From SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, October 17, 2005
WE EXPECT ATHLETES TO HAVE ALL THE ANSWERS, ASSUME they know much more about themselves and their sport than what the fans could ascertain on their own. In the case of digesting a complex NFL game plan, that notion is true. But more often athletes are as clueless as the public about what fate has in store for them. The smart ones even admit it.
Like Brett Favre. On Saturday, Oct. 9, 24 hours before the game that would stop Green Bay's slide or send the Packers' season down the drain, the man who has started more consecutive games at quarterback than any other had no idea what his immediate or long-term future held.
"Is the magic over?" Favre said, voicing what every honest member of Packers Nation had been pondering for a month while the team staggered to an 0-4 start. "I think it's human to wonder that right now. I have no idea if we'll win a game this year. I really don't know how we'll play tomorrow, with half our team hurt. But I know I've probably never worked harder in a week to help this team get ready. And I also know one bad game, one bad season, will not define me as a player."
On the day before the Packers were to take on the Saints at Lambeau Field, Favre looked almost rookie fresh. There were no visible effects from a 32-29 loss to the Panthers on the previous Monday night, which had left him emotionally drained. Sure, Favre is graying, but on this Saturday he was clear-eyed and not at all downbeat about the Packers' poor start and his own inconsistent play.
Then on Sunday, the day before his 36th birthday, Favre played as if he were 26 in a 52-3 victory over the Saints. He connected on 19 of 27 passes for 215 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. He misfired on only one significant pass all day—underthrowing a deep post to Donald Driver that would have given him four TD tosses.
Saints quarterback Aaron Brooks helped Green Bay to an early lead by throwing interceptions on consecutive series, turnovers that the Packers converted into two touchdowns. From there Favre didn't have to take chances. The pass that smacked of vintage Favre was a 25-yard rope to Robert Ferguson in the end zone, with rookie safety Josh Bullocks draped on the receiver's shoulder. That touchdown upped Green Bay's lead to 28-3 midway through the second quarter and so energized Favre that he ran to Ferguson in the end zone, cradled his 210-pound teammate in his arms and headed for the sideline. Favre went about five yards before letting his wideout down easy. "I guess it was kind of like a honeymoon there for a minute," Ferguson said. Maybe the celebration has only started.