Favre puts in extra time to learn Packers' new offense

Updated: June 9, 2006, 1:10 PM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

While he might not be on the field every day for practice, Brett Favre will extend his stay at the Green Bay Packers' voluntary organized team activities through next week, longer than originally anticipated.

Why the extra work for the three-time league MVP and future Hall of Famer? Because even after 15 seasons in the NFL, including the past 14 with the same franchise, there apparently is something new under the sun.

Like the offense being installed by first-year Packers coach Mike McCarthy.

Favre acknowledged this week that he has not yet reached an acceptable comfort level with the nuances and terminology of the offense, that he has struggled to recognize play calls at times, and that he requires more hands-on work before the start of training camp.

"It's challenging," allowed the always candid Favre, coming off a 2005 season in which he threw a league-high 25 interceptions and an offseason in which he again considered retirement. "I mean, 'Strong right' last year was something totally different than 'Strong right' this year. That's a minor example. [But] when I hear 'Strong right,' I'm thinking it's something from last year, or the year before that, or the year before that."

In truth, Favre understands the concept and intent of the play-calls, but he has had problems associating the terminology to the plays themselves. Many veteran quarterbacks thrust into a new offense have struggled in the past, suggesting the new nomenclature is akin to assimilating a foreign language. But complicating the assignment for Favre is that he has played in the same offense for virtually his entire career.

During his tenure with the team, the Packers have worked from a West Coast-style design, and that has not changed, even under McCarthy this year. But when Ray Rhodes replaced Mike Holmgren as head coach in 1999, and Mike Sherman succeeded Rhodes a year later, they made only small changes in terminology. The playbook, despite the coaching changes, remained largely intact.

As a first-time head coach, McCarthy, who worked with Favre as his quarterbacks coach in 1999 on Rhodes' staff, has made more sweeping changes in the language of the offense. And there apparently have been occasions that Favre has been flummoxed.

Having learned the old offense by rote, and having it so ingrained after 14 seasons, it has been difficult for Favre to make the mental adjustment. He conceded, in fact, that it's going to take some extra cramming with the playbook and that he might not have everything down until camp opens.

"As you're watching it," Favre said, "you go, 'OK, I recognize that play.' And, I do, too, but it's getting it out of the huddle that's the problem. We have a play called 'Pennsylvania, which means ... well, I'm not sure what it means. But I completed it [Thursday], so that's a positive. ... I have to call the plays and be able to translate that to [the team], and I have to know it inside out. But I have to admit, I sometimes wish it was the old way. But it is what it is."

Packers coaches did not comment on Favre's decision to stay longer at the voluntary sessions, which many of the veterans, particularly on defense, have skipped. But his attendance is almost certainly regarded as a positive by the first-year staff. The original plan was for Favre to attend 10 of the 14 sessions. And while he may be in Green Bay for more than that, he might not necessarily be on the field.

At age 36, Favre is taking more time to condition and has been working on a new regimen designed for him by strength coach Rock Gullickson. So there may be some occasions -- like on Monday, when it was reported that Favre was a no-show for the practice, but he was actually excused from on-field participation so he could work in the weight room -- when he doesn't work with the team.

Favre emphasized that his arm, while rusty from the inactivity of the early offseason, feels good and that, while he hasn't cut loose yet at full velocity, that's only a precautionary measure.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.