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Thursday, October 30, 2003
Favre increases practice workload to test injured thumb

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre gave his injured thumb another test Thursday and appears certain to start Sunday night's game against the Vikings in Minneapolis.

Quarterbacks coach Darrell Bevell said Favre handled about 80 percent of the repetitions in practice Thursday afternoon and did well.

It was his first extensive workout since he suffered a hairline fracture of the right thumb at St. Louis Oct. 19.

"He looks good. He's going to be fine," Bevell said.

Favre had thrown a handful of passes in practice Wednesday, but he did a little of everything Thursday, including unloading some deep throws, Bevell said. Favre handled the majority of the snaps with the starting unit in team segments.

"You have to get a feel for where he's at, so we put him in there," Bevell said. "We're kind of playing it by him, but he just continues to take more reps and take all the throws that he needed to make."

Favre wasn't available for comment after practice.

He had said Wednesday he has every intention of playing Sunday, which would extend his starting streak to 198 games, an NFL record for quarterbacks.

The Packers (3-4), who trail the NFC North-leading Vikings (6-1) by three games, have won only two of 11 games contested at the Metrodome since Favre's first season in 1992.

Bevell said Favre wore a protective splint on the thumb in practice for the second straight day and will wear it in the game Sunday.

He said there were no botched exchanges of the football from center Mike Flanagan to Favre in practice.

Favre has made one adjustment in how he grips the football, Bevell said.

"He'll probably have two hands on the ball more than he normally does, but that's a good thing," Bevell said. "I don't usually like him running around with it in one hand anyway. So, having two hands on it will be a bonus."

Bevell, who sustained a broken right index finger when he was playing for Wisconsin in the early 1990s, has come to expect Favre's finding a way to be ready on game day.

"By no means do I want to minimize what he's going through," Bevell said. "But, I'm not surprised because he's a tough guy, he's a driven guy. Whatever is wrong with him, if he can play, he's going to play, and he's going to find a way to fight through it."

PEDERSON STANDS READY: Bevell said he's confident Favre will be able to make it through the entire game Sunday. He noted how Favre played the majority of the Packers' loss at St. Louis with the injury, though the fracture wasn't diagnosed until the following day.

Nonetheless, Bevell and offensive coordinator Tom Rossley have been preparing Doug Pederson and Craig Nall if an emergency arises Sunday.

Pederson and Nall have taken reps with the starting offense the past two weeks for the first time this season.

"As a backup, you always have to be ready," Pederson said. "But, now with an injury, your sense of urgency has to be even greater. By practicing this week gets you in that mindset of a game. It really helps."

Pederson, an 11-year NFL veteran, said the anxiety for a backup quarterback is high on those game days when there's a chance of being pressed into service. However, he feels prepared if the need arises Sunday because of his enhanced involvement in practice.

"If anything, by practicing the stress level goes down because now you're out there when the bullets are live and you're working," Pederson said. "It's when you don't take reps and you try to do everything mentally in your head and then go out there, that's kind of when your stress level is high."

BARNETT TOP DEFENSIVE ROOKIE: The NFL on Thursday named Packer middle linebacker Nick Barnett as defensive rookie of the month for October.

"It's a pretty nice honor, but we still have to do some other things. We have to start winning some games," Barnett said. "So, I'm not really focused (on the award) right now. I'm just focused on the game we have coming up."

Barnett, the Packers' first-round draft pick from Oregon State, was chosen over St. Louis linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa.

In three games this month, Barnett totaled 31 tackles (26 unassisted), one sack and one pass breakup.

As impressive, Barnett was the only Packer to be on the field for all 203 defensive plays in the three games.

Barnett leads the Packers with 73 tackles, an average of 10.4 per game.

At that pace, Barnett would finish the season with 166 tackles. The team record is 180 by linebacker Mike Douglass in 1981.

WALKER LIKELY OUT FOR SUNDAY: Backup nose tackle Rod Walker missed practice for the second straight day with a bruised right knee.

Listed as questionable on the injury report for the game, Walker said Thursday it's unlikely he'll practice Friday and, consequently, won't play Sunday.

He hasn't practiced since sustaining the injury in the second half of the game at St. Louis.

"If I feel like I can't help the team, I wouldn't put myself in that situation. We have some guys who can hold it up," said Walker, mentioning Larry Smith and Terdell Sands as potential fill-ins behind starter Gilbert Brown.

"They should be all right if I don't play," Walker added. "So, that takes a lot of stress off me trying to rush back and hurting myself and hurting the team."