Brett Favre: Still Going


Wednesday, Brett Favre was asked how much longer he thought his training camp roommate, offensive lineman Frank Winters, could keep playing football.

"Maybe a week, two weeks," Favre replied, before breaking into a grin.

It was one of the rare times this offseason that a question about career longevity made Favre the analyst instead of the subject, or both. And when you look down the Packers roster and see that only Winters and linebacker Hardy Nickerson -- both approaching their 16th seasons -- have logged more years in the NFL than Favre's 11, it's easy to understand why.

While curiosity abounds in Titletown about acquisitions like Terry Glenn or draft picks like Javon Walker, not even pontifications about the Packers' Super Bowl chances have been floated as often this offseason as questions about Favre's future.

For Packers fans, knowing that they have Favre for 2002 just isn't enough. What they want to know is, when will it all end?

The answer they hope to receive is, 'Never.' The answer they fear is, 'Now.' The answer they're getting is somewhere in between.

It's been almost impossible to hear Favre address with the media this offseason without mentioning 'the end.' He speaks of it in vague terms, but with a discomforting familiarity, as if retirement was his new nextdoor neighbor and it's only a matter of time before it stops by for dinner.

Yet just when you start to worry that this could be Favre's last training camp, he'll complete a sentence with the suggestion, 'ask me in five years,' as if it's a certainty he'll still be around to provide the answer.

So unavoidable is this Favre riddle that even GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman has fallen under its spell, often saying for the record that he believes Favre could play five more years, albeit with the caveat that the three-time MVP could just as well call him up next March and say that he's finished.

Which brings you right back to square one, asking, how much longer? It's a question that Favre himself can't satisfy.

"I don't know, I really don't," Favre said of his future. "Everyone says hey, three years, five years, what? I can't think that long. It's day by day, game by game.

"If I came out this year and had a great season and we almost made the Super Bowl, I'm sure I'd be eager to come right back. If I played terrible, or if I got injured like LeRoy (Butler), who knows? It's just so tough to answer questions about scenarios that haven't happened, or that may happen.

"(Former Denver Broncos quarterback John) Elway said, 'If I ever win a Super Bowl, I'll walk away.' I'd love to say I'd have a great year, win the Super Bowl and that's the way I want to go out, but the chances of that happening are, I think, much better today than they were last year and definitely the year before that, but a lot of things have to go into that. I'm just enjoying it, playing my tail off, hopefully (I'll) stay healthy and we'll see what happens."

If there's one consensus about Favre, it's that the 32-year-old can be just as dynamic in 2002 as he was during any of his MVP seasons.

Said Sherman, "I think age has been good to him, I don't know how or why. He doesn't stretch, he doesn't do a lot of stuff, maybe it's the water they drink down there (in Mississippi), I don't know what it is, but he doesn't seem to have any diminishing skills that I notice . . . He could call next year and say it's over or he could play another however many years he would like to play."

Glenn remarked that the quarterback who now guns passes his direction looks like the same one that helped gun down his New England Patriots six seasons ago in Super Bowl XXXI, and that the excitement over locking eyes with Favre in the huddle has yet to wear off.

"I don't really want to calm down from that," Glenn explained. "When I'm out there and I see that guy back there, I see what he's done for this league and for himself and for the Green Bay Packers. I respect that, and when I run my routes I see that and it just makes me do it a little harder."

There has been some speculation that the arrival of Glenn and the talented youth that accompanies him in the receiving corps will not help Favre within the lines as much as they will within his head, providing a new challenge for a quarterback who has reached virtually every challenge a player could think to put to himself.

"If he has a weakness, he can get bored very easily," Sherman said. "The challenge of new receivers, getting on the same page, I think would excite him. To see the talent level they exhibit excites him, the possibilities excite him . . . I think it's rejuvenated him a little bit."

Favre acknowledges that his passion for the game is still there, but where it comes from is another matter altogether.

"That's one of those things that's kind of enabled me to keep going and practice with enthusiasm and play with enthusiasm is I just love to do it, I love to throw touchdowns," he said. "I get up every day and I say to myself, 'God, I hate going to practice,' but once I get there I have fun. I don't know how I do it.

"Having a new receiving corps is exciting, it's a challenge, but I don't feel like it's any added pressure or any more of a challenge than it has been in the past, because it's always been a challenge . . . I look forward to it every day."

In the end, Favre's career could last as long as his body allows. Slowed by injuries in 1999, Favre admitted that there were games that season when he probably should have stayed on the sidelines, but said his body and arm feel as strong as ever, and for the moment, that's all the answer he needs.

"I never once lost confidence in what I could do, I just needed a healthy body . . . and a good cast around me," Favre said. "Last year we sort of put it all together. At the end of last season, I said, 'Okay, I'm going to stick around here, I've still got it.'

"I haven't seen anything diminish in the last few years, which is good. I feel a little rougher in the morning, but I can't complain after playing for so long. That's kind of my formula for where I go in the future. If I'm playing well, staying fairly healthy and the team's having success, then I'll stick around . . .

"I'm just fortunate that not only have I had a chance to play here, but for this amount of time, just to achieve what I have achieved, I'm thankful for it. Sometime, at some point, if it's your time to go, the next one steps up. I've been able to envision that for a long time.

"When the time comes, I know that I'll look back and say I put everything into it."

And for all that he has given them, when the time comes, Packers fans will think that Favre's departure has come all too soon.

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