Favre has faced a lot of adversity in recent seasons, and it often has occurred during the football season. To his credit, he has been able to focus on football and handle other life-changing issues with uncanny balance. When Green Bay's season begins on Sunday, we'll find out if Favre can put the hurricane that devastated his family and friends in Mississippi, and thousands of others, on the shelf for three-plus hours. Since the natural disaster hit the Gulf Coast last week, Favre has been thinking about it every day. He admits that it has affected the way he practices because he wasn't always "there."
Understandably so. The eyewall of the Katrina basically blew through his mother Bonita's house in Kiln, Miss. Favre's childhood home sits about 20-feet above sea level, three miles in from the coast. It survived Hurricane Camille in 1969, but Katrina's massive surge flooded the house up to the attic. Bonita and other family members, who have traveled north to stay with Favre in Green Bay, were forced to climb into the attic to avoid drowning. Thousands of others in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama were not so fortunate to escape Katrina's grip.
"Raynoch Thompson, who was released this past week, lost his grandmother in New Orleans," Favre said. "We talked about it briefly."
Favre, whose home is about 60 miles north of Kiln in Hattiesburg, said he has not traveled to Mississippi to assess the damage. He said he's not sure if he wants to at this point because it would be too depressing. He remained in Green Bay last weekend to receive treatment on his sprained ankle, though, he said that is the "least of his worries." But he has spoken with many people and watched reports on television to know that it is a terrible situation back home.
"It's bad, it really is," he said. "I know as bad as it is on TV, it's ten times worse in person. But my family is alive and able to start over. Most of the people down there are in the same position. There are probably numerous, numerous people who will never be found, but for the people who made it, including my family, they are fortunate. "My mom … I don't think she'll ever recover from it." Favre has dealt with plenty of adversity in recent years. His father, Irvin, died of a heart-attack in December of 2003. His wife, Deanna, was diagnosed with breast cancer last fall, about the same time that Deanna's brother died in an ATV accident. Last December, Favre's former teammate and good friend Reggie White suddenly passed away.
Despite the tragedy in his personal life, Favre has been able to use the football field as a sanctuary of sorts. Will he be able to use noisy Ford Field this Sunday as a safe haven away from his troubles? He's preparing as best he can.
"I wake up every day worried about those people back home, but I get to come over here and I can watch film, and I can go out to practice and kind of just use that as a release," Favre said. "I told the guys before practice, just out there joking with them, I said, ‘I'm going to have my best practice of the year.' Which may not be saying a whole lot up to this point.
"In some ways, I was issuing a challenge to them and to myself, because last week there were days in practice where I wasn't there. I mean, I was there, but I was not there. And I said, ‘OK, now it's time to focus and I can deal with this when I go home and wake up in the morning. But when I come to this building, I have to focus. And I've always used those type of situations as a positive."
If there is one thing that Favre has proved over and over again during his football career, it's to never bet against him. Most players might be affected by a personal tragedy in their life. Favre has been able to focus on his job when he has had to and deal with the adversity at hand. Expect Favre to do it again against the Lions. He is an ultimate competitor. Though he is bothered by the effect Katrina has had, he also knows that he can not only help the Packers win but help others eventually overcome the hurricane by what he does on the field.
"I mean, now there are two things in my life: helping these people and helping the Packers win," Favre said. "For an older guy, that's pretty cut and dried, that's what you need to do. And in this case, I mean, I don't have many years left as a Packer and I'm going to try to enjoy as much of it as I can, and in the process use my celebrity to try to help as many people as I can. It's a no-brainer, really."
Note: Todd Korth is managing editor of PackerReport.com and Packer Report. E-mail your thoughts to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.