Risky business

How much preseason PT is enough for proven players?<p>

Depends on whom you ask. Many players and coaches don't want to give away too much, either from the playbook or from the tank of the long season ahead. Ask any Packer fan who waited out the minutes when Ahman Green was down Friday, and they'd cancel the preseason finale without hesitation.

Ask Brett Favre, and you'll get a different answer. Even at 34 with a Super Bowl ring on his finger and his entry into the Hall all but engraved, he wants to get on the field once August rolls around.

"When Mike (Holmgren) was here I'd play a little in the first game, a little more in the second game, a little more in the third game and most of the fourth game," Favre said. "Now most teams are getting away from that. Some guys hardly play at all in the last (preseason) game. To tell you the truth, I like the old way."

Far be it from me to disagree with Favre, but every time the three-time MVP takes a snap in an exhibition game I'm on edge until I see him walking back to the huddle unscathed.

Preaseason is four grueling weeks of OCI ... Opportunity for Catastrophic Injury.

Technically that could be said of any game from preseason to playoffs. The obvious difference is that in the regular and post-season, teams do anything and everything to win. That includes putting the franchise on the line with every snap, that includes sending one of the league's premier field generals out there with a broken thumb -- all because those moves give the team the best chance to win.

Players with the competitive fire of Favre want to play, even when the stakes are non-existent.

Not everyone shares that spirit. Remember how Sterling Sharpe used to conveniently miss chunks of training camp each year? Much like the NBA's Allen Iverson, Sharpe was not really a practice-makes-perfect kind of guy. But when game-time came, he was ready. Okay, except for that one time when he staged a holdout on the eve of the season opener. But other than that, he was ready.

Favre could go the same route. From the looks of his passes this week - especially the masterful 52-yard TD connection with Robert Ferguson - the 34-year-old Favre's timing is already on the money. He doesn't have any strangers in his stable of receivers. Fergie is another example. Forced by a sore hamstring and pressing personal business to miss the first two preseason games and a good deal of practice, he took to the field Friday night without missing a beat.

Meanwhile, three of the four backups QBs on the roster, a rookie punter and a host of bubble-sitting hopefuls need some serious time to prove themselves.

One answer would be a shorter exhibition slate. Try two weeks, one with starters playing a quarter, the next with them playing two or three quarters depending on the roster decisions the team needs to make.

In lieu of a change, I prefer Sherman's preseason approach to that of Holmgren. I don't want to see Favre play much before his offensive line is in one piece -- to keep him in one piece.

If next week's preseason finale at Tennessee passes without a catastrophe the sound of nervous Packer fans exhaling a collective sigh of relief will be audible from Nashville all the way back to Lambeau Field.


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