Favre Hopes For Pleasant Homecoming

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This weekend Brett Favre goes home, or as close to home as the NFL season will allow.

Sunday's game against the Saints marks the Packers' first regular season trip to New Orleans since 1995 and first game in the Louisiana Superdome since Super Bowl XXXI, Jan. 26, 1997.

Favre, who was born in Gulfport, grew up in Kiln, Miss., less than an hour away from New Orleans. His current offseason residence of Hattiesburg is just a little farther away than that, about two hours north of New Orleans on I-59.

But if you think that this trip looks as inviting to Favre as a wide-open Terry Glenn, or even a wide-open plot of land and his tractor, think again. For all the Southern accents and the aromas of Cajun cooking that will make Favre feel right at home, New Orleans isn't exactly putting out the welcome mat.

In fact, to Favre the Superdome might look like one giant sign saying keep away.

It's puzzling really, but nonetheless true. For all of the ways Favre has dominated the NFL, domes have had a way of keeping him in check. In regular season games alone, Favre is 94-37 all-time in outdoor stadiums, but only 10-17 in domes.

It's a mystery that Favre himself has yet to solve.

"I've thought about it," he said Wednesday, regarding his lack of success under a roof. "There's got to be something that makes us play different, or approach it different. To pinpoint it, I don't know that I could, or (GM/Head Coach) Mike Sherman could, or this team.

"In fact, I don't mind playing in domes. If anything, it's a controlled environment -- there's no wind."

But as inexplicable as they are, the numbers are there. Since defeating the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXI, the Packers have gone 2-5 in indoor stadiums, including last season's devastating 45-17 playoff loss to St. Louis.

In those five losses, Favre tossed six touchdowns compared with 13 interceptions. This from a guy who is riding a streak of 153 passes without an interception in regular season games.

So what gives? How is it possible that the same strong-armed, strong-willed quarterback who is 31-0 in games when the temperature drops below 34-degrees, struggles to win in the temperate domes?

Perhaps, it's just the way the ball bounces. Favre remembered that in the 33-28 win over Minnesota in the Metrodome two seasons ago, the Packers simply refrained from giving the game away.

"We dealt with the crowd noise, went to a silent count, ran the ball well," Favre said. "The mistakes we normally make, Minnesota made. After that game it was, 'Why can't we do this all the time?'"

Favre concedes that domes enclose the noise made by hostile opposing fans. In addition to forcing silent counts and making audibles difficult to communicate, he suggested that perhaps more than anything the noise disrupts a team's natural rhythm.

Facing an underrated Saints team that's coming off a significant victory at Tampa Bay, the Packers will need all the rhythm they can muster this weekend if they want to move to 2-0. That means slaying the dragon that is the dome, something the Packers have done before, if not recently.

"It's a mindset thing," Favre said. "I'm well aware of how we've played in domes, but the biggest game I ever played in a dome we won and it was loud the whole time, it was just a neutral crowd."

Although the Saints are likely to have the fan edge this weekend, it might not be by much. Not surprisingly, Favre's return to the South has numerous relatives, friends and neighbors campaigning to get tickets.

Favre said he tried to come up with as many tickets as possible, but he's left most of the delegating to his wife, Deanna. And even a three-time MVP doesn't have the connections necessary to satisfy such a multitude of requests.

Joked Favre, "It's funny when you give them the number to the ticket office how quickly they don't want to go to the game."

Even with all the friends and family there to back him, Favre is hoping Sunday will feel like any other road game. Certainly the objective hasn't changed.

"I might not even see them," Favre said of his visitors. "This is a business trip for me. I know my wife and daughters are going down, they'll visit and all that stuff, but I'm going down to win a football game.

"Early in my career, yeah, you maybe want to socialize and see Bourbon Street and all that stuff, but I'll probably just sit in my room, (then) go play the game."

That attitude doesn't surprise his coach, who said Favre is at a point in his career in which he keeps his emotions on the level. Gone are the days when an over-excited Favre might hit the field trying to win the game single handedly.

"He's not as hyped-up as he used to be," Sherman said. "He's excited about playing the game, but I think he's more of a cerebral quarterback now than he's ever been."

A cerebral quarterback hoping that this week he can solve the riddle of the dome.

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