Brett Favre: No 're-evaluating' allowed
If he's really a pro's pro, Favre must stick it out through this dreadful Vikings season
Oh, no you don't, Brett Favre. Don't even think about it. If I have to watch this mess, so do you.
Even though the Vikings just blew out your head coach, you are not excused from the proceedings. You dragged Football America into this circus tent in the first place -- you and the Vikings' administration, plus a couple of teammates who shall remain nameless for at least a few more paragraphs. You're all on the hook.
Sit right there and study the playbook. You're not going anywhere. You owe the Vikings, their fans and the NFL a season, unless you literally cannot answer the bell or someone takes the jersey off you. It could get better out there; it could get worse (not sure how, really), but either way, you don't get to suddenly decide that you might take off and think things over. There's a limit to what we'll accept even from a bona fide great.
Stick it out, partner. Cross the finish line.
That's what Hall of Famers do.
To be fair, you didn't actually say you were waffling after that desultory 31-3 loss to Green Bay on Sunday. You didn't say you were done. In fact, your words more directly suggested that you were going home from the game with plans to return to the Vikings' dysfunctional camp on Monday and "re-evaluate things" and that you hoped your teammates would do the same.
To be just as fair, there is an argument to be made that Minnesota's problems have at least as much to do with an offensive line that cannot protect you -- and with a defense that has been a key component in the Vikes' yielding 110 points in the past four games -- as they do with a creaky, mistake-prone quarterback who increasingly struggles to escape onrushing opponents.
But because you are Brett Favre and because the recent hysterical trend toward parsing every one of your words and phrases continues unabated, you had to know that people like me would be bothered when, after that Green Bay loss, you declined to directly answer a question about whether you were committed to finishing the season in Minnesota.
That is, to finishing what you started.
You had to know we would be bothered when, rather than answer that question, you issued vagaries such as, "I would never have expected to be in this situation." By which you meant you are playing on a team that stinks on toast instead of a team with Super Bowl dreams.
You have my sympathy. Just not my permission.
Stay put, pal.
Surely the idea that you might bolt Vikings-ville is misguided, anyway. You wouldn't let your career end that way. It makes no sense. You're the gunslinger and the guy who refuses to be pulled out of his consecutive-starts streak for injury, no matter how large or how nagging. You're a player's player because you play hurt. Sexting allegations aside, you're what the NFL is about: toughness, combativeness, a desperate desire to perform on the field.
There aren't many readings of the Brett Favre Career Story that would lead one to believe you are capable of walking out on your teammates, all of whom are hurting over the team's lousy record and deflated expectations. It's just as hard on the guys who want something magical to happen in, say, the fourth years of their NFL careers as it is on you, in your 20th. Losing stinks equally.
But you're Brett Favre, the person whose "Will I or won't I?" monologue has captivated NFL followers in a kind of Us magazine way. And so, on Sunday, when you start trading fourth-quarter hugs with Ryan Longwell and Steve Hutchinson, two of the players who flew to your Mississippi home to recruit you for this season, you probably know that it's going to look weird and that it's going to strike some observers as those players coming over to pay respect and say goodbye.
Your response to those embraces being observed and asked about?
"They are good friends," you said. "They just came over and said, 'Keep your head up. I know it's not what we envisioned when we were at your place.' But I'm not going to say, 'I told you guys,' or, 'I shouldn't have come back.' I'm here. We're in this thing together."
Stop there. Don't go any further down that road. The kids didn't talk Dad into driving them to the movies. You chose to return to Minnesota for another season. You chose to show up after skipping much of training camp and while nursing a bum ankle. You accepted the Vikings' offer to raise your salary to $16.5 million. It was your decision as a veteran star in the league. There is no "talked into" in this scenario.
And so there can be no "talked out of." You simply show up for business and keep on truckin'. You are a worker. Go to work.
It is always possible, of course, that the Vikings will pull you off the field and give your start to one of their younger quarterbacks. It is possible that Minnesota's brass will try to work out a settlement that allows you to retire in-season rather than after it. Not likely, I say, but possible.
It's also undoubtedly true that amid the losing, the injuries and the NFL's investigation into the Jenn Sterger case, this has been the most dismal of your professional seasons. For all anyone knows, the league could step in and "suggest" that you step away rather than force a suspension-related action on you. No question you probably have revisited your decision to rejoin the Vikings on a near-daily basis.
But that is the mark of a pro, to fight the doubt and keep going. A pro shows up and continues to throw down a full-throttle effort. And because we've seen lesser players short their efforts, quit on their own talent or simply stop paying close attention doesn't mean we'll take it from Brett Favre.
No, for you, there is no easy road out. You are the quarterback of a bad team with mountainous injury reports and a messed-up coaching staff, and you're not helping much. It's a tough way to close out a stellar career, but it is life in the NFL, the league you love. It's the last go-round. See it through.
Mark Kreidler is a longtime contributor to ESPN.com. His work, "Six Good Innings," was named one of the Top 10 Sports Books of 2009 by Booklist. His next book, "The Voodoo Wave," will be released in 2011 by W.W. Norton. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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