems to have great hands. Very knowledgeable of the game. Runs good routes. So once again, I think he's everything that they said he was, and then some. But you still have to ... how does he fit in with us? And get on the same page in a short amount of time is always the trick."

That remains the case for the entire Vikings offense. But on a relative scale, I'm guessing Favre and Camarillo will be up to speed quickly.
Good early morning to you and yours. Before we really get started Wednesday, let's address one of the FavreWatch questions we left unanswered Tuesday. The Minnesota Vikings are planning to give quarterback Brett Favre a substantial pay raise now that he has apparently returned for a second season.

According to Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune, the Vikings plan to increase his base salary from $13 million to $16.5 million for 2010. He also will have the opportunity to earn another $3.5 million in incentives, meaning he has the chance to earn up to $20 million this season.

But it's not about the money, of course.

The contract has yet to be filed to the NFL, so nothing is official yet. But these numbers mesh with what I have heard as well. It's a relative drop in the bucket, but nevertheless notable on a team that has three starters entering the final years of their contracts: linebackers Chad Greenway and Ben Leber, along with defensive end Ray Edwards. No known discussions are under way with any of those players, nor do the Vikings appear close to deals with another trio of players who have made noise about a possible extension: running back Adrian Peterson, receiver Sidney Rice and tight end Visanthe Shiancoe.

Meanwhile, ESPN's Rachel Nichols provided an outline for the pitch Favre received from teammates Steve Hutchinson, Jared Allen and Ryan Longwell. According to Nichols, the trio grilled steaks with Favre at his home Monday night and ate a breakfast casserole provided by Deanna Favre on Tuesday morning.

Longwell said the group told Favre, "Let's do this one more year."
Brett FavreJohn David Mercer/US PresswireBrett Favre and the Vikings fell short of the Super Bowl last season, losing in the NFC title game.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- In his 19th NFL season, and his 40th on this earth, Brett Favre produced the best season of what was already a Hall of Fame career. As the bizarre nature of FavreWatch 2010 fades into history, now is the time to ask a quite reasonable question:

How can he possibly top 2009?

I wonder if that issue wasn't high on Favre's list as he mulled a return. Can he come anywhere close to duplicating a 33-7 touchdown-interception ratio? Will he complete 68.4 percent of his passes again? Will defenses once again be caught off guard by his chemistry with receivers Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin, along with tight end Visanthe Shiancoe?

From my vantage point, there is only one way to judge Favre's 2010 season. It won't be whether he throws 35 touchdowns or passes for 4,500 yards or sets an NFL record for passer rating. We saw what he was capable of last season.

There's only one reason for the Vikings to go through the rigmarole it took to get Favre back to Minnesota. I can think of only one way that his 20th season will be judged a success.

[+] EnlargeBrett Favre
AP Photo/Paul SancyaBrett Favre threw for 4,202 yards, with 33 touchdowns and just seven interceptions last season.
For that, I hand it to former Vikings receiver Randy Moss, circa 2000.

"Super Bowl, homeboy."

That was the goal Moss set after signing a record contract extension 10 years ago. Favre and the Vikings must be thinking the same thing.

This year's Super Bowl is the reason you pass on an opportunity to acquire Donovan McNabb.

This year's Super Bowl is why you use your draft on players who can help you in 2010, not a quarterback who might start in 2013.

This year's Super Bowl is why the coach spends the night at Favre's mansion a week before training camp, willingly revealing what has been a transfer of power from coach to player.

This year's Super Bowl is why three prominent players were dispatched in an unprecedented attempt to beg Favre into playing one more year -- for their sakes, if not his.

Anything short of a Super Bowl title would render these unparalleled detours a waste of time. If the Vikings miss the Super Bowl in Favre's second year, they'll be left with an aging team that allowed another season to pass without finding a long-term solution at quarterback.

I'm on record suggesting the Vikings, even with Favre, will have a tough go in the NFC North. The Green Bay Packers are much improved over the team that Minnesota defeated twice last season. And it's certainly fair to wonder if 2009 wasn't a magical, one-time collection of events for the Vikings and Favre, one that landed an overtime loss away from the Super Bowl but is highly unlikely to be repeated.

Count former New England Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi, now an ESPN analyst, in that group. Bruschi said Tuesday on ESPN's NFL Live that "I don't think he can do it again" because of weaknesses exposed by the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Championship Game.

"I think there's a huge problem there," Bruschi said. "I think the New Orleans Saints' defense provided a blueprint on how to get to Brett Favre. You show blitz packages from the right, from the left, all over the place. You get to him. You hit him when he has the ball. You hit him when he doesn't have the ball.

"I don't think Brett Favre can last this season with that ankle. He's going to be 41 years old. The ankle is bothering him right now, of course."

History tells us Favre is more likely to last the season than not. He hasn't missed a game since 1992. But Bruschi is right about the Vikings' pass protection issues in that game, and don't think for a second that their 2010 opponents haven't watched the video.

And then there is the issue of Favre's clear ambivalence about playing this season. The Vikings were so worried about his frame of mind that they felt compelled to send three of their top veterans to recruit him. You wonder where they thought Favre's mind was before the visit. Bruschi wondered the same thing.

"And if it took begging," Bruschi said. "If it took three of the most respected teammates and members of that Minnesota Vikings team to go down there and beg him to come back, to twist his arm, I've lost respect for this team.

"If you want him so bad and he doesn't want you, and you've got to go down and beg for someone to come back, then you don't have faith in your football team. You only have faith in one person."

For the most part, I think Vikings players breathed a sigh of relief Tuesday. Backup Tarvaris Jackson is a nice guy and has been a professional throughout FavreWatch, but there aren't many people in the organization who believe he could win a Super Bowl.

Favre still can. That's why he arrived Tuesday in Minnesota, and that's the only way to judge his 2010 season.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Here's one (of many) questions I don't yet know the answer to: Did Brett Favre get any extra money as part of his apparent return to the Minnesota Vikings?

As you might recall, the Vikings reportedly offered Favre an extra $3 million when his annual wavering became public last month. Under the terms of that offer, he would receive $16 million for his base salary along with up to $4 million more in incentives.

The offer was definitely made. It will be interesting to see if Favre accepted it, or if money truly was no part of his decision-making process.

FavreWatch: He's in the building

August, 17, 2010
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- To the extent that anyone was curious, I can confirm that Brett Favre arrived at Minnesota's practice facility at about 5 p.m. ET. He was riding shotgun in placekicker Ryan Longwell's SUV. There has still been no official word on Favre's status from the team, although I think we can safely assume Longwell's indoor workout is over.

Seriously, about 100 fans lined the narrow curb to welcome Favre back to Minnesota. But I don't think many people were surprised that this day came to pass. The real question is whether he'll practice Wednesday and if he'll play Sunday night at San Francisco.

We're awaiting word on whether Favre will hold a news conference later Tuesday, but in the meantime I'll be working on a post on expectations for Favre's second season in Minnesota.

In case there was any doubt about Brett Favre's intentions as he returns to Minnesota, I received this e-mail alert from his official website:
Stay tuned for breaking news from the Minnesota Vikings today on Brett Favre's possible return. Visit the Vikings.com and Officialbrettfavre.com for more information.

You can also check ESPN.com if you'd like.

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