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Favre Learning To Live With Wrap


If Brett Favre could have his way, he'd rid himself immediately of the protective splint that's been taped to his right thumb for the last three weeks and counting.

But as the hairline crack in his damaged digit continues to heal, he realizes that the bandage will have to stay for at least another week.

"I hate to," Favre said of playing with the wrap, "but it's a must."

Monday against the Philadelphia Eagles, Favre struggled to maintain his grip of the football on a rainy night at Lambeau Field.

The Packers fumbled six times in the game -- the most since Nov. 1, 1999 -- and Favre was responsible for half of that, three times having the ball slip out of the back of his hand as he cocked his arm to throw.

Favre said this week that neither the injury nor the wrap directly caused any of the fumbles, but admitted that both could have been contributing factors. The bigger problem, he suggested, was the rain.

"Those conditions the other night were favorable for anyone to have the ball slip out of their hands," Favre said in a conference call. "I'm not making excuses, but that's the only thing I can point to."

For evidence that Favre can be successful in spite of the injury and methods to protect it, Favre can point to the Packers' 30-27 win over the Minnesota Vikings, Nov. 2.

In the inclement-proof Metrodome, just two weeks removed from sustaining the injury, Favre posted a 105.4 passer rating and threw for three touchdowns, while going without a fumble.

Considering that the Packers are expected to play under blue skies on a near 80-degree afternoon at Raymond James Stadium this Sunday, there's reason to be optimistic that holding on to the football won't be an issue this time.

But that hasn't stopped the Packers from tinkering with Favre's wrap to come up with the best possible method.

Packers assistant trainer Kurt Fielding, who is responsible for taping the splint to the back of Favre's thumb, said he has received dozens of suggestions that would allow the quarterback to maintain a good grip on the ball and has tried many of them.

But the challenge is to find a solution that doesn't violate NFL guidelines or create a whole new problem.

Taping tacks to Favre's thumb or using a spray or paste that would make the tape job sticky -- all of which have been suggested to Fielding -- would violate the NFL's equipment rules against foreign substances.

Of course no rule would prevent Favre from wearing an NFL-authorized glove, or -- as the Packers have tried in practice -- just cutting the thumb portion off the glove and taping it down.

But the Packers' experiments have demonstrated that the more material they add to Favre's thumb, the worse his natural feel for the ball becomes, at which point they risk sacrificing passing accuracy for grip.

"I still want to be able to throw the ball without really thinking about it," Favre said. "There's only so much you can do."

Fielding said the tape job on Favre's hand Monday night against the Eagles wasn't any more waterlogged than against Minnesota because rain saturated the thin tape wrap in the same way Favre's sweat would in dry conditions.

And although experiments will continue until the point Favre can play without the splint, Fielding suggested that in another rain game there isn't a whole lot extra the Packers can try, other than to re-wrap the thumb more frequently.

The most recent X-ray performed on Favre's thumb early this week showed that the hairline crack is beginning to heal, but, even without a setback, another three games could pass before the splint is no longer necessary.

Yet if Favre is anxious to shed the bandage, he's just as confident he can perform in the meantime.

And, assuming the Packers don't discover a miracle solution, they just have to hope that the Eagles game put the worst behind them.

"At Minnesota I had no problems whatsoever," Favre said. "I'm going to play with a broken thumb. I'm going to play with it and play the way I'm capable of playing."

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