It's hardly a secret that Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre doesn't much look forward to training camp anymore. And for that you'll have to forgive him.
Thirteen years in the NFL will do that to a guy.
But make no mistake, Favre still lives for game days and yearns to get back to the Super Bowl. And if the early energy of training camp is any indication, Favre thinks he's leading a team that has the potential to get there.
"I like our chances," Favre said Wednesday in his first meeting with Wisconsin media since June mini-camp.
"We have a real young team, but there's a lot of potential there on both sides of the ball. And I know it's (just) three practices, but you always can tell. This is 13 years for me, and these guys are flying around."
While the nightmare playoff loss to the Atlanta Falcons still lingers amongst the memories of 2002, it can't be ignored that the Packers return several key players from a team that won 12 games last year, despite a slew of injuries.
To put that in perspective, in the last 40 years the Packers have won more than 12 regular-season games only twice: the Super Bowl seasons of 1996 and 1997.
And when asked to compare this year's squad to those teams, Favre suggested that in some ways the current crop might be superior.
"I think we have better skills, more talent, more speed, and that's both sides of the ball," Favre said. "There's just a lot less experience. And you can go across the board."
One position Favre noted for its inexperience was wide receiver, where Donald Driver returns from a nine-touchdown season as the undisputed leader. After Driver's 107 career catches, the Packers' next three returning receivers, Robert Ferguson, Javon Walker and Karsten Bailey, have just 54 combined.
But if the wide receiver position highlights the Packers' youth, it also illustrates their potential. After all, Driver had only 37 catches going into last season, and he ended up in the Pro Bowl.
In Favre's mind, who's to say that other players won't make the same leap, once given the opportunity?
"Obviously our organization feels like we're going to bat with some young players who can play," Favre said. "We're going to give them a chance. And I like that."
It's been five seasons since the Packers last went to a Super Bowl, or even an NFC Championship game. And while Favre reiterated once again Wednesday that he doesn't know when he'll retire from the NFL, there's a good chance he has fewer than five years left.
If that's the case, you might think Favre is feeling an extra sense of urgency heading into 2003. But desire is an area in which the 33-year-old has never been lacking.
"I was very fortunate early in my career to win a Super Bowl and have a lot of good things happen to me," Favre said. "But I never thought it was easy ...
"You should always have a sense of urgency, because in this game, one injury can end it all and you never know. And to get the chance to go to the playoffs, it's something special. But here in Green Bay, going to the playoffs is not enough."
The Packers need look back only one season to be reminded of the fine line between success and failure. On the road to the Super Bowl, even one pothole can stop a team dead in its tracks.
But Favre believes this year's Packers team could have enough to go the distance.
"We have a good chance," Favre said. "I'm not going to sit here and make predictions.
"We should be in the playoffs. Something's wrong if we're not. But we have a good shot to go all the way, and we have to feel that way as a team."
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