Brett Favre has earned the reputation as a gridiron warrior, playing through numerous injuries that would have sidelined many others. You don't get to 289 consecutive starts by sitting out if you have a pain.
The all-time NFL ironman has played games with his wife Deanna battling breast cancer and played after his father, Irv, died – lighting up the scoreboard in that game before walking off with Deanna by his side. Now, however, Favre could be facing his greatest challenge. His reputation is at stake.
After 20 years, 9,942 passes, 70,190 yards, 502 touchdowns and 324 interceptions, his character and reputation are being threatened by allegations that he sent lewd photos of himself to Jenn Sterger, a former sideline reporter employed by the New York Jets in 2008, when Favre played for the team.
The NFL is investigating the claims and it's possible a suspension or fine could be forthcoming in the next month. Endorsement deals are at stake as well – Favre reportedly made about $7 million off endorsements last year alone.
Yet, through it all, Favre has fielded the questions in the last 11 days and audibled as easily as he does on the field. Asked about the claims, he talks about the upcoming game. Asked about his reaction to the allegations, he talks about his reaction to the most recent game.
He has neither denied the allegations nor addressed them. At every turn, he diverts the topic back to the gridiron. It might be the first time in his career that he wants to answer questions about bad performances that have led to a 1-3 record and more interceptions to date this season than touchdowns.
Although he appears to have superhuman savvy at a press-conference podium, he is human. He bleeds. His tendons tear. And his muscles bruise. But this latest chapter, which could be the final one in a storied career, has to leave a lasting mark.
Asked about his focus amidst the distractions this week, it took him only three words to transition from a non-football question back to the team, even inserting humor, like a master distractor would. How has your focus been?
"I think great. In 300 and something games, playing a team that probably gives you the most exotic blitzes that you'll ever face. I think Rex Ryan a couple of times blitzed," Favre said. "I felt as confident as I've ever felt in protection and was making calls and trying to direct traffic. That's hard to do anyway. Now I prepared very hard, as you'd expect, but I knew there were going to be things that we hadn't seen."
The king of the filibuster continued to talk football in only the way the orchestrated orator can. He talked about the latest loss, preparation for the upcoming game and reading defenses before claiming his focus might be even better than usual. Maybe that's because some people like to bury themselves in work to distract from outside pressures and tragedy.
His head coach, Brad Childress, wasn't quite as ready to dismiss the possibility that there should be some concern about Favre's physical and emotional health. (Besides the off-the-field distractions, Favre is dealing with tendinitis in his throwing elbow and missed practice time last week because of it.)
"I'm worried about both, but I'm worried about a lot of guys' emotional state," Childress said. "I just don't want guys to get mentally ill four games into the season. We talk about that. You make your corrections and then you get on with your next opponent. You don't let the last game beat you twice. I think he's got a decent balance. We'll just see how his arm shapes up here the rest of this week."
Childress later tied to clarify: "I am not overly concerned about where he's at with whatever he's got going on in his life," he said. "I don't mean to minimize it, but it is what it is. I see a guy that's here, ready and prepared, doing the work. I don't see ill effects from that."
Not many players seemed too concerned that Favre's focus would be negatively altered by the allegations, but an NFL locker room can be an emotional place from week to week. This week, the Vikings seemed calm and relatively unaffected by either Favre's situation or the 1-3 record the team now has. However, it's clear the defense has played well enough to win a few of those games, but the turnovers and a lack of a consistent passing game on offense have held the Vikings back.
Another week of lackluster production could result in mounting tension and players starting to wonder if bringing back Favre was worth it. On the other end, if the addition of Randy Moss suddenly cures the passing game and the Vikings get a much-needed win today, it could spark the revival of a team that entered the season with huge hopes.
Either way, it seems crystal clear that the Vikings will turn one way or the other on the play of their 41-year-old future Hall of Fame quarterback and his ability to perform under pressure.
"Even though we play this game of football, I'm sure he's not the only one that gets distracted off the field and things we deal with in our daily life," Adrian Peterson said. "Still with that, we have a job to do and we have to overcome that and focus and get the job done. We're all men in this building. I expect for each one of us to do that."
If the oldest man in the locker room is able to do it and play up his standards, all will be right. If not, all the money spent and all the energy burnt on begging for his return could alter the locker room attitude quicker than a gunslinging bullet.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
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