Favre flashed durability early

Today's story is about Brett Favre. Fine, but where do you start?

To me, the major reason he has been able to start more than 200 consecutive Packer games is his durability, or another way of saying "resistant to wear."

This gent is just one tough hombre – between the ears and musclewise. Plus, he's a softy, totally unpretentious, and easily stirred to sentiment.

That's a big mouthful, but you could fill every area on this PackerReport.com front page with his accomplishments and his plain, unvarnished attributes, including the skill to throw a football and shrug off hurts.

Durable? How else can you explain that more than 180 quarterbacks on the 31 other teams have started an NFL game since he started Game 4 in 1992.

Bring that closer to home: Favre has played with 123 different athletes on his offenses during his starting streak – 30 running backs, 27 wide receivers, 20 tackles, 15 guards, 13 tight ends, and six (mostly three) centers.

Of those QBs, 10 went on to start for other teams – Don Majkowski, Ty Detmer, Mark Brunell, Doug Pederson, Steve Bono, Rick Mirer, Aaron Brooks, Matt Hasselbeck, Danny Wuerffel and Henry Burris. There was one other – Jim McMahon, the Chicago Bear great, who retired.

Favre watched from the bench during his first game as a Packer when Green Bay lost to the Minnesota Vikings, 23-20 in overtime, with Majkowski at quarterback. It also was Coach Mike Holmgren's debut.

The next three games got Packer fans wondering about this new quarterback out of Southern Mississippi, the Atlanta Falcons' second-round draft choice in 1991. The Pack's GM, Ron Wolf, traded a first-round pick to Atlanta for Favre, undoubtedly the greatest trade in Packer history.

Game 2 was in Tampa Bay and the Bucs piled up a 17-0 halftime lead, with Majkowski throwing an interception. Holmgren started Favre in the second half and, low and behold, the first pass he threw he caught himself after it bounced off linebacker Ray Seal's chest for a seven-yard loss.

Perhaps it's odd that Holmgren called a pass as Favre's first play as a Packer. Regardless, Favre proceeded to keep the ball for 9 minutes, 23 seconds (16 plays, including 8 passes for 77 yards). The drive set up a 33-yard Chris Jacke field goal for the Pack's only points in a 31-3 beating.

Game 3 against the Cincinnati Bengals at Lambeau Field saw the departure of Majkowski, and Favre getting cussed out by Jacke. It was only 10 minutes into the first quarter when Majkowski injured his leg as he was sacked by nose tackle Tim Krumrie.

Majkowski also held the ball for Jacke's field goals and, of course, Favre was next in line. jacke missed two field goals from 32 and 47 yards, and Favre took the blame. Jacke said, "I'm not going to blatantly say he was a bad holder, but my confidence wasn't there with Brett the way it was with Don."

Favre was somewhat like an old pro that day as he threw a five-yard TD pass to Sterling Sharpe in the fourth quarter to cut Cincy's lead to 20-17. With 1:07 left, the Bengals went ahead 23-17 on a field goal. With 13 seconds left, Favre threw his famous 35-yard TD pass to Kitrick Taylor to tie the score, 23-up.

Jacke, of course, had to kick the extra point to win the game, and Favre laughed after the game, "I'm sure Chris was thinking, ‘Please Brett get it down.' We did but I felt for him because he's a good kicker."

On that winning throw, Brett said, "I couldn't bear to look. I just closed my eyes and waited for the crowd to let me know." Brett also noted "the mistakes I made." He fumbled six times, was sacked five times, and ran six times for 27 yards.

Now it's Game 4 and Majkowski is out for a few games. Holmgren was "forced" to give Favre his very first start against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Lambeau. The Packers whipped Pittsburgh that day, 17-3, and Favre hit 14 of 19, including TD passes of 76 yards to Sharpe and eight to Robert Brooks.

After the game Favre said, "I went into the game thinking I didn't have anything to prove, but I'd like to think I'd changed some people's minds." Holmgren didn't go overboard, but said "Brett was much improved, but we're going to keep pushing him, pushing him and pushing him."

Brett father, Irvin, was there that day and had a warning after the game: "When Brett has a football in his hand, don't ever turn your back on him."

Irvin would die 12 years later, a day before Brett's 188th start Oakland. In one of his greatest performances, certainly in tribute to his father, Brett threw four touchdown passes in a 41-7 victory.

Favre's numbers are staggering. He has thrown nearly 7,000 passes and completed more than 4,200 for close to 50,000 yards.

A tough cookie? He has survived 11 different injuries and played the next Sunday, including a dislocated shoulder, sprained ankle and foot, a broken right thumb in Game 180, and a sprained right thumb this season. He gets sacked an average of about 30 per season, but, hooray, he was nailed only 19 times in 2003, and just five times in 11 games this year thanks to a great offensive line.

Funny, this old-timer accidently used the name "Bart" in talking with Brett one time. He said, ‘Hey, thanks, Art.' Bart Starr is a great admirer of Favre and Brett thinks the world of Bart. And today, let's just say "good luck" to you, Brett, and your special lady, Deanna.

Art Daley

Editor's Note: Packer Hall of Famer Art Daley is a featured columnist for Packer Report and PackerReport.com. The former Green Bay Press-Gazette sportswriter and sports editor has covered the team since 1941.

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