Commentary: Bye well-timed for Favre

With the squeaky wheel of Brett Favre getting the grease, the bye could be just what the old quarterback needs. If he (and his ankle) responds after the bye, the Vikings could be in contention, but they will need him to be better.

With as many voices in the choir chiming in that the Vikings' early bye week is a bad thing, for the long term, it might be a good thing that it is coming now.

For those who have been in the locker room at Winter Park, on the sidelines during practice or in the postgame mosh pit that is the Vikings' Metrodome locker room, one thing seems pretty certain – Brett Favre is not 100 percent.

When he's on the field, until he gets hit, he looks the same old Brett. To his eternal credit, when Adrian Peterson ran 110 yards to score an 80-yard touchdown last Sunday against the Lions, Favre ran down after him to congratulate him on the accomplishment. He didn't cover the ground like a gazelle, but to the casual fan, it looked pretty normal. On the side, it hasn't been.

Favre is still walking with a limp and, following the Lions game, he got another injection of WD40 (or something like that) in his ailing left ankle. The projected demise of the Vikings is one of the buzz topics among the multitude of websites and fan-based social networks. The general consensus is "Sure, they beat Detroit. Who doesn't beat Detroit?" The thesis is sound. The Lions have sucked for so long and the Matt Millen stink lingers on the franchise years later. Given the Murderers Row of opponents coming after the bye – at the Jets, Dallas, at Green Bay, at New England – it can legitimately be argued that if the Vikings come out of that stretch at 3-4, that would be a positive thing.

Have the Vikings dug themselves a hole? No question. Is it insurmountable? Not if the Favre we saw last year returns following the bye. If you look at Favre's numbers in the first couple of games of 2009, they weren't world-beating – a lot of check-down passes and very little risk-taking. The Vikings won both games, but they were wins over Cleveland and Detroit – a pair of franchises where hope goes to die. The Saints and Dolphins were a different story.

The NFC North isn't going to be decided until the Vikings play the Bears and Packers twice. Had Green Bay beaten the Vikings once last year, the Packers would have been division champs. The Bears have a win in hand over Green Bay, but can they beat the Vikings? If No. 4's oil change takes, don't count the Vikings out. It's rare when teams of the Vikings' and Cowboys' caliber start a season 0-2. The reason the non-playoff stat is so fat (like 87 percent of 0-2 teams don't make the playoffs) is because most of them are dismal franchises lacking star power. The Vikings have that. But they will need their biggest star to shine his brightest in the next month. If he does, it's lock-and-load time. If he is the same limping old guy witnessed behind the scenes and the balky ankle doesn't respond, the dreams of 2010 could be in jeopardy. If you're a gambler, it's hard to be against Favre. But it seems like the line at the pay window is growing on the other end of the ledger.

A year ago, many predicted Favre would fail. He responded with the best statistical season of his career. After a rocky start, Favre is being blasted again. Will he respond the same way? He's always found a way to answer the bell for the next round, so don't count him out.

THURSDAY NOTES

  • As if there is such a thing as business as usual between the players and owners, the players association received its first detailed plan of the league's intent to switch from a 16-game regular season to an 18-game schedule. Given how much veterans dislike training camp, it was thought that they might be in favor of an expanded schedule of "real" games. That premise has been shot down completely. Whether part of union marching orders or a sincere concern, most players VU has polled have been unified in not endorsing an 18-game regular season, given the bodily toll every game takes on players. One of the caveats given the owners when the collective bargaining agreement was bailed on was the league could impose an 18-week regular season. The owners are taking the steps to start that process, whether the players like it or not. Many have viewed Wednesday's announcement as a positive. Those in the conspiracy community see this as an ownership shot across the bow.

  • There was an interesting story on the Green Bay Post-Gazette website Wednesday. The newspaper's Oconto County reporter, Bill Borneman, posted that Favre has had his "image tarnished for fans." In his analysis, he has some serious memory flaws about the Packers legend. His first sentence claims "It was just two over [or "more than" in some stylebooks] two years ago when we heard outcries from Green Bay Packer fans because legendary quarterback Brett Favre left the Packers and then signed a contract for [or with] the New York Jets." Really? It is this sort of revisionist history that is being accepted as fact. Favre didn't leave the Packers via free agency. He tried to come back. He was offered a $10 million endorsement deal to stay retired. He was traded to the Jets. He was still under contract with the Packers when he was traded. Borneman reiterates the premise that Favre signed with the Jets by saying Ted Thompson was right not to re-sign him. He closes with the following statement: "In short [too late], future Hall of Famer Favre's image has been tarnished and he has lost a large segment of the enormous popularity he once enjoyed with the fans."

  • Guard Thomas Austin, who spent the preseason with the Vikings, was signed by the Patriots to their practice squad Wednesday.


    John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

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