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Saturday, August 22, 2009
Reality sets in for Favre


Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

MINNEAPOLIS -- On his final play Friday evening, Brett Favre looked up and saw Kansas City coming at him with what football people call a "Zero Blitz." Suffice to say, the Chiefs had more pass-rushers than Minnesota had blockers.

Just before linebacker Corey Mays slammed him to the ground, Favre threw the ball in the direction of receiver Percy Harvin. The original play called for Harvin to run a post pattern, but Favre's pass dropped well short.

"I thought Percy would go inside the safety," Favre said. "And he actually kind of stuck the guy and went over the top -- which is what he had been coached to do. I didn't know that."

While Favre has noted the similarities between the Vikings' offense and the scheme he used in Green Bay, he still has plenty of catching up to do before the regular season begins Sept. 13. The miscommunication with Harvin is a small example of the kind of detail Favre is working to assimilate.

The pomp and circumstance of his arrival faded into the night after a 17-13 victory over the Chiefs, leaving Favre with the reality of the challenge before him. After misfiring on three of his four passes over two series, Favre admitted: "There's no way you can be in condition after 2½ days of practice."

Indeed, Favre started his first game in a Minnesota uniform about 80 hours after arriving in the Twin Cities aboard owner Zygi Wilf's plane. He said his arm felt strong throughout the week of practice, an important sign following arthroscopic shoulder surgery in May, but Favre said his 39-year-old legs are sore.

Coach Brad Childress' offense uses far fewer shotgun formations than what Favre grew accustomed to last season with the New York Jets, so it will take Favre some time to get used to what Childress called the "scissors" motion of dropping back from center. With Favre carrying dead legs and a limited familiarity with his teammates, the Vikings set their expectations pretty low Friday night.

"Small victories," Childress said. "The center-quarterback exchange and handing the ball off. He did tell me that no one had tackled him off his tractor [at his home in Mississippi]. So it was good for him to get hit and knocked on his rear end."

Favre, in fact, was hit hard on both series he played. After the first -- a jarring jolt from linebacker Tamba Hali -- Favre literally shook his head as if he were clearing the cobwebs.

"He's going to get hit," Childress said. "It's football. He is put together well and he takes care of himself. Would I rather have him upright? Yeah, but it's part of the game."

On the skewed scale the Vikings created Friday night, Favre passed easily. But of course, they didn't bring Favre in to execute clean handoffs and absorb hits on a zero blitz. They expect much more. As does Favre, who said he fought butterflies as he sat at the team hotel before the game.

"I'm trying to purge myself of [the pressure]," Favre said. "Because with all of the attention it is kind of hard not to feel like you have to live up to all this hype. Not that I don't want to do that, but the most important thing is to lead this team to victory, somehow, someway. I didn't want to get off to the wrong start by fumbling snaps. I wanted to call the plays right, get in and out of the huddle and be as smooth as possible. Based on the facts -- two and a half days -- I consider that to be a small victory tonight."

Favre figures to play at least a half of the Vikings' next preseason game, a Monday night affair Aug. 31 at Houston. (Televised, coincidentally, by ESPN!) He should have his full complement of receivers for that game; Childress said that Bernard Berrian (hamstring) should be ready for that game. By then, I'm sure Favre's goals will expand beyond the center exchange.

"Getting this over with tonight is a good thing," Favre said. "Preseason is tough anyways, but this week has obviously been a little bit hectic."

Check the blog Saturday for a look at the non-Favre observations I had from Friday night's game.