Favre soap opera is coming to town

Viking QB at center of ongoing drama

Vikings coach Brad Childress was not pleased with Brett Favre’s completions to members of the Packers’ secondary Sunday night. Vikings coach Brad Childress was not pleased with Brett Favre’s completions to members of the Packers’ secondary Sunday night. (Mike Roemer/Associated Press)
By Greg A. Bedard
Globe Staff / October 27, 2010

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GREEN BAY, Wis. — Long after a gut-wrenching, last-minute loss to his former team Sunday night, Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre sat alone in his locker, and couldn’t lift his eyes from the floor for what seemed like an eternity.

Perhaps Favre was thinking about the three interceptions he threw to the Green Bay Packers, including one that was returned for a touchdown that produced the winning margin.

Maybe Favre couldn’t shake the pain in his left ankle, which was later revealed as two fractures.

Or perhaps it was just that stunning to be on the losing side against Packers general manager Ted Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy, the duo that told Favre they were moving on without him in the strained summer of 2008.

Likely, it was a combination of all of those things, and this: After three Vikings teammates traveled to his Mississippi home and persuaded him to come back for a 20th season, this was not what anyone, especially Favre, envisioned.

“For me it’s devastating. I don’t know how else to put it,’’ Favre said after the 28-24 loss to the Packers dropped the Vikings to 2-4. “I put a lot of pride and ownership in all the phases of the game. When you have the ball in your hand, you hope to win those, and I just felt like I let everybody down. It’s tough.’’

The season to this point has been a series of frustrations for Favre and the Vikings, who literally limp into Foxborough Sunday to face the Patriots with the season slipping away.

Just months removed from a 12-4 campaign and an overtime loss in the NFC Championship game, things boiled over for the Vikings after the loss to the Packers when coach Brad Childress lobbed some heavy criticism at Favre.

“It still goes back to taking care of the football,’’ Childress said. “You can’t throw it to them. You’ve got to play within the confines of our system. Sometimes it’s OK to punt the football, and you can’t give 7 points going the other way. Not in a game like this. Not with a high-powered team.’’

When Favre was told of Childress’s comments — specifically that Favre threw to the wrong side of the field on the interception returned for a touchdown — Favre was visibly irritated.

“I would say so, too — after the fact,’’ Favre said. “But from my vantage point, you pick a side on certain plays. I wish I knew where everyone was going to be wide open. It sure would make my reads a lot easier.’’

Favre’s relationship with Childress could factor in as much as his ankle when it comes to the decision of whether he takes the field at Gillette Stadium. The two have often been at odds over the offense since Favre arrived before the 2009 season, league sources said.

Childress is stubborn about his scheme, which in league circles has been viewed as basic, and does not like to make changes for anyone.

Early last season, Favre and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell argued with Childress to give Favre more protection behind a poor offensive line. Childress didn’t relent until the first meeting with the Packers.

Later in the season, Favre changed some of the play calls and it irritated Childress so much that he thought about removing Favre from games.

Favre went through some of the same battles over control with McCarthy. Favre finally relented and turned in one of his finest seasons in 2007.

Childress certainly has a point about Favre and his turnovers hurting the Vikings. He is tied for the league lead with 10 interceptions, and has fumbled four times. Those turnovers have led to 51 points for the opposition. The Vikings’ four losses have come by a total of 22 points.

“My experience with quarterbacks is always when they are a little more humbled, they are always much more receptive,’’ Childress said.

As for the left ankle, Childress revealed that Favre has an avulsion fracture and a stress fracture. Both are typically treated as a sprain.

Favre has played in an NFL-record 291 consecutive games, and has done so through some painful injuries.

“I can’t even recall how many times it looked like there was no way he would play early in the week,’’ said former Packers vice president Andrew Brandt. “But by the end of the week, he always found a way to come around. He plays. He always plays.’’

In 1995, the same ankle was so swollen that LeRoy Butler, the four-time All-Pro safety for the Packers, said teammates called it the “rainbow ankle.’’

“That thing was so many colors,’’ Butler said. “But he kept saying, ‘I’m playing.’ And I knew he would. He’s by far the toughest guy I ever played with.’’

On that ankle, Favre completed 25 of 33 passes for 336 yards and five touchdowns in a victory over the Chicago Bears.

Favre called the sprain of his right thumb, which he played with throughout the 1999 season, his most painful injury.

He originally hurt it in an exhibition game, and reinjured it against the Oakland Raiders in the season opener.

Favre merely returned to the game and delivered a last-minute victory with an 82-yard touchdown drive while often doubling over in pain between plays. He finished 28 for 47 for 333 yards and four touchdowns.

“He couldn’t even palm a football all week,’’ said former Packers receiver Antonio Freeman. “He is one tough son of a gun. If there’s any way possible for him to walk on the field, or limp out onto that field, he’s going to play.

“He just wants to play football. It’s not about the streak as much as it is about his will to want to compete and the will to be there for his teammates.’’

There was also the LCL sprain in 2002 to his left knee, which was so debilitating that he had to be helped off the field. He completed 65.6 percent of his passes for 538 yards in wins the next two games.

Butler said the common misperception about Favre is that he’s only worried about the streak, and that ultimately will compel him to take the field against the Patriots.

“If he looks in his teammates’ eyes, he has to be there for them,’’ Butler said. “That’s why he plays every Sunday. That’s why he said yes when the three Vikings players asked him to come back this season. He just wants to be revered by his teammates.’’

That being said, Butler doesn’t think Favre will play against the Patriots, even with the Vikings staring at 2-5. Perhaps it’s Butler’s wishful thinking for his former teammate.

“This is the first time I’ve ever gone against the grain on Brett,’’ Butler said. “I’ve always — always — said he’s going to play. Maybe if it was grass up there, maybe he could play. But I just don’t see it. There’s no way he should play.

“He has to think about his longevity. He can’t keep taking hits on that ankle and expect to walk down the line. He’s done everything in this game. Now Childress is trying to scapegoat him, which is just wrong. It’s not Brett’s fault. He shouldn’t be going out like this.’’

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