Brett Favre, with his legendary consecutive starts streak now five away from the landmark 300, stood on the Minnesota Vikings' sideline with the clock winding down on Sunday. His team was getting trounced 31-3 by his former employers, and most of the fans had headed for the exits long ago. There Favre stood, arm-in-arm with teammates Ryan Longwell and Steve Hutchinson. Then one trainer. And then another.
Was Favre, in the middle of a disastrous season, saying good-bye?
He dodged the question, just like he dodged oncoming Packers defenders.
"I think you could ask that question to anyone in the locker room, first of all," Favre said. "I've never been in this situation, so I don't want to act like a pro in that area. I'm just going to try to go home. As tough as it may be to digest what just happened, not only today but in the last few weeks, and then come in tomorrow and kind of really re-evaluate things.
"I've played 20 years because of my passion and competitive nature. I know that hasn't changed. It sure is hard for me to walk off the field today after a loss like that, or last week for that matter, at any point in my career. I take so much pride in the way I play and what is expected of me, which is always a bit more than maybe the next guy. That's just the way it is. I feel when I'm out there we have a chance to win. Every play could be a successful play, could be a big play, and we scored three points."
Favre turned in a miserable performance. One week after Favre looked sharp despite his three interceptions at Chicago, he was mostly inept against Green Bay. Favre finished 17-of-38 passing for 208 yards. His interception, a potential 14-point swing, was the turning point of the game. The Vikings converted just 4-of-13 third downs. In the second quarter, when Green Bay turned a 3-0 deficit into a 17-3 lead, he was just 3-of-9 with a passer rating of 7.4.
Favre, whose interceptions ruined chances to lead the Packers to the Super Bowl in 2007 and the Vikings to the Super Bowl in 2009, came back for one more run at a championship. The idea didn't seem farfetched, even for a 41-year-old quarterback who opted out of most of training camp while mulling his future. Last year, his ratio of touchdowns (33) to interceptions (seven) was the best of his career. Instead, he has 10 touchdowns and 17 interceptions this season. The Vikings are 3-7 and he's been beaten up on and off the field.
"As I stand here today, I never expected us to be in this situation," Favre said. "Mathematically, I think there's still some hope. But I hate to use Jim Mora's comments about playoffs, but we can't think about that. I know there's still a slim chance, but come on – we've got to play a lot better than what we played today and last week."
There wasn't a whole lot of compassion from his former teammates.
"None. Not at all," cornerback Charles Woodson said. "This is football, and we're all after one goal. And our goal is to win games and ultimately win a championship. What somebody else, another team is going through, means nothing to us. We're full steam ahead."
Added his longtime friend, receiver Donald Driver said: "Nah, not at all. You get to a point where it's always going to be a battle. I love him, love him to death, but when you play this game, there's no friends until it's all over. I think he would have agreed if he would have beaten us. I'm happy that we beat him. Now I can say that I've won with him, lost with him and I've beat him. I can put that on top of my shelf."
Favre's counterpart and Green Bay replacmement, Aaron Rodgers, was brilliant with 301 yards and four touchdowns. He took delight in the victory -- not beating Favre -- but Clay Matthews was happy that Rodgers got another win against his predecessor.
"He doesn't talk about that stuff, but absolutely, me personally, if I could ever outdo my predecessor, I'd feel real good about that," Matthews said. "Obviously, he feels good about his performance today, the team getting a big win, and moreso than that, continuing to prove himself as the right choice."
Whether Favre's season – and career – will end after this game seems unlikely for someone who's given so much of himself in his career and would forever tarnish his legacy by throwing in the towel with six games to go. But he made no effort to emphatically say he'll stick with a team that is sinking so quickly that coach Brad Childress' dismissal after the season seems like a foregone conclusion.
Asked if he wanted to finish the season, Favre said, "I don't want to sit here and tell you I'd love to sit here and tell you I'd love to finish the season and then go out and lose 31-3." Pressed on the meaning of his going home to "re-evaluate" statement, Favre said: "I have no idea. If I had known it was going to lead to that question, I would have re-evaluated that answer."
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.