Favre: From Zero to Gameday

Vikings notes include a look at how prepared Brett Favre really is to lead the Vikes offense...

The buildup seemed endless.

A courtship that lasted for much of the spring and summer, a rejection received just before training camp and a change of heart that came two weeks into camp.

But despite being linked to the Vikings for months, Brett Favre has yet to play a game for the franchise. That will finally end Sunday.

Favre, less than a month from turning 40 years old, will start his first game for the Vikings in their regular-season opener in Cleveland. Favre played in parts of two preseason games with Minnesota but after spending 16 seasons as a member of the archrival Packers, it remains odd seeing him in a Vikings uniform.

This is of little concern to Brad Childress. All the Vikings coach cares about is having Favre provide the type of play the team has generally lacked at quarterback since Childress arrived in 2006.

In an interview with HBO in June, Favre said his familiarity with the West Coast offense was such that he could coach the system.   Childress and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell just want the future Hall of Famer to execute it.

Favre played in the West Coast during his time with the Packers before spending last season running an unfamiliar system with the Jets. The most interesting dynamic in having Favre at the controls of the Vikings' offense will be to see how he ends up co-existing with Childress.

Childress is a stickler for detail; Favre is a gunslinger who isn't afraid to draw up plays in the dirt and change things at the last moment.

The big thing for Favre will be to make sure he's on the same page as his wide receivers and running backs. Favre might know this offense but he has limited work with many of his teammates.

He joined the Vikings days before their second preseason game, played two series in that contest and then played three quarters on Aug. 31 at Houston. Favre did not play in the preseason finale against Dallas as the majority of the Vikings starters were held out.

Favre has yet to play a snap with wide receiver Bernard Berrian, who suffered a hamstring injury in Minnesota's exhibition opener at Indianapolis and did not play in another preseason game. Berrian has big-play capability but one would think Favre and Berrian are going to have to get some kind of timing down before they are completely comfortable working together.

"I think it would be foolish to say that we're on the same page," Favre said. "Bernard is going to run the routes, play the way he's always played, now I just haven't played with him. It would have been nice to get some work done the last few weeks. That's part of this game, not only for me and this team but for every team. Guys get hurt and you have to plug them in. Sometimes you have to adapt on the fly. You can't make excuses. You've got to get it done. So we're way behind. He's not. I would say I'm way behind on where I need to be with him."

Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell knows the importance of Favre being comfortable with his teammates on the field.

"That's a huge part," Bevell said a few weeks after Favre's arrival. "I've said that's probably more important than just learning the playbook at this point. I think it's important for him to get up to speed with each and every one of our wideouts, our backs, our tight ends. The offensive line getting familiar with cadence."

Obviously, that will be an ongoing process, but the Vikings hope is that some of that familiarity will be in place Sunday.

SERIES HISTORY: 13th regular-season meeting. Vikings lead series, 9-3. The Vikings have played this version of the Browns only once, beating Cleveland 24-12 at the Metrodome in November, 2005. Vikings quarterback Brad Johnson connected with wide receiver Marcus Robinson for three touchdowns that day. Those were Robinson's only three catches of the game.

NOTES, QUOTES

--QB Brett Favre called a meeting with his teammates on Monday to try to explain his motives in deciding to return two weeks into training camp and answer any questions they might have had about his return. "I think he just wanted to make sure, if there was any doubt with anybody, that he's on board and he's here to win," said Vikings kicker Ryan Longwell, who also played in Green Bay with Favre for nine seasons. "He's done everything that he needs to do financially and success-wise elsewhere in his career. So it's just coming here basically to win. He wanted to make sure everybody knew that was the sole reason he came was to win."

--The Vikings and Browns have met only once in the postseason and that came in the 1969 NFL Championship Game when Minnesota cruised to a 27-7 victory behind quarterback Joe Kapp at Metropolitan Stadium. In addition to the frigid conditions that day, the game might best be remembered for Kapp knocking out Browns linebacker Jim Houston when Kapp's knee hit Houston's helmet in the open field.

--The NFL Championship Game marked the second meeting that season between the Vikings and Browns. The Vikings had crushed Cleveland 51-3 on Nov. 9, 1969 at Met Stadium. That still stands as the largest margin of victory in franchise history.

--Coach Brad Childress is 2-1 in season openers, having beaten Washington (2006) and Atlanta (2007) in his first two seasons as coach. The Vikings opened last season with a 24-19 loss at Green Bay on "Monday Night Football."

--The Vikings also opened the regular season against Cleveland in 1983, winning 27-21 over the host Browns as running back Ted Brown rushed for touchdowns of 1 and 5 yards and also caught a 10-yard scoring pass from quarterback Tommy Kramer. That, of course, was the Browns franchise that would later relocate to Baltimore after the 1995 season. 

--The last time the Vikings played in Cleveland during the regular season was on Dec. 17, 1989. Minnesota lost 23-17 in overtime at Cleveland Municipal Stadium - Mike Pagel's 14-yard pass to Van Waiters proved to be the difference -- but still went on to win the NFC Central with a 10-6 record. That is the only overtime game played in the history of this series.

--The Vikings played the first game in the new Cleveland Browns stadium on Aug. 21, 1999, when they faced the Browns in a preseason game.

--Running back Adrian Peterson's next 100-yard rushing performance will give him 17 for his career, which will tie Chuck Foreman for second most in Vikings history. Foreman accomplished that feat during his seven seasons with the Vikings. Peterson is entering only his third season.

--QB Brett Favre has passed for nearly 914 yards while throwing nine touchdowns and only two interceptions in four games against Cleveland. All of those came while Favre was playing for the Green Bay Packers. He also posted a 105.3 passer rating.

--Favre spent last season as a member of the New York Jets playing for Eric Mangini, who was fired after the season and is now coach of the Browns.

BY THE NUMBERS: 27-20-1 - Vikings' record on opening day since the franchise was born in 1961. The tie came in 1966 when the Vikings and San Francisco concluded play knotted at 20 apiece.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "The good thing is we're worried about a No. 2 position right now. We're not worried about the starting center or starting left tackle. The good thing is that our team doesn't have a lot of worries right now. It seems like you guys (in the media) are a little more worried about the backup quarterback." -- Sage Rosenfels talking about the media's interest in whether he or Tarvaris Jackson will be the second-string quarterback on Sunday behind Brett Favre.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

Coach Brad Childress said he does not intend to declare whether Tarvaris Jackson or Sage Rosenfels will be the No. 2 quarterback behind Brett Favre until Sunday when he will have to submit his list of inactives and also declare a third (or emergency) quarterback.

It will be an interesting situation because Jackson and Rosenfels came into training camp battling for the starting job and now one of them is going to be relegated to not just a reserve role but a deep reserve role.

While Childress hasn't tipped his hand about the situation, he did say he could change it up and have Jackson be the No. 2 quarterback for some games and Rosenfels for others.

PLAYER PERSONNEL NOTES

--WR Bernard Berrian was limited in practice Wednesday because of a hamstring injury suffered in the first preseason game. Berrian did not play in the final three exhibition games and if he is active Sunday doesn't figure to be 100 percent.

--LB Erin Henderson (calf) did not take part in practice Wednesday and isn't expected to play Sunday at Cleveland.

--TE Jim Kleinsasser (hand) was limited in practice Wednesday and his status for Sunday's game remains uncertain.

--DTs Kevin and Pat Williams will remain eligible for this game as an appeals court continues to consider their suit against the NFL in the long-running StarCaps case. The Williamses are facing four-game suspensions. While a ruling could come any day, the league announced Tuesday that even if it prevails it won't enforce the suspensions in Week 1.

--CB Benny Sapp is expected to be used as the nickel back in passing situations on Sunday, continuing in the role he held at the end of last season. Sapp had to compete for the job in training camp but was used as the top nickel in the first three preseason games.

--C Kory Lichtensteiger was claimed off waivers from the Denver Broncos last weekend and added to the Vikings' 53-man roster. The Vikings cut rookie center Jon Cooper, a free agent from Oklahoma, to make room for Lichtensteiger. Cooper was later added to the Vikings' practice squad and offensive tackle Drew Radovich was released.

GAME PLAN: The Vikings are expected to beat a Browns team that is coming off a 4-12 season and has a new coach in Eric Mangini. However, Minnesota coach Brad Childress is going to have to be careful that his offense doesn't get caught up in the hype of Brett Favre playing his first game with the Vikings.

Favre also is going to have to make sure he keeps his emotions in check and remember that this is really running back Adrian Peterson's show and that the future Hall of Fame quarterback is merely along for the ride.

Favre's presence should mean that teams are going to have to respect the pass more than ever when facing the Vikings, but there is little question defenses are going to continue to stack the box against Peterson.

Favre will need to make opponents pay for this and he certainly will have that ability, especially with speedy first-round pick Percy Harvin now working out of the slot. Harvin also lines up as the quarterback in the Vikings' version of the Wildcat. It would not be surprising to see that formation used on Sunday.

Defensively, the Vikings are very sound and the return of middle linebacker E.J. Henderson should provide a major boost. Henderson, lost in the fourth game of last season because of a foot injury, not only is an emotional leader on the defense but also handles many of calls.

Pro Bowl right end Jared Allen is entering his second season with the Vikings and his familiarity should make him that much more effective. If anything, Leslie Frazier's defense should have the ability to give Cleveland some new looks from last season because their experience meant Frazier could install more schemes during training camp.

One advantage the Browns might have is the fact the Vikings don't know exactly how Cleveland will approach this game. Childress has been studying film from Eric Mangini's time with the Jets to try to get an idea.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Vikings C John Sullivan vs. Browns NT Shaun Rogers -- Sullivan will be making his first start as the Vikings' center and it doesn't figure to be an easy test. Sullivan, a sixth-round pick from Notre Dame in 2008, will be matched up against a Pro Bowl nose tackle, who is expected to play despite missing time in training camp because of injury. Sullivan is taking over for longtime center Matt Birk and while he clearly has the smarts to handle the position he is going to have his hands full physically trying to contain Rogers and open up running lanes for Adrian Peterson.

Vikings WR Percy Harvin vs. Browns CBs Eric Wright and Brandon McDonald - Harvin, a rookie, stands to create fits for opposing defensive coordinators early in the season as they try to learn exactly what the first-round pick is capable of doing. Harvin primarily will work out of the slot but members of the Browns defense, and especially cornerbacks Eric Wright and Brandon McDonald, are going to have to be aware of Harvin at all times or risk getting burned for a huge play. Harvin has the athletic ability to take a short pass and run away from defenders. He also could prove to be extremely dangerous working out of the Vikings' version of the Wildcat.

INJURY IMPACT: WR Bernard Berrian has been slowed by a hamstring injury since the first preseason game and even if he does play Sunday he won't be 100 percent. He also is going to need to build chemistry with quarterback Brett Favre. The two did not get an opportunity to play together in an exhibition game. TE Jim Kleinsasser (hand) also missed much of the preseason and continues to be slowed. Kleinsasser is one of the league's top blocking tight ends.


The OBR Top Stories