NFC North: James Andrews

BBAO: John Sullivan's knee

February, 7, 2013
2/07/13
8:30
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We're Black and Blue All Over:

It's not unusual for an NFL player to undergo offseason knee surgery, as Minnesota Vikings center John Sullivan did last week, via Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com.

The type of surgery Sullivan had is not typical, however. A surgeon in the office of Dr. James Andrews performed a microfracture procedure on his left knee that probably will curtail most offseason work. The surgery typically includes drilling small holes in the bone to help spur the healing, or limit the damage of, injured cartilage, and has been associated with serious long-term conditions.

Pelissero reports that Sullivan's injury is not as severe as it could have been, which makes sense considering he did not miss a snap in 2012 on the way to the best season of his career. As always, we'll take our cues on this from the Vikings' offseason action or inaction. If they sign or draft a center, you'll know they are concerned about Sullivan's status. If not, you can assume they think he'll be ready for the start of training camp.

Continuing around the NFC North:
We're Black and Blue All Over:

Minnesota Vikings tailback Adrian Peterson convinced Dr. James Andrews to perform a quicker-than-normal surgery on his injured left knee because he has been in "severe" pain, according to Tim Yotter of Viking Update, and wanted to get the rehabilitation process started as soon as possible.

Peterson will have surgery Friday, six days after tearing two ligaments and suffering other damage in the knee. Typically, doctors prefer patients to wait until swelling has reduced, but that was not the case in this instance.

The Vikings have set a goal of getting Peterson back for the start of the 2012 season, a timetable that probably represents a best-case scenario.

Continuing around the NFC North:
  • The Vikings need a victory Sunday to avoid going winless in the NFC North, a sign of how much work they have ahead of them, notes Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com.
  • The Vikings are investigating a number of stadium sites in downtown Minneapolis, according to Mike Kaszuba of the Star Tribune.
  • Brian Murphy of the St. Paul Pioneer Press profiles retiring tight end Jim Kleinsasser.
  • Sunday could be a chance to change the career of Green Bay Packers quarterback Matt Flynn, writes Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
  • Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette: "It looks like Chad Clifton will get every chance in the next week and a half to move back into the Green Bay Packers’ starting job at left tackle for the playoffs after missing the last 2 months because of hamstring and back injuries."
  • The Packers are still rotating players at right outside linebacker, notes Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com.
  • Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford knows he will be judged by how he plays in the playoffs. Mike O'Hara of the Detroit News explains.
  • Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan has resurrected his career over the past few years, writes Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press.
  • Pro Bowl special-teams ace Corey Graham wants to play defense for the Chicago Bears, writes Vaughn McClure of the Chicago Tribune.
  • Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune thinks the Bears are making a mistake if they don't use rookie quarterback Nathan Enderle extensively Sunday against the Vikings. Pompei: "You can't shove a young quarterback in the back of a freezer until you need him and then expect him to be microwave ready at a moment's notice. Getting a young quarterback ready to play is a process that should be deliberate and calculated."
  • Bears linebacker Lance Briggs didn't bite on a question about his request for a new contract, according to Michael C. Wright of ESPNChicago.com.
Did y'all know something I didn't know?

(Hold your jokes on that one.)

Stafford
Stafford
During an impromptu Twitter chat Thursday, I asked Detroit Lions readers what they wanted to read about as we approach a long offseason of uncertainty. Your overwhelming response was for an update on quarterback Matthew Stafford's injured right shoulder, the one that cost him 13 starts last season.

At that very moment, it turned out, Stafford was making final preparations to undergo surgery. As you've probably heard by now, Dr. James Andrews repaired Stafford's AC joint during a procedure Friday morning. In a statement, Lions coach Jim Schwartz said: "We have full confidence that Matt will be 100 percent before the start of training camp."

Stafford didn't play again after suffering the injury Nov. 7, and we could probably spend hours debating why he didn't have surgery right away. (Schwartz said in his statement that the initial plan to rehabilitate was on track but that Andrews decided "Matt's healing process could be enhanced by undergoing surgery at this time.")

But because of what might happen in the NFL over the next year, the debate is probably moot. Tom Kowalski of Mlive.com reports Stafford's recovery will take four months, which normally would spill into the Lions' offseason conditioning program and possibly spring practices.

Those programs will be canceled, however, if NFL owners lock out players as expected this spring. So if there were ever an offseason to be sidelined after major surgery, it's this one.

The big question is not when Stafford resumes offseason workouts, but whether or not he can stay healthy next season. He has ended each of his first two NFL seasons on injured reserve. An entire franchise is keeping its fingers crossed.

BBAO: Matthew Stafford's diagnosis

November, 16, 2010
11/16/10
7:15
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We're Black and Blue All Over:

Thanks to a statement from the Detroit Lions and the usual excellent reporting from ESPN's Chris Mortensen, we finally have some clarity on quarterback Matthew Stafford's 9-day-old right shoulder injury.

Stafford visited Monday with Dr. James Andrews, whom the Lions say confirmed their original diagnosis and endorsed their rehabilitation plan. The Lions did not provide details, but Mortensen reported Stafford suffered a Grade 3 separation of his shoulder Nov. 7 against the New York Jets. Stafford will spend the next two weeks in rehabilitation, Mortensen reported, and then will determine whether he can return to the field at that point. A cortisone shot could be administered during the process.

Season-ending surgery remains an option if the rehabilitation plan doesn't provide the necessary progress. At best, Stafford could play perhaps the final month of the season.

I know how important it is for Stafford to get back on the field, but the idea of rushing back on a twice-separated shoulder sounds scary to me. The Lions have their entire future, not to mention more than $40 million, invested in him. You can only assume they'll take every precaution necessary.

Continuing around the NFC North:

Free Head Exam: Detroit Lions

November, 15, 2010
11/15/10
5:25
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After the Detroit Lions' 14-12 loss to the Buffalo Bills, here are three issues that merit further examination:
    Head Exam
    Kevin SeifertFollowing their loss against the Bills, the Lions take their turn in the examination room.

  1. Over on Twitter, @edahlb suggested that quarterback Shaun Hill appeared to intentionally throw the ball away on the two-point conversion attempt that could have tied the game. When you watch the replay, you see Hill unable to find an open receiver before sailing it over the head of tight end Brandon Pettigrew in the back of the end zone. If Hill actually forgot the situation, it would have been an incredible brainlock by a professional quarterback on par with Dan Orlovsky running out of the back of the end zone. Knowing Hill, I don't believe that to be the case. It was a poor attempt at a low-percentage pass, but not a mental mistake. Here's how he described it to reporters Sunday: "I was sick when the ball left my hands. I was trying to kind of put one on him, up where he could go up and get it, and that thing just flailed out of the hand." It was poor execution, but not a botched play.
  2. It's not clear when we'll get official word on starting quarterback Matthew Stafford, but his consultation with Dr. James Andrews on his right shoulder is complete. Stafford could begin a rehabilitation program or could be shut down for the season. We don't know. Thinking intuitively and nothing else, it would be a surprise if we find out that Stafford will be ready to return in a few weeks. After all, he's suffered two significant injuries to his throwing shoulder in the span of two months. Lions fans should brace themselves.
  3. I think it's fair to say tailback Jahvid Best has slowed down since piling up 232 all-purpose yards against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 2. Sunday, Best managed 35 yards on 17 carries against the NFL's worst rushing defense. Obviously, the running game is a group effort that also includes the offensive line and play-caller. But I think we can say this about Best: There haven't been many occasions this season when he has made something out of nothing. He has averaged 3.0 yards per carry or less in four games this season. I'm sure that an early season turf toe injury hasn't helped, but the season-long explosion many of us expected has yet to materialize.
And here is one issue I don't get:
How much blame should we put on Lions coach Jim Schwartz as his team continues to rack up penalties? They now have 88 on the season, second-most in the NFL. To me, some penalties are more attributable to coaching than others. When you have two chop blocks in one game that violate a little-known NFL rule, you can wonder if players are being taught proper techniques. But when someone jumps offside, how is that a coach's fault? What can he do to require players to maintain concentration? The jury will always be out on that question.

Free Head Exam: Minnesota Vikings

November, 15, 2010
11/15/10
3:00
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After the Minnesota Vikings' 27-13 loss to the Chicago Bears, here are three issues that merit further examination:
Head Exam
Kevin SeifertFollowing their loss to the Chicago Bears, the Vikings step into the examination room.

  1. Quarterback Brett Favre admitted to feeling pain in his right shoulder over the weekend, but at this point there is no indication he will miss any game time. Coach Brad Childress said Monday that Favre is "sore" but should resume practicing later this week. "I think he anticipates practicing Thursday and being ready to go Sunday against Green Bay," Childress said. The coach also claimed to be unaware of Favre's plans to consult Dr. James Andrews or undergo an MRI. Basically, this is what happens when you have a coach who is fanatical about hiding injury information and a quarterback who wants everyone to know how painful his every move is. At the end of the day, all that is important is whether a personnel change is looming. It isn't. At this point, I think we can be fairly certain Favre will start against his former team Sunday.
  2. Based on the way Childress told it, the Vikings had two receivers who decided against playing Sunday. Sidney Rice declined to be activated to the 53-man roster in order to give his hip more time to heal, while Bernard Berrian told Childress during pregame warm-ups that his injured groin would prevent him from playing. The Berrian case is especially curious because he has disputed Childress' version of the events. Berrian hasn't explained what did happen, however, and on Monday, Childress reiterated that Berrian didn't tell him until after the 11:30 a.m. ET deadline for finalizing game-day rosters. "You have to believe [he can play] or an hour and a half before the game we would have had somebody else in his suit," Childress said. It's never a healthy situation when coach and players are disagreeing publicly on an injury. The Vikings have multiple instances floating around.
  3. Via Twitter, punter Chris Kluwe said there were "three separate" illegal blocks during Devin Hester's 42-yard punt return. Childress said there were a "couple pushes in the back." Maybe there were and maybe there weren't. But the significance of those blocks were minimal. The Bears took over at the Vikings' 37-yard line but didn't score, courtesy of safety Husain Abdullah's interception in the end zone. So let's not get too worked up about a play that, in itself, had no impact on the outcome of the game.
And here is one issue I don't get:
We'll dive into this in more detail later this week, but here is the broad question: Why is Childress still employed? I think that question could be answered reasonably by owner Zygi Wilf, but his silence has left us in a speculative state. We know the Vikings are 3-6 despite a payroll north of $150 million. Childress and players are openly and publicly contradicting each other. It's a mess, to be sure. You don't necessarily fire a coach just because his team is a mess at the moment. But it would be instructive to know what Wilf is basing his inaction on. Does he consider Childress equipped to resuscitate the team and franchise? Is Childress' long-term contract a factor? Does he not hold defensive coordinator and presumptive replacement Leslie Frazier in high esteem? Is he just tentative at the switch? Who knows.

NFC North Friday injury report

November, 12, 2010
11/12/10
5:26
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Getting inside the Friday injury report, including some interesting machinations among the Minnesota receiving corps.

Chicago Bears: Two players are listed as questionable, but center Olin Kreutz (hamstring) and cornerback Zack Bowman (foot) both seem likely to play Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings. Kreutz returned to practice Friday and should make his 127th consecutive start, according to ESPNChicago.com's Jeff Dickerson. Kreutz: "This time of year no one's at full strength. I'm not concerned about it. You just show up and play."

Detroit Lions: Linebacker Isaiah Ekejiuba (knee) is listed as doubtful and not expected to play Sunday at the Buffalo Bills. We already knew that quarterback Matthew Stafford (shoulder) and place-kicker Jason Hanson (knee) weren't playing. Defensive end Cliff Avril (quadriceps) didn't practice Friday and is very questionable for Sunday. Three of the Lions' starting defensive backs are also questionable: Safety C.C. Brown (knee), cornerback Chris Houston (shoulder) and cornerback Alphonso Smith (shoulder). Houston and Smith seem likely to play. All other players should be available. Stafford, meanwhile, will have his shoulder examined Monday by Dr. James Andrews.

Minnesota Vikings: Coach Brad Childress initially said receiver Percy Harvin (migraines) would be listed as doubtful, but officially Harvin is questionable. Harvin practiced Friday, and unless there is more going on behind the scenes, should be available Sunday against the Bears. Receiver Sidney Rice could be added to the active roster Saturday, but he seemed hesitant about returning before his hip is fully healed. Cornerback Asher Allen (concussion) isn't expected to play, meaning rookie Chris Cook likely will start and Lito Sheppard will serve as the nickel back. Look out.

FavreWatch: Brilliant theater

October, 27, 2010
10/27/10
2:43
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- All we needed Wednesday was a red curtain and some dim lighting. Then we could have called it "Masterpiece Theatre."

(Or "Mystery Science Theater 3000," depending on your taste and interest in audience participation.)

For Act I, we had Minnesota Vikings coach Brad Childress saying once again that “sometimes you have to protect people from themselves.”

[Intermission.]

[+] EnlargeBrett Favre
Jim Prisching/Getty ImagesDespite a fractured left foot, Brett Favre is eager to proceed as the starter for the Vikings.
In Act II, we had quarterback Brett Favre limping to the podium with his left foot encased in a walking boot. After a few warm-up questions, Favre is smacking the podium with his left hand and declaring “I want to play.” Despite two fractures in his left foot, Favre valiantly declares: “Mentally, I think I can do it. I’ve done it before. Will it hurt? I’m sure it will.”

[Chorus erupts!]

And so goes the unprecedented drama playing out this week at the Vikings’ Winter Park practice facility. Favre has an injury that almost certainly would mean a week or two off for any other player. But the man who has started 291 consecutive games, pushing through sprained feet and fractured thumbs along the way, expertly played the role of tragic hero Wednesday.

“My mental state has always been, after an injury, to give it a try,” Favre said. “It'd be easy to just go, 'Ah, I can't do it.' But once again, all the things that I've accomplished, so many great things that I've accomplished after injuries, and not necessarily the next week, but the whole year, it's basically to be willing to take it on. It's not that it doesn't hurt. And I can't say that this would hurt you more than it hurts me. I don't know that. But it would appear that way just based on what I've been able to overcome.”

Favre revealed that he spoke Tuesday with Childress and that “I wanted to address to him that I would like to play or at least have that mindset as the week progresses.” But will Childress allow him?

As we all know by now, Favre and Childress have a distant, at best, relationship -- one that was on full public display after Sunday night’s 28-24 loss to the Green Bay Packers. Favre threw three interceptions in that game, is tied for the NFL lead with 10 this season and has hardly resembled his 2009 self.

[+] EnlargeBrad Childress
AP Photo/Paul SpinelliCoach Brad Childress said Favre's streak of consecutive games started will play no part in who starts at quarterback.
Childress couldn’t contain his enmity Sunday night and you wonder if he considers the injury the excuse he needs to relieve Favre (temporarily) of his duties.

Of their discussion Tuesday, Favre said: “We’ve been able to talk about things but we don’t necessarily agree.”

So on one hand you have a quarterback who limps up to a podium and, one by one, ticks off the previous instances of his well-documented ability to heal quickly and compartmentalize pain. On the other hand, you have a coach who is livid about the quarterback’s on-field mistakes and hasn’t expressed much optimism about the condition of his ankle.

“I wouldn’t put it past him,” was the most Childress would muster.

The earliest Favre would practice is Friday, and Childress said he needs to see some “movement skills that indicate” he is ready to play before Sunday’s 4:15 p.m. ET kickoff.

Childress did make clear, however, that sentiment will play no role in his decision.

“We’ll do what’s best for us to win a football game on Sunday,” Childress said. “That’s hands down what my motives will be.”

Favre said he is “very proud” of his streak but added it “probably should have ended a long time ago.” Still, it was a treat listening to him explain that his only goal is to play in order to help the Vikings win Sunday.

“I know it makes for good TV, talking about the streak and will it end, will this be the injury that stops him or whatever,” Favre said. “Whether it ends this week or it ends at the end of the year, it ends, and I will always be proud of it. In the game of football, every week, it's a crapshoot with injuries, and I've been able to overcome a lot. ... I'm thankful that up to this point I've been able to play with whatever, how many games in a row. It's all about being able to help this team win and getting us back on track. That's the only thing I'm concerned about.”

Favre sent X-rays of his foot to the office of Dr. James Andrews, who performed unrelated surgery on the same ankle this spring. According to Favre, one of Andrews’ partners -- Dr. Erik Nilssen -- told him there was no risk of further damage by playing on it. But in what I’m sure was an unintentional slip of the tongue – yeah, right -- Favre quoted Nilsson as saying: “You know, I'm not going to say you couldn't play with this. I don't know of any in recent memory, if any, that have played with it. But given the fact that you've played with a lot of different injuries I'm not going to say it can't be done.”

Will our hero heal with miraculous speed, returning just in time to save the day? Or will the coach get his way once and for all? Tune in next time…

[Finis…]

Stafford won't play Sunday, so when?

September, 15, 2010
9/15/10
2:01
PM ET
There was no chance of carrying any mystery into the weekend, and so Detroit Lions coach Jim Schwartz stated the obvious Wednesday: Quarterback Shaun Hill will replaced injured starter Matthew Stafford in Sunday's home opener against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Stafford is dealing with a second-degree sprain of his right shoulder and is expected to visit Dr. James Andrews this week for an examination. Surgery isn't expected, but there was never a question about his availability for this weekend.

What no one knows is how long Stafford's recovery timetable will be. Two weeks? Four? Six? Half of the season? That's the news we'll be waiting on. Stay tuned.

FavreWatch: The clock starts today

August, 16, 2010
8/16/10
9:45
AM ET
Other than the Text Message Saga, I think I've done a decent job of curbing the daily FavreWatch this summer. Hope you've enjoyed it, because I think we need to take it up a notch.

In my book, FavreWatch always was scheduled to start today. We all knew there was no chance quarterback Brett Favre would join the Minnesota Vikings during their training camp at Minnesota State University, Mankato. As we've been discussing for months, the earliest he might arrive is when the Vikings resume practice at their permanent Twin Cities facility. That workout is scheduled for Monday at about 1 p.m. ET.

Favre
There is no evidence that Favre will be on the field for that practice, but now the clock is ticking. Remember, Favre arrived last year on Aug. 18 -- the second day of practice after the Vikings broke training camp. He started and played two series in a preseason game three days later, and then saw more extensive preseason work the following week. In all, Favre spent 26 days with the Vikings before they opened their season Sept. 13 at Cleveland.

I honestly don't know how Favre will choreograph his presumed arrival this year. He was scheduled to have his surgically repaired ankle examined last week by Dr. James Andrews, and if he got any unexpected news, it has yet to leak out. Internally, the Vikings believe Favre's ankle is a minor issue. They're simply waiting for him to say, "yes," and I can tell you for a fact there are some nervous Nellies in the organization at this moment.

Assuming he does return, I'm guessing Favre needs less preparation time than last summer after spending an entire year in the Vikings' offense. So does that rule out an arrival this week? Could he jet in next week, participate in the Aug. 28 preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks, and declare himself ready for the season? Or is he comfortable skipping the preseason altogether?

Even if he reports today, Favre will get less practice time because of the Vikings' early open to the regular season, Sept. 9 at the New Orleans Saints. That game is 25 days away.

Let the guessing and games begin. Now, it's for real.
Are we about to hit Mach 2 in FavreWatch 2010?

As you recall, agent Bus Cook has said that quarterback Brett Favre would visit Dr. James Andrews this week to re-evaluate his surgically-repaired left ankle. And as ESPN's Chris Mortensen noted Thursday morning on ESPN Radio, Andrews usually uses his office in Gulf Breeze, Fla., on Thursdays and Fridays.

Favre
Those facts make this report from 1500ESPN.com's Tom Pelissero particularly interesting: A private plane traveled Thursday morning from Hattiesburg, Miss., to an airport close to Gulf Breeze. It's scheduled to return to Hattiesburg on Thursday afternoon.

It hasn't been confirmed that Favre was aboard this particular plane. But if nothing else, we're reminded that Favre should have a good understanding about the progress and status of his ankle by the end of this week.

The Vikings, coincidentally, held their final practice of training camp Thursday morning and will travel Friday to their preseason opener at St. Louis. Practice resumes next week at their year-round facility in Eden Prairie, Minn.

So unless Favre receives unexpected news from Andrews in the next day or so, I think we'll finally be able to start the clock on his still-expected arrival in Minnesota.
MANKATO, Minn. -- Let's get to some first-day impressions of the Minnesota Vikings, now that I've mopped off after a few hours on a steamy practice field where the heat index surpassed 100 degrees Monday afternoon:

  • When team drills began during the morning practice, these players were part of the first-team offense: Receiver Greg Lewis, center Jon Cooper, guard Chris DeGeare, tight end Jim Kleinsasser and quarterback Tarvaris Jackson. I wouldn't expect any of those five players to be in the starting lineup in the season-opening game Sept. 9 at New Orleans. Injuries, family death and indecision are all to blame.
  • [+] EnlargeHenderson
    AP Photo/Andy KingE.J. Henderson has made strides in his recovery from a fractured femur.
    Nose tackle Pat Williams, 37, and linebacker E.J. Henderson, who has a titanium rod in his leg, have each participated in more practices than receiver Sidney Rice, receiver Percy Harvin, center John Sullivan and quarterback Brett Favre combined. Tight end Visanthe Shiancoe has been added to the injury list with what coach Brad Childress called a strain, and he missed both of Monday's practices.
  • I plan to write more about Henderson soon, but for now you should know that Monday was the best day yet in his recovery from a fractured femur. For the first time, Henderson participated in all of the defensive repetitions for his group in the morning practice (first team) and afternoon practice (second team). "It felt good," Henderson said. "No pain. No worries. Ready to keep it moving."
  • DeGeare, a fifth-round draft pick in April, was filing in for injured right guard Anthony Herrera and appears on his way to winning a roster spot as a backup who can play both guard spots and perhaps tackle in a pinch. With DeGeare and Cooper on the roster, you wonder if the end is near for center/tackle Ryan Cook -- the player drafted in 2006 with the choice acquired from Miami in the Daunte Culpepper trade.
  • I thought the Vikings looked pretty sharp defensively. The best play I saw was linebacker Chad Greenway's diving tip of a pass intended for Kleinsasser.
  • Count me in agreement among those who have already observed that rookie quarterback Joe Webb is struggling. I counted three ducks on basic go routes and got the sense he has hit the rookie wall of training camp. Even offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell admitted that Webb's head is "swimming" with terminology and added: "There's been times out here where he's flashed some great plays, but there's been times where he's flashing that he's definitely a rookie."
  • Here's an interesting wrinkle to the Harvin situation we discussed earlier: Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune reports that in addition to dealing with the death of his grandmother, Harvin might be suffering from the migraine headaches that plagued him for parts of last season. Childress reiterated Monday afternoon that he isn't certain when Harvin will rejoin the team. "I'm kind of flying in the dark a little bit," Childress said.
  • The Vikings have a full-pads practice scheduled for Tuesday morning. It will include some live scrimmaging and probably be their last real contact until Saturday's preseason game at St. Louis.
  • I made it almost a full day without addressing the elephant next door. Childress said he texted with Favre as recently as Monday morning but had no information on Favre's scheduled visit this week with Dr. James Andrews, who performed the routine surgery on Favre's ankle.
Twenty-four hours later, we are back where we started. (Well, almost. Brett Favre is probably going to have some extra coin in his pocket when it's all said and done.)

Favre
Favre is going to be the Minnesota Vikings' quarterback this season as long as his surgically repaired ankle feels up to it. That's no different than anything we've discussed over the past few months. He'll get an update on his progress next week from orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews, and a favorable evaluation would put him on track to report to Minnesota the following week -- which, coincidentally, is when the team will break training camp and return to its home practice facility in Eden Prairie, Minn.

Isn't that what we've always thought?

Look, I am very certain that Favre sent text messages to teammates earlier this week suggesting that his ankle wasn't at the point where he would feel comfortable playing. He did the same thing last summer as he recovered from arm surgery, and that's why I cautioned everyone against drawing any final conclusions from it. Newsflash: Favre's decision making process is unique and it changes minute-to-minute.

We had some fun in the interim. Obviously, there are no guarantees that Favre will play. If nothing else, this episode was a reminder of the tightrope the Vikings agreed to walk when they stood pat at quarterback this offseason. I think they made a pretty decent bet, but they had to go all in to do it.

They're squirming a bit, as we suggested they might. They haven't gotten an "absolutely, yes" and the start of the regular season is a month away. Now I think we can all agree that no matter what the Vikings might say publicly, they realize the fate of their 2010 season depends on Favre's health (and relatively timely) return.

That's why it took only 24 hours after the latest barrage of text messages for the Vikings to offer him a nearly 20 percent raise for 2010, with incentives that could make it a 35 percent raise. If they were as comfortable with Tarvaris Jackson as they claim to be, they wouldn't be so quick to open the vault.

You can believe what you want about the events of the past few days, but in the end this is all part of the deal you make when you decide you want Brett Favre, circa 2010, to be your starting quarterback. It all happened, and it all leads to the same conclusion: The odds remain strongly in favor of Favre returning to Minnesota for the 2010 season.

BBAO: Ranking elite QBs

June, 17, 2010
6/17/10
7:55
AM ET
We're Black and Blue All Over:

John Clayton's list of elite NFC quarterbacks includes two from our Air and Space division. Here's the full list:

Drew Brees, New Orleans
Brett Favre, Minnesota
Donovan McNabb, Washington
Eli Manning, New York Giants
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay
Tony Romo, Dallas
Matt Ryan, Atlanta

(Clayton noted he had eliminated Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler from the list. Thoughts?)

The list is ordered alphabetically, so let's have some fun and rank it ourselves. Below is my take, sure to cause massive controversy. It's based on where I think we'll be AT THE END OF THE 2010 SEASON.

Drew Brees, New Orleans
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay
Brett Favre, Minnesota
Matt Ryan, Atlanta
Tony Romo, Dallas
Donovan McNabb, Washington
Eli Manning, New York Giants

Continuing around the NFC North:

I can see it already -- and I know you can, too.

Renowned orthopedist James Andrews tells Brett Favre he needs surgery on his left ankle if he wants to play in 2010.

[+] EnlargeBrett Favre
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty ImagesBrett Favre sustained the ankle injury during last January's NFC Championship Game.
Favre, who turns 41 in October, wrestles with the difficult decision of whether to have surgery or, sigh, retire. The days tick on as Favre is torn between spending his days on a tractor or earning $13 million for five month’s work in Minnesota. Finally, after much angst, Favre has surgery, begins his rehabilitation and targets, say, a mid-August test of his football skills.

Call me cynical. But does anyone believe the next few months will play out any other way?

Look, I have no doubt Favre has a legitimate injury. Anyone who saw New Orleans defensive end Bobby McCray twist the ankle during the NFC Championship Game, or saw the pictures of the ensuing swelling, knows it’s real. And it’s also true we haven’t been told the exact nature of the injury.

I spoke this morning with ESPN analyst Stephania Bell, who acknowledged that serious ankle surgeries do exist -- reconstruction among them -- and said it’s difficult to extrapolate Favre’s prognosis without more information. But Favre has had ankle surgery before, in 2007 to remove bone spurs, and I don’t think we’re making a dangerous assumption in suggesting the surgery is more likely to be routine than it is significant.

I suppose it’s possible Favre will retire rather than have surgery. Maybe this will provide him cover for a decision he’s already made not to return to Minnesota. But knowing his history, don’t you think it’s much more likely the opposite is true?

Favre spent three months “testing” his surgically repaired throwing arm last summer, and if he plans to replicate another post-training camp arrival this year, I think he’s now identified his avenue.

I will say this: If the Vikings were either caught off-guard by this revelation or if they’ve miscalculated his intentions, then they’re guilty of gross negligence at the most important position in sports.

As we’ve documented many times, they haven’t lifted a finger this offseason to add anyone at the position. Returning to a competition between two quarterbacks who flopped last summer in training camp, Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels, would be indefensible in my opinion.

If there was any doubt about it before, I’ll be heading to Minnesota’s rookie minicamp Friday afternoon. I’ll pass along any information I glean -- including whether R.J. Archer or Ryan Perrilloux looks like a viable starter this season.

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