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Posted: Friday August 21, 2009 11:51PM; Updated: Saturday August 22, 2009 3:15AM
Steve Aschburner Steve Aschburner >
INSIDE THE NFL

What We Learned: Fans embrace once-reviled Favre in Vikes debut

Story Highlights

Brett Favre's lone completion went for only four yards (rookie Percy Harvin)

Favre will now have 10 days to get more acclimated before Minnesota's next game

Backup Tarvaris Jackson lit the Chiefs up with 202 passing yards and two TDs

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Brett Favre immediately felt the pain of his 19th NFL season, courtesy of Corey Mays' crushing hit midway through the first quarter.
AP
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MINNEAPOLIS -- What I learned on an incongruous night at the Metrodome, when people stood and cheered for a once-hated foe now wearing their colors in their building:

1. There's nowhere to hide. Considering all the love and instant devotion shown to Brett Favre Friday night in Minneapolis by so many Minnesota Vikings fans willing to forgive and forget, Corey Mays' introduction to the 39-year-old quarterback midway through the first quarter probably was a fair and appropriate counter-weight.

Brought him and everybody else in the place right down to Earth. Hard.

Respect? Mays, a Kansas City Chiefs didn't even show the old man any mercy, slamming into Favre unblocked on a blitz on 3rd-and-9 in the Minnesota end on what would be the newest Vikings' last snap of the preseason game. Favre knew it was coming, too, as the Chiefs flooded what looked like eight pass rushers into the box. Someone clearly was going to hit him. It turned out to be Mays, riding him into the indoor turf as Favre's pass deep up the middle for Percy Harvin sailed incomplete.

"He did tell me nobody's tackled him off his tractor [down in Mississippi], so it's good for him to get hit,'' Vikings coach Brad Childress said after Minnesota's 17-13 victory. "It's football. But he's put together well and takes good care of himself. Would I rather have him upright? Yeah, I'd rather have him upright. But it's part of the game."

Favre took the licking. The Vikings will have 10 days to see if he officially keeps on ticking -- their next tuneup will come at Houston on Aug. 31, when the NFL's biggest offseason signing will have more than two days of practice with his new team and presumably will stick around for more than two series.

Three was out of the question once Mays reminded him he wasn't in Hattiesburg anymore. "After that last hit? I thought maybe I'd wait till next week," Favre said. "Not that I wanted to get hit. But there's only one way to get your body in physical condition, and that is to get out and fall, get banged around, get elbowed, whatever, helmet in the chest. I always felt like I could handle that side of it. Not that I won't be sore tomorrow, but I think all of that stuff is good.''

As it was, two series was double the original plan. Favre's initial snaps were so anticlimactic -- given the anticipation, the standing ovation, the adulation already evident from those who once despited all things Favre -- that he just had to try again. The first series was over in 94 seconds: A handoff to Adrian Peterson for four yards from the Minnesota 44, incomplete wide for Naufahu Tahi over the middle (Favre got decked by KC's Tamba Hali), a low snap that Favre turned into a diving catch by Harvin for five yards and another handoff on which Peterson got knocked backwards by Chiefs safety Jarrad Page.

Blame it on jitters, maybe."Today, sitting in the hotel, all of a sudden, I starting having butterflies,'' Favre said. "I'm like, 'I haven't felt this in a long time.' . . . I wasn't expecting much today. Practiced 2 days. I just didn't want to fumble the snap. Make sure I got the handoffs. If I completed a pass, great. But I was nervous about that.''

Why? "Maybe [because of only having] two and a half days of practice. Live bullets. No red jersey. With all the attention, it's hard not to feel like you have to live up to all this hype. I don't want to do that. The most important thing is to lead this team to victory, somehow, some way. Definitely didn't want to get off on the wrong foot, fumbling snaps. Wanted to call plays right, Get in the huddle and be as smooth as possible.''

The first series was all Childress' script had called for. But after the Chiefs' 32-yard field goal at 5:56, Favre was the only Minnesota passer tugging on his helmet. He went back on the field ... for less than a minute. This time, it was a six-yard rush by Peterson, an incomplete toss wide of Jaymar Johnson and the aforementioned collision with Mays.

Bottom line of Favre's first performance with the Purple: Not much to be encouraged by. But nothing that could possibly dampen the enthusiasm of those expecting so much more. Favre and Child ress both pronounced the performance a "small victory.'' His arm, they agreed, looks fine and Favre sounds ready to air it out next game. It's his legs, not used to making those drops after relying so much on the shotgun in recent years, that need more work. Then there are a hundred little things that should come from familiarity, and as Favre shakes off rust.

"Snap count. Hard count. He got one of our guys in a hard count,'' Childress said. "That's something you've got to build to. He's pretty good at those kind of things, and our guys got to hear his voice behind center.'' Said receiver Sidney Rice: "He's in here now and we're going to work with him and improve. He didn't get a whole lot of snaps tonight, but he knew what he was doing. . . . [The receivers have] the next couple of preseason games and a few weeks of practice to work with him and get better.''

2. If booing Santa Claus is bad, cheering Brett Favre in Minnesota is its evil twin. Yet there they were, fans crowded near the railing above the Vikings tunnel an hour before kickoff. Favre emerged 15 minutes later to warm up, and he had plenty of company in that purple No. 4 jersey. Unseemly as it might be in Green Bay, Vikings loyalists seem determined to embrace Favre until he either wins for them or retires on them.

Dissonant or not, the attitude that Minnesota will be a better team is shared inside and outside the organization. "I like it a lot,'' said one veteran Vikings coach and personnel man. "When your team is ready to win in almost every other way, but you don't have it there [at quarterback], you think you can win. With this guy, you know he's done it, that makes you feel like you will do it too. That confidence is so important.''

So is Favre's ability to sell tickets. Season ticket sales were goosed immediately when he signed and have moved steadily since. "You want to get that fan base back up,'' the former coach said. "If it slips too far, it can become a real problem. Financially, it can really limit you.''

3. Tarvaris Jackson is a gamer. He began his night getting booed when he ran onto the field in place of Favre with 1:20 left in the first quarter. He had begun his day learning via Internet reports that the CFL Winnipeg Blue Bombers had added his name to their negotiations list -- should Jackson be released by the Vikings. And ever since Tuesday, when the news broke of Favre's signing, Jackson has heard himself mentioned as the Minnesota quarterback most likely to be cut or traded. This, all for a guy who started the team's playoff game last December against Philadelphia.

Jackson's first snap turned into a bomb that Rice caught, only outside the right sideline. Two plays later, Jackson connected with Johnson, except that he had ambled about five yards beyond the line of scrimmage before releasing the ball.

But with 2:27 left in the second quarter, Jackson rolled right, evaded a pair of Chiefs defenders and floated a pass to a leaping tight end Visanthe Shiancoe in the end zone. One of the KC players chasing the elusive Jackson was Mays, who had such an easy time nailing the stationary Favre. Deep in the third quarter, Jackson found Darius Reynaud as he broke through and behind the Chiefs' secondary for a 64-yard touchdown that put Minnesota up 14-13.

That was Jackson's last play of the night before he was replaced by John David Booty; Sage Rosenfels, 10-of-13 passing last week at Indianapolis, sat out with a sore ankle. Jackson was 9-for-9 for 117 yards in the second quarter and finished with 201 yards, hitting 12 of 15 attempts with two touchdowns and no interceptions.

"This week was had, but I just tried to focus on what I had to do,'' he said afterward. "I tried to separate what I can handle and take it one day at a time.''

Said Shiancoe: "I'm very happy for T-Jack. He's still grinding, still scratching. I think this is the best thing that could happen for him, to sit back and make sense of things and really watch a Hall of Famer.''

4. The Vikings weren't the only ones with all eyes on the quarterback. Kansas City's own new acquisition, Matt Cassel, already was facing pressure to perform after a mediocre outing (2-of-5 for 15 yards) in the 16-10 loss to Houston in the Chiefs' preseason opener. This time, he was much better, playing the entire first half and connecting for 99 yards on 9-of-14 passing with one touchdown (four-yard pass to Dwayne Bowe). He was at great bodily risk, however, getting sacked three times by the Minnesota pass rush, and exited not a minute too soon.

"We had a few weeks of training camp, but I am still getting familiar wit h the offense,'' Cassel said. "It's a new offense and there are new players around us.''

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