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Huck Finn's Last Ride
JEFF MACGREGOR
December 04, 2006
For 15 years Brett Favre has been the NFL's answer to Mark Twain's barefoot scamp--forever young and reckless. But nothing lasts forever, and the chattering heads think it's time for him to retire. Pray that they're wrong
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December 04, 2006

Huck Finn's Last Ride

For 15 years Brett Favre has been the NFL's answer to Mark Twain's barefoot scamp--forever young and reckless. But nothing lasts forever, and the chattering heads think it's time for him to retire. Pray that they're wrong

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Week 3 sends Green Bay to Detroit. Favre arrives at his team's fancy hotel wearing a striped sport shirt, baggy khaki pants and scuffed walking shoes. Had he not stepped off the team bus, hotel management might have thought he'd come to skim the pool.

Over one shoulder he totes a battered canvas bag. In that small olive-drab duffel are hunting magazines and crossword puzzles sufficient to thwart boredom until game time. His pregame meal is already on its way up to his room. Cheeseburger. Fries.

Q: Is it tough being on such a young team?

A: There was a time when I thought, I'll play forever. This game's easy. What are they worried about? Why study this play if I won't ever run it? But sure enough, you run it. And so you learn to expect the unexpected. Be ready for any situation. It's never as good as it looks; it's never as bad as it seems. That said, I don't know if we're good enough, right now, to win a lot of games. Some people say, 'Hey, in a couple of years, this team....' Well, I'll probably be cutting the grass by then.

Q: What about the rumors you'll be traded?

A: There are those who say, 'He shouldn't have come back. Serves him right they're losing. He knew what he was getting into,' and those who say, 'I wish he'd get with a good team and finish out his career right.' And I guess there's a third take too, of those who just don't give a s---. All three, I guess, are fair.

You know it's game day in Detroit when the hometown fans pissing in the alley behind the old JL Stone Company building turn their backs politely to the boulevard. Just up Brush Street at Ford Field, the Packers are trading sucker punches with the Lions.

Learning a new system, a new offense, Favre has new reads and new checkdowns and new routes and new teammates and a new head coach. There are rookies colliding everywhere around him and strange new diagrams from the immense playbook running together in his head and unlined faces of players he hardly knows looking back at him for the ball. There are moments in the pocket when it's easy to see his frustration. Seven-step drop, quick, but then his feet stop moving and he stands briefly flat-footed. Who are these people? Then a short pump fake, a shake of his head--This has to be wrong, doesn't it?--then the throw, almost angry, a recrimination, to a stranger running to the wrong spot at the wrong time. Walking back to the huddle, he's still shaking his head. Was that him or me? he wonders.

And moments, too, like this: Favre drops back into a collapsing pocket, chaos everywhere around him, and sets up. Up on the balls of his feet, he stands very still while the noise and the violence grasp at him, then steps forward into a long throw. The ball sails and hangs and lands without a sound in the hands of rookie wide receiver Greg Jennings. He goes 75 yards for a touchdown, and hope gains a few yards on reality. Favre runs the length of the field to gather him up. It is Favre's 400th career TD pass.

Most of the second half looks like a pickup game. Over an afternoon riddled with bad choices and bad bounces, Green Bay clings to a thin victory, 31--24.

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