Favre up to the challenge

Quarterback taking on more responsibility to lead team

A 20-10 loss to Pittsburgh on Sunday before an agitated home crowd at Lambeau Field further advanced the speculation that quarterback Brett Favre will retire at season's end. The consummate pro is coming to grips with what likely will be the first losing season of his 14-year starting career in Green Bay.

The Packers have lost three straight to fall to 1-7, their worst mark since starting 1-9 in 1986.

"If anyone else was standing up here in my shoes and had the success that I've had and this team has had, 1-7 is not acceptable. But, it's the reality," Favre said. "I've never accepted losing. I've always felt like whenever I'm on the field, I give this team the best chance to win and will give the best effort and be physically and mentally as prepared as I've ever been. Being 1-7, it is tough to accept but it is reality."

The latest setback, which leaves the last-place Packers four games off the lead pace of Chicago in the feeble NFC North, came only three days after Favre made some compelling comments. He told The Associated Press in an exclusive interview that his future with the team beyond this season might be tied to that of his head coach, Sherman.

Although Sherman received a two-year extension prior to the start of this season that keeps him under contract through 2007, first-year general manager Ted Thompson has the authority to make a change if he sees fit. Favre, 36, is aware of Sherman's shaky job status and conceded that it would be tough at this late stage of his career to have to learn a new system if a coaching change were to be made next year.

"That could be the straw that breaks the camel's back," Favre asserted.

Unfortunately for Favre, he's been an eyewitness to an inordinate number of teammates' bodies breaking down in the first two months. The rash of serious injuries has been more or less confined to the offensive side. The Packers have been playing without Pro Bowl wide receiver Javon Walker, Pro Bowl running back Ahman Green, and his backup Najeh Davenport.

"I don't want to accept the fact that those guys are not here and therefore it is going to be that type of season," Favre said. "As the leader of this team you can't accept that."

The Packers have gone through four starters at running back, as ReShard Lee replaced Tony Fisher in the lineup Sunday. Fisher, who had been promoted to fill the void after season-ending injuries to Green (quadriceps) and Najeh Davenport (ankle), was sidelined with a fractured rib that could keep him out at least a couple more games.

Samkon Gado, an undrafted rookie from Liberty who was signed to the practice squad only three weeks earlier, wound up becoming the featured back after Lee didn't endear himself to Sherman with an early fumble. Gado may have earned a start for the game Sunday at Atlanta by rushing 26 times for 62 yards, a season high by a Packers back.

"I don't feel I should be here right now, (but I am) because of all the injuries we've suffered," Gado said.

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