Packers Take Caution With Vulnerable Favre

A hobbled 41-year-old Brett Favre seems to be barely hanging on, just like his team. For that, he might be as ripe for the picking as ever in three previous matchups against the Packers. Or is he? Our Matt Tevsh scoured the locker room Wednesday for some answers.

Desmond Bishop would not buy it.

Neither would B.J. Raji.

Same goes for two more Green Bay Packers defensive starters.

When each was asked Wednesday if Vikings quarterback Brett Favre might be at his most vulnerable headed into his fourth career matchup vs. the Packers this Sunday, a sampling of more than one-third of the Packers' starting defensive unit quickly scoffed at the notion.

"That would almost be like taking the bait," said Bishop, a starting inside linebacker. "Brett Favre isn't going to be a Hall of Famer for nothing. So, you can't really go off that because he could bounce back and have a 500-yard game. We're just going to approach it like it's Brett Favre and he's 9-0."

"The guy has been around 20 years," added Raji, the starting nose tackle. "It's hard to figure him out. That's why he's going to be a Hall of Fame quarterback. All we want to try and do is fluster him and pressure him and try to get as many hits on him as we can."

After two "whuppings" from Favre in 2009, the Packers found a measure of revenge in 2010, beating he and the Vikings 28-24 on Oct. 24 at Lambeau Field in the first matchup of NFC North Division rivals this season. In that game, Favre threw three interceptions and suffered two fractures in his left ankle, beginning what has been a turnaround moment for both teams this season.

The Packers ended a two-game losing skid that night, and including the win over the Vikings, they have won three straight to find themselves tied with the Bears for first at 6-3 in the North.

The Vikings, on the other hand, have dropped three of their last four games putting them in third place in the North at 3-6 running out of games to contend for a playoff spot.

For Favre, the news has been even worse. In addition to his ankle issues and a badly cut chin that required stitches in a game against the Patriots on Oct. 31, reports of a right shoulder injury surfaced this week. Still, he is expected to start against the Packers, with little reason to believe that his consecutive-starts streak of 294 games will be snapped any time soon.

"(Favre) wouldn't be here if he didn't give us the best chance to win," Vikings coach Brad Childress told the Green Bay media Wednesday. "Obviously, it was up in the air a couple weeks ago with where he was at injury-wise. But he's the guy that gives us the best chance to win."

Though Favre leads the NFL with 16 interceptions and five fumbles lost and is rated 31st (at 72.2) among 34 quarterbacks, the Packers believe he has the ability to rise up. They saw that first-hand when Favre nearly led a Vikings comeback at Lambeau last month, and just over two weeks ago he led a thrilling comeback over the Cardinals at Mall of America Field. Down 24-10 late in the fourth quarter, he improbably rallied the Vikings with two touchdown drives to force overtime and an eventual victory. His 446-yard performance that day — on 36-of-47 passing — was a career high.

"You can't count him out regardless of what's going on this season for them, regardless of what's going on in the game early," said Packers defensive end Cullen Jenkins. "He's always capable of putting something together that can bring them back. You can't just go into the game thinking they're not going to be a good team or you can't go in thinking, ‘We've jumped on them early. We're fine.' You've got to play him for the whole 60 minutes. You can't relax."

Go a little deeper into history and it shows that Favre, even at an older age, can be dangerous when he is down. In addition to the many injuries over his career from which he has recovered quickly to post incredible games, he has shown a bounce-back mentality over the long haul, even in his older age.

In 2007, after posting his worst back-to-back seasons individually and based on team record, Favre rebounded at age 38 to post one of the best seasons of his career (a 95.7 passer rating) while leading the Packers to the NFC championship game.

In 2009, after a 22-interception season with the Jets in which the bottom fell out over the final two months, Favre worked his way to Minnesota and posted the best statistical season of his career (107.2 rating) leading the Vikings to the NFC championship at 40 years old.

So, while Favre might be playing worse than he has entering his three previous matchups with the Packers, nothing will be taken for granted. At least that would seem to be the sentiment from his opponent this week, including its head coach.

"I think anytime Brett Favre takes the field, he gives your football team a chance to win," said Mike McCarthy. "I expect to see him play the way he's always played. He's a true competitor. What he's established in this league speaks for itself."


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Matt Tevsh has covered the Packers since 1996. E-mail him at matttevsh@hotmail.com


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