Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Favre gets revenge, or something like it
By Gene Wojciechowski
MINNEAPOLIS -- This one was for Ted Thompson. For Mark Murphy. For Mike McCarthy and the rest of the Green Bay Rubicons.
It was for his former New York Jets teammates, who anonymously ripped his legacy a new one.
It was for every Rodney Harrison, every doubter and every critic who said he was more drama king than quarterback, that he should retire and, for crissakes, stay retired.
But most of all, it was for the guy who didn't act his age, who wore purple and pink and looked good doing it. It was for Brett Favre, who exacted whatever you want to call it -- revenge
satisfaction -- against the franchise whose helmet logo he wore for 16 green and gold years.
Favre will never admit it, at least, not publicly and not now, but anyone who thinks he didn't enjoy sticking it to Packers general manager Thompson and team president Murphy, both of whom sat stoically on the second row of the Metrodome press box, as well as head coach McCarthy, is Animal Crackers. He can deny it until Vikings coach Brad Childress grows hair, but Monday night's 30-23 win against the Packers has to rank in his personal Favre Five.
"You guys are going to print what you want," said Favre, not exactly dismissing the idea of settling a score."I just did what I was expected to do today. You make that decision."
Maybe it wasn't revenge, but it was something and that something had deep emotional roots. How else do you explain his pregame nerves?
At a Monday afternoon team chapel service at the Vikings' downtown hotel, Favre nearly prayed himself into exhaustion. Kickoff was 4½ hours away and he was already a gooey mess.
"I said, 'Man, I'm losing it,'" said Favre.
It got worse. He would later admit he was as nervous as he had ever been before a game. That includes Super Bowls.
"I felt a lot like I did when my dad passed away," he said.
Irvin Favre died Dec. 21, 2003 of a heart attack. The next night -- a Monday night game, as it turned out -- Irvin's son passed for 399 yards and four touchdowns in a rout of the Oakland Raiders. Nearly six years later, on another Monday night, Favre completed 24 of 31 passes for 271 yards and three touchdowns.
"We definitely knew how much it would mean to him," said wide receiver Bernard Berrian, who caught one of those TD passes.
Favre tried to treat the Packers as if they were just another opponent and this was just another game.
But how do you trick your mind to forget those 16 years and the ugly divorce? You don't, which is why he was in full prayer mode Monday afternoon. It's why he purposely spent as little time on the field as possible during pregame warm-ups. It's why it was semi-surreal when he walked to midfield as one of the Vikings' captains for the coin toss.
"I don't know how to explain it," Favre said. "It felt right, but yet, I guess I never thought I'd be in that situation prior to a game. And this is going back, but now it seems right."
Favre has now beaten all 32 NFL teams, but the sweetest, or perhaps the most bittersweet, of those wins comes against the Packers. Green Bay is where his career grew facial hair, where he won a Super Bowl, where his hair began to turn gray. It's where he became beloved and now what? Despised? Still admired? A combination of both?
To say this was a Godfather game -- not personal, just business -- is to ignore the history of Favre's fractured relationship with Packers management. Some of the broken feelings are his own fault. Some of it was the stumbling, bumbling, fumbling exit strategy taken by Thompson.
The Packers didn't want him anymore (remember Murphy's "crossing the Rubicon" quote?). And they absolutely didn't want him in the NFC North. But here he was, a purple thorn in the Packers' side.
"I hope the Packer fans know how I feel about them," he said of the Cheeseheads who supported him for years.
The possibility of beating the Packers isn't why Favre unretired again. But it's a nice perk.
Favre is still in uniform because he knew there were pass completions still left in that 39-year-old (40, on Saturday) arm of his. If last week's precision laser strike in the final seconds of the San Francisco 49ers game didn't prove that, then how about Monday evening's performance?
"He had his way back there," said Vikings coach Brad Childress.
He had his way because the Vikings' offensive line didn't give up a sack. There was one play in the third quarter where Favre pumped once, pumped twice, did a Sudoku, baked a pot roast, recited the capitals of the 50 states and then completed a 25-yarder to tight end Jeff Dugan. On the next play, he hit Berrian for the 31-yard TD.
Meanwhile, the Vikings' defensive line performed invasive surgery on the Packers' offensive line and Favre's successor, Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers was sacked eight times. Defensive end Jared Allen had 4.5 of those sacks as he terrorized Green Bay tackle Daryn Colledge and, after Colledge went out with an injury, rookie T.J. Lang. After each sack, Allen pretended he had just roped a calf at the rodeo.
To his credit, Rodgers played hard. He always plays hard. He finished with 384 passing yards and two touchdowns. But his two turnovers -- a fumble and interception -- eventually led to 14 Minnesota points.
Favre and Rodgers spoke briefly after the game.
"Hey, way to battle," Favre told him.
And in the postgame news conference, Favre offered more compliments.
"I've been saying all along the guy can play and I think he proved that again tonight," Favre said.
Another guy proved he could play too.
The guy with the pink shoes. And the grudge.
|Brett Favre showed his former teammates and bosses that he's still capable of big things.|
Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Hear Gene's podcasts and ESPN Radio appearances by clicking here.