One playmaker left - Favre

While others fall to injuries, quarterback shines

Brett Favre has reached his limit.

No, the 36-year-old hasn't decided to retire in midstream of this rocky season for the team. But coach Mike Sherman stressed this week that the unfathomable 1-5 record can't be in any way pinned on the franchise quarterback, who's off to the one of the best starts of his 14-year starting tenure.

"There's only so much he can do at quarterback, and I think he's doing plenty right now," Sherman said. "He's playing well enough for us to win. We have to find other ways to improve, other than the quarterback necessarily. I think he's playing very well. He's gone a couple of games where he hasn't turned the ball over. He's making great decisions. He's competing. He's been a great leader. He's been supportive of his teammates. Couldn't ask for anything more out of him."

Only if Favre had the superhuman capabilities - and an exemption from the rules book - to hand the ball off or throw passes to himself, starting with Sunday's game at AFC North leader Cincinnati. He's about the only dynamic playmaker left for a once-formidable offense rocked mercilessly by early-season injuries.

Before the season started, Favre wasn't up on the names and backgrounds of his considerably younger teammates. This week, he's even more clueless, having been presented another batch of reinforcements, including a receiver who goes by the name of Taco.

"I don't know what some of our guys will give us, and I have to introduce myself to some of them," acknowledged Favre, adding honestly, "I don't know what we're capable of doing or what people should expect."

Both the running back and wide receiver positions are in tatters.

Pro Bowl halfback Ahman Green followed top backup Najeh Davenport to injured reserve. Green suffered a torn quadriceps tendon in the last-second loss at Minnesota on Sunday and underwent surgery Tuesday.

Davenport has already begun his rehabilitation from surgery on the broken ankle he sustained in the previous game Oct. 9.

Now, the Packers' 30th-rated rushing offense must make do with third-down specialist Tony Fisher as the starter and unproven ReShard Lee and Walt Williams as the backups.

The makeshift ensemble at receiver is only slightly more encouraging, what with game-breaker Donald Driver still healthy. Yet the season-ending losses of top pass catcher Javon Walker and rookie Terrence Murphy, coupled with Robert Ferguson's short-term absence because of a knee injury he suffered Sunday, threaten to end Favre's unshakable play of late.

In what amounts to the last 2 1/2 games, Favre has completed 62 of 87 passes for 715 yards and eight touchdowns without an interception. He enters Sunday's game as the league leader with 14 touchdown throws, one more than the Bengals' Carson Palmer.

Moreover, Favre hasn't been sacked in his last 111 pass plays.

Having surrounded Favre with Antonio Chatman as the new starter to replace Ferguson and newly signed Andrae Thurman and Taco Wallace as the backup receivers, Sherman will neither ask nor expect Favre to do any more than what's he done thus far.

"It's up to the new guys," Favre said pointedly. "A lot of these guys are going to have to learn on the run and are going to have to learn in game situations, crunch time. That's a very difficult place to learn, but it's the hand that we've been dealt."

Sherman conceded the face of the offense has been altered significantly in the wake of the rash of injuries to key players. As such, he alluded that a greater emphasis has been placed on getting the tight ends involved more to ease the burden on an otherwise suspect, young group of receivers. Bubba Franks, David Martin and Donald Lee each has good hands, reasonable speed and the ability to stretch the field.

"We've tilted a little bit that way, more so than we have in the past," Sherman said. "(But) we still have to be able to put three wide receivers out there and be able to do things on third down, as well as first down." After all, their quarterback can't get it all done by himself.


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