Gunslinger goes silent; Favre could be done

Brett Favre's NFL-record streak of consecutive starts came to an end, and he may have already played in his last game. It appears we are seeing the end of an epic era.

Brett Favre met the media following Monday's game. It's rare when a player on the inactive list hits the podium after a game in which he didn't play, but the end of the epic 297-game streak of consecutive starts demanded that Favre talk. He addressed the media not about the game he played, but the game he didn't.

Asked when he knew the streak was going to end, Favre said he wasn't really sure until he tried to do some of the things he would have to do in order to get on the field.

"It was day-to-day, but it came down to (Monday)," Favre said. "I really was not able to do anything this week. That's not the first time in my career that's happened, but this (was different) based on numbness. During the game, (it was the) same thing – a tingling. (There was) really nothing to shoot up, not to mention that's kind of tricky. I've played with a lot of stuff, but this is something different that I've got to be more cautious of."

Just as Favre didn't know until Monday whether or not the streak would continue, head coach Leslie Frazier said he wasn't 100 percent until today. He told Favre prior to the game that he would be inactive and wouldn't even suit up as the No. 3 quarterback. Frazier had maintained during the week that Favre would have to be able to make all the throws a quarterback needs to make in a game. He said that he didn't think Favre could, given the numbness and discoloration of his throwing hand.

"We were just hoping that the numbness would go away so he would be able to feel the ball, grip it and have the touch that he needed, but that wasn't the case," Frazier said. "We talked before the game and it wasn't a hard decision not to put him out there knowing he wasn't healthy enough to do what he had to do as a quarterback. Hopefully things will get better and we can get him back, but we'll just have to wait and see."

Favre actually seemed to have a weight lifted off of his shoulders with the streak finally over. He said there weren't any influences that would have him try to play the game in his condition or take one snap and leave just to continue the streak. Instead of sadness or disappointment – although Frazier said there was some disappointment when he initially told him – Favre said he saw this day coming and was actually somewhat glad it finally came.

"Relief in one sense," Favre said of his emotional state about the end of the streak coming Monday. "There wasn't a whole lot of pressure on me today. It was different. It's been a long time. I'd much rather be playing. That's just my nature. I wouldn't say it was time, but it's probably been long overdue. There's probably been a lot of times that the streak should have ended. It wasn't really a flood of emotion. I just couldn't play. I didn't feel like I could function good enough … to help us win."

Favre seemed to wax whimsical about the streak, saying that he has been proud of doing something nobody else has ever accomplish – play in 321 games (including playoffs) in a row without watching from the sidelines as he did Monday night.

"Whether it ended today, several weeks ago (or) ended last season, it's been a great run," Favre said. "I'm very proud of it and there's nothing left to be, not that there was anything left to prove anyway. I think it's a very difficult thing to do. I realize that more so now because it seems like I've been hurt a lot worse. I can't believe that something like this hasn't happened before. Pretty amazing that God has blessed me, no doubt, with the ability to play at a high level and endure physically. I may pay for it a little bit later, but I wouldn't trade it for anything."

There is a growing sentiment that Favre has likely played the last down of his NFL career. With three games remaining and the Vikings officially eliminated from postseason contention, all that is left to do is play out the final three games. While not saving him for next year, the Vikings need to move forward and need to see if the promise Brad Childress saw in Tarvaris Jackson and Joe Webb is something the team can go forward with. For Favre, it may be the end of the line that he has been able to delay for so many years. It's unlikely he will play in the final three games and he said, as of now, it isn't even an option.

"I won't play again if I can't feel my hand," Favre said. "I think we're going to try to do another exam tomorrow. This actually started back after the Washington game is when I actually felt it. There's a little pain, but that's subsided some. It's the tingling. I think it would be foolish to even consider playing if you don't have total feeling in five fingers."

Favre said that his own long-term health played a factor in whether he would have tried to push to play Sunday. Just as fans bore witness to the horrible bruising that surrounded Favre's ankle and thigh injuries suffered in the NFC Championship Game in January, his hand had a strange bluish-purple tinge to it, as if the nerve damage wasn't allow the proper amount of blood flow to his hand.

Although Favre dismissed the hand coloration, he said he is concerned about how the damage he has subjected his body to the last few years would affect him in later life.

"I think it will be alright," Favre said of his discolored hand. "I think it's probably a little too late to be thinking about how I'm going to feel a year from now, 10 years from now. I chose to play. I know it's part of it. I remember when I first got to Green Bay seeing a lot of the older guys who had played, great players, and you see the price that you pay. Little did I know I'd play 20 years. Am I concerned? That's a big reason why I didn't play today."

With the perception that Favre will likely be placed on injured reserve so the Vikings can seek out an out-of-work veteran quarterback with some ability, he was asked if he will spend the rest of the season with the team working out or simply fade off into the sunset if he goes on injured reserve.

For a guy who wasn't convinced until Monday that he wouldn't have another miraculous recovery, Favre said the decision for how he'll finish the season hadn't crossed his mind.

"That's a question that I haven't thought about, to be quite honest with you," Favre said. "I've always assumed I'd play every game. Today was no exception. I enjoyed playing. I haven't thought about that. I won't say I'm shocked by the events today. I guess in some sort of way I expected it for some time, kind of like all of us. Just play another game. Just play another game. But I have no idea. It's unfortunate we're out of this playoff race. I'm just going to see how I feel this week and go from there."

Favre sounded a bit resigned to his fate and said that, while he has enjoyed his time with the Vikings immensely, his memories will be more on the magical 2009 season and not the 2010 campaign that is coming closer to grinding to a halt. Favre pondered if this has been his toughest season and admitted that it wasn't how he wanted his career to end.

"Like I tell these guys – you play long enough, you'll see and do just about everything," he said. "When you think back, I'll think more about last season than I will this season, but you take the good with the bad. That's part of it. Believe me, I knew that coming into this season. I knew it last season. There are no guarantees."

While Favre may well have played his last as a Viking and as an NFL football player, he said he doesn't regret coming back for one more run. For a guy with a penchant for giving long answers, he didn't need much time to shoot down the premise of whether he regretted coming back.

"Not at all," Favre said succinctly

Just as nobody would admit publicly that the Vikings were done for the 2010 season following the loss to Chicago, nobody is immediately saying we've seen the last of Favre in purple and gold. But, just as the playoff predicament eventually was confirmed and came true, you get the sense we've seen the last of the old gunslinger.

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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