EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) — Remember Brett Favre’s first answer to Vikings coach Brad Childress? My body isn’t up for this, he said. Six weeks later, Minnesota’s new quarterback wants to remind the football world just how old he is.
“I may not finish the year. If you would have asked me my first year if I would finish I’d have said, ‘I may not,'” Favre said. “No one thought I’d play 18 straight years without missing a game, me included. I have no idea what’s going to happen. None.”
After his initial rejection on July 28, Favre accepted the coach’s offer to join the Vikings on Aug. 18 for this too-good-to-pass-up opportunity to play for a title-contending team. His reasoning? He didn’t want to regret not trying, not even at age 39.
Unless Favre visited some secret Mississippi version of the Fountain of Youth during that time, however, the health of one of the most durable athletes in history is still in question. Favre acknowledged as much Wednesday, the day a rocking chair appeared in front of his cubicle in the locker room courtesy of an unknown prankster.
“I feel good,” Favre said, elaborating in his familiar wounded-warrior style. “I’m not going to lie to you. I’m not physically or mentally 100 percent. I don’t know at 39 if I’d ever be 100 percent physically.”
The partially torn biceps tendon that bothered his throwing arm last December with the New York Jets has been surgically repaired, but he is playing with a torn rotator cuff. Recently, Favre suggested he might have a cracked rib. When he explained his first decision to stay retired, he hinted he’s not fully confident in his stamina by noting how many times he’s been sacked over the years.
That means this issue will linger for the Vikings until the season is over, though they’ve downplayed concerns. Childress has repeated that signing Favre was a risk worth taking.
“From last year, me getting put back in there kind of showed me that you’ve got to be ready any time,” said backup Tarvaris Jackson, who regained the starting job when Gus Frerotte hurt his back in the first game in December. “My mindset’s no different.”
If Favre gets knocked out of a game or two or more and Childress must turn to Jackson or Sage Rosenfels, that’s one story. Another noteworthy angle is Favre’s ironman image, his proud streak of 269 straight regular season games started.
When he lines up behind center this Sunday at Cleveland, Favre will match what the NFL believes to be the all-time record held by former Vikings defensive lineman Jim Marshall from 1961-79. Favre is also on track this year to pass Marshall’s record streak of 282 consecutive games played by a non-kicker.
If his health were to become a hindrance to Minnesota’s success this season, would Favre step aside?
“Absolutely. I was receptive to it last year,” he said.
Jets running back Thomas Jones criticized Favre after last season, claiming he should’ve been benched while the team stumbled down the stretch and missed the playoffs.
Favre said Wednesday he felt like he was harming the team with slight misses on some throws. He said he spoke with the general manager, offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach — he didn’t name head coach Eric Mangini — but the consensus was to finish it out.
“I don’t want to go through that and neither do the Vikings,” Favre said.
Mangini, now the head coach of the Browns, said Favre’s streak didn’t affect his decision to keep him in the lineup last December.
“With that stretch there were things that we could’ve all done better,” Mangini said on a conference call with Minnesota reporters. He added: “All the decisions that I made during that time period followed the same thing I believe, and that’s playing the guys that I think are going to give us the best chance to win that week.”
Favre also revealed he asked Childress to let him address his teammates “from the heart” on a number of subjects, a 10-minute speech he gave in the meeting room on Monday.
“I wanted the guys to know where I stood, and what I was here for,” Favre said. “Sort of the timeline of what happened, and things like that.”
Teammates expressed appreciation of his effort.
“He gave his apologies for all the commotion that was caused, even though it might not have been intentional by him,” tight end Visanthe Shiancoe said. “The frenzy, he apologized for the frenzy.”
Reactions varied on whether it was necessary. Shiancoe said it was.
“There was questions on everybody’s mind. I’m pretty sure it was different questions. He pretty much answered everybody’s questions. Cleaned up everybody’s wonders,” Shiancoe said.
Favre also referenced his 1996-97 Super Bowl experience with Green Bay and told the Vikings they’ve got as much talent as that Packers team.
“I was impressed,” cornerback Antoine Winfield said, adding: “Our No. 1 goal is to win a championship. He seems like he’s focused on that. He’s just trying to fit in. He’s only been here a couple weeks. We’ve welcomed him with open arms.”