Note: The following is an excerpt from the new book, FAVRE, written by Brett Favre and his mother, Bonita Favre, with Green Bay Press-Gazette columnist Chris Havel. FAVRE is a dazzling tribute to the Packers' future Hall of Famer, with personal family photos and remembrances, stunning four-color action shots, and inspiring stories. In the following excerpt, Favre talks about his NFL-record streak of games started by a quarterback. Click here to purchase the book online at PackersProShop.com
Fortunately, I've seldom been in a situation where I didn't know if I could play because of an injury, but it has happened a couple of times. You play for as many years as I have, knock on wood, and it's inevitable.
When it does happen, the first thing people mention is The Streak. I've played in 208 straight games, counting playoffs, which is an NFL record for quarterbacks. It's also the league's longest active streak at any position, which is amazing when you consider that offensive linemen sometimes play for 15 or 16 years without missing a snap.
Fans ask how I've been able to play for so long without missing a game. The easy answer is to say that it's because I'm so doggone tough, or as Mike Holmgren would say, because I'm so doggone hard-headed. The truth is it's probably a combination of things. I've been fortunate to play on winning teams with good offensive lines. I also tend to recoil, or step back, almost immediately after I throw a pass. I'm pretty sure that has kept my legs from getting tangled up under more than one pile.
The Streak isn't all about durability, though. It's about ability, too.
Nobody plays in 208 straight games just because they didn't get hurt. A player has to be good enough, for a long enough time, to keep earning the starting job. Nothing's ever handed to anyone in this league, but sometimes all a player needs is a chance. I got mine when Don Majkowski sprained his ankle, and if I hadn't, who knows how things would have turned out? That's one reason I try my best to play no matter how bad the injury. I don't want to give anyone the chance that Majik gave me.
I also feel like I owe it to my coaches, teammates, and fans to show up on Sunday. I don't want to let them down because I know how much it means to them, and I feel like they know how much it means to me, too.
Not that there haven't been any close calls.
The first time I didn't finish a start in a Packers uniform was in '94 at Minnesota, which is no surprise because it's always been a struggle there.
I bruised my left hip on the first series and gutted it out the rest of the quarter. Mark Brunell came in to finish up.
I've played with bruised ribs, a bruised thigh, quite a bit of pain from abdominal blockage, a torn muscle in my right side, and several sprained ankles.
In '95, I got crushed at the goal line in a game against the Steelers. I was coughing up blood on the sideline, but I only missed one play, and I threw a touchdown pass on my first play back.
That same year I left an exhibition game early with a concussion after the Steelers' Greg Lloyd made an illegal blind-side hit. He was fined $12,000. But I was back for our next practice.
Like I said, there have been plenty of close calls.
One of the closest came in November of '95. We were playing the Bears at Lambeau Field, having just come off another nightmare in Minnesota. The Vikings beat us up and I had a long day. I threw two interceptions, and then left with a badly sprained ankle. It was the second game I didn't finish, and I was miserable because of it.
My ankle was swollen about six times its normal size and was badly discolored, an ugly shade of purple as I recall. I wasn't sure I'd be able to play against the Bears, and I couldn't practice until late in the week, and even then I was limping badly.
Head trainer Pepper Burruss assigned his assistant, Kurt Fielding, to be my round-the-clock caregiver. I really like Kurt, so I didn't mind having him at the house all night, plus all the icing, elevation, and electric stimulation really helped my ankle. There was a chance I may not have played anyway, but without Kurt there would've been no doubt.
The day of the Bears game, I was one of the first players in the locker room. I wanted my ankle taped just so, and I knew I'd have to test it during pregame warmups, so I went in extra early. I was sitting at my locker when defensive tackle Gilbert Brown strolled by. He looked at my ankle, and then at me, and asked, "You good for today?" I said, "You know it." Gilbert never said a word. He just winked and kept walking.
He knew the answer. He probably only asked to be polite.
I was pretty stiff in warmups, and my ankle was taped so heavily it felt like I had a cast on, but I managed to convince Mike to start me. To be honest, it didn't take much convincing because Mike knew I tend to play some of my best football when the adversity is greatest. I ended up having one of the best days of my career.
I threw five touchdown passes, and we beat the Bears 35-28.
I'd like to think my mental and physical toughness allowed me to play, and there is no doubt modern medicine and a good offensive line helped me to play well. I have no idea what the Bears were thinking. They never got close enough for me to ask.
Excerpt from the book FAVRE appears courtesy of Rugged Land Books and NFL Publishing. Copyright (c) 2004 by Brett Favre, Bonita Favre, and Chris Havel. All rights reserved.