Getting A Grip
As he nears 30, Packers quarterback Brett Favre has a new perspective on life
At a pretournament party for the fourth annual Brett Favre Celebrity Golf Classic, in Bay St. Louis, Miss., last week, the host was chatting with an old friend who works as a beer distributor when a well-meaning fellow interrupted, creating an awkward moment: "Brett," the intruder said, "I just wanted to tell you how wonderful it was to hear that you're not drinking anymore. Congratulations."
Favre, the Packers' quarterback who in 1996 spent 6� weeks in a rehab center for addiction to the painkiller Vicodin and who has admitted to periods of heavy drinking, says he hasn't had an alcoholic beverage in two months. The big kid may have finally grown up.
"Last year at this time, I was pounding 'em hard," Favre says. "But I've got a 10-year-old daughter, and my wife [Deanna] is pregnant with our second child, and I want to grow old with them. I've lived a fun, hard life. But fun now is watching [daughter] Brittany play Softball. Fun is having rookies in the weight room look at me as an example of what they want to be. I'm done with alcohol."
There's another reason Favre has gone on the wagon. After winning three consecutive league MVP awards beginning in 1995 and leading Green Bay to the Super Bowl in '96 and '97, Favre saw his performance—and his team's—slip last season, when he threw more interceptions, 23, than he had in any year since '93. Favre is feeling his athletic mortality creeping up on him. "I'll be 30 this year," he says, "and I don't want to be the forgotten man."
Nor do the Packers want to play second fiddle to the Vikings in the NFC Central again. Last year Minnesota went 15-1 and is now favored to repeat as division champion. Green Bay (11-5) must learn to win without coach Mike Holmgren, who left in January to run the show in Seattle. New coach Ray Rhodes has Sherm Lewis calling plays for the first time in eight years as the Packers' offensive coordinator. (Look for Favre to throw deep more often than he has in recent seasons.) "We knew losing Mike was inevitable," Favre says. "I owe him everything. Early on he stuck with me longer than any other coach would have. But we've got to keep it going."
Holmgren is not the only key figure in Favre's football life to have departed. Quarterbacks coach Andy Reid left to become the Eagles' coach, and trusted strength coach Kent Johnston followed Holmgren to Seattle. Defensive end Reggie White, who along with Favre had the biggest locker room presence in Green Bay, retired.
Such drastic changes might normally drive a man to drink, particularly a country kid so used to imbibing. "It's what I grew up around," he says, "and it's hard to break from your roots."
Favre has settled in Hattiesburg, Miss., 65 miles north of his hometown of Kiln, and when he returned to the area for the golf tournament he passed dozens of the seedy bars he used to close. EARLY BUZZ HOUR 11-1, read a billboard outside one joint That's 11 a.m. As the golfers arrived at the Bridges Golf Resort last Thursday, a 30-foot-tall inflated Miller Lite can greeted them. Coors and Budweiser trucks were parked in the driveway, making deliveries. "Well," Favre said wryly before hitting the links, a bottle of water in his hands, "I guess I kept 'em in business a long time. Not anymore."
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