Brett Favre Sees Clearly: 'Now or Never'
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Brett Favre, after practice here on Tuesday afternoon, left the Vikings complex to visit a doctor. It was not for his elbow, arm, knee or that troublesome left ankle. It was not for counseling on how a soon-to-be 41-year old quarterback should deal with a fresh round of tension and hoopla over his 20th NFL season and his second shot at helping orchestrate a Vikings championship.
It was all about his eyes.
A confusing, persistent dryness.
"I mean, all morning they have been as dry and brittle as a couple of potato chips," Favre said. "I've been dealing with this lately. I've tried a few things, but nothing has worked. So, we're going to get them checked out. Now, I can still see good."
Crystal clear. He can see that the drama that swirled around his return to Minnesota only escalates as the Vikings finish the preseason on Thursday night at home against Denver, followed by their first real game a week later at New Orleans. He can see that last year was a coalescing swarm for him and this franchise that led to the NFC title game, that crushing loss at the Saints.
And his eyes are wide open about how he is expected to do it again -- and finish the job this time.
Somebody here said thank goodness Favre did not "give us just a one-night stand. He's back. Now get the Lombardi [Trophy] in the lobby."
Super Bowl or bust.
Favre hears this. He does not shed a tear.
"It's very hard to repeat what we did last year, let alone go beyond that," Favre said of the Vikings' 10-1 start in 2009, their 12-4 march to the NFC North division crown, their punishing home playoff victory over Dallas, followed by their narrow loss to the Saints with a Super Bowl berth so close. It was a 33-touchdown, seven-interception year for Favre. It was much more.
"It would have been a heck of a lot easier to not come back if we had gone 2-14," Favre said. "I came back to a really good team and a great bunch of guys. To a man, with each call and each time they reached out to me, it made it tougher and tougher not to come back. I didn't do myself any favors with the way I was able to play last year."
He can see it. No one wants to hear that Favre will be without dynamic young receiver Sidney Rice (hip injury) for at least six games. So what if migraine headaches cause speedy Percy Harvin to be in and out of the lineup this season? And that bum ankle -- just keep moving on it, keep rolling out of the pocket and throwing arrows. Be more creative, Brett. Be better.
It is all there. The tension, anxiousness, restlessness in the Vikings complex and beyond over getting this hookup started again and getting it right this time, down to the last snap.
"That's a good thing," Favre said. "Obviously, there are high expectations here. [There] should be. There is passion and anxiousness for the players, too. It's a now or never thing. It's like that a lot in this league. The window opens and closes very quickly."
So, Favre says this is it. His last season. His last fling to make the Vikings peerless. To make them champions for the first time in the franchise's 50-year history.
And it started with Favre returning. Soon afterward, he was forced to thwart reports that he did not respect his coach, Brad Childress.
Favre said he talked to his teammates about it first.
"Then I called him," Favre said of Childress. "I know he did not believe it. I told him, 'Let's get back to work.'"
Childress, in his fifth season as Vikings coach, has traveled each summer to visit Favre at Favre's Mississippi home to convince him to join the Vikings.
Thomas George reports from Vikings camp. Click above to watch.
Childress said: "Life happens. You know what you know in your heart of hearts. This was easy when you know what you have. Quarterbacks and coaches don't always see things eye to eye in this league. And people say the last guy to coach Brett hard was Mike Holmgren. That's all talk.
"You get a feel for a guy when you work with him every day. You get a better understanding when you visit him where he comes from. I still don't know all of the things that embody Brett. But I've seen where he comes from. I know how hard he worked from there forward. I've seen where some of his motivation comes from. I've seen the things he is sensitive about. I've seen what make him so prideful. It's very complicated. A lot of scars along with a lot of success. We'll take all of that."
And so will his teammates. Several of them were excited to talk about their returning quarterback. The offensive players kept saying how he made them better. The defensive players insisted he made them work harder in practices.
Vikings rookie quarterback Joe Webb marveled: "Brett is a great jokester. But once he hits the field, he has amazing focus. He can be all fun. But he can be all business. I don't know if I've ever seen anyone be able to swing from one thing to the other with as much intensity as he can."
A galvanizing player, a polarizing player.
Fans love him, they hate him.
He was once the enemy in this region, but now he is the axis.
"It's always going to be mixed," Favre said. "The fans come up to me here and say, 'God, we've hated you for so long when you were with the Packers and it was hard for me to root for you.' But now they tell me they are glad I'm on their side. You win over people. They come to the other side. Now they say they appreciate my approach to the game, the way I play it. They think of me as a part of this thing now.
"I don't know what a normal 40-(year-old) feels like. All the stuff takes a toll. I was practicing out there today and things were hurting all over. I'm still trying to get the body to cooperate. It's not the arm. That's fine. But just two years ago, I thought I was really done when I couldn't even throw a spiral because of arm pain. I'm like anyone else, I have good days, I have bad days. But honestly, I'm not complaining."
He is seeing things clearly.
"Now with each play, each quarter that goes by, I go, 'Whew!' " Favre said.
With eyes wide open.