NFL's iron men meet in Minnesota

Updated: September 25, 2009, 11:36 PM ET
Associated Press

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Congratulations Brett, from one iron man to another.

Jim Marshall missed the game at Detroit on Sunday when Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre broke Marshall's record of 270 consecutive NFL starts. So the former Purple People Eater made a visit to practice on Friday to personally hand over the title.

"I told him I admired his career and was really happy that he was the one that is breaking that record," Marshall said.

Marshall played defensive end for the Vikings from 1961-79, earning a reputation as one of the toughest players to ever put on a professional uniform. He made a career out of carving up quarterbacks -- so what does he think about a quarterback now holding such a prized record?

"He's the guy we were trying to hurt," Marshall said with a chuckle. "Every defensive lineman that he plays against is trying to hurt him. That's a tough way to earn a living."

Marshall ranks second in team history with 127 sacks and his 29 career fumble recoveries remain an NFL record. He helped the Vikings reach four Super Bowls, made two trips to the Pro Bowl and is a member of the team's Ring of Honor.

"He is a special, special guy," Vikings coach Brad Childress said. "In terms of the type of person he is and also, obviously, how he played the game."

His consecutive starts record stood for 30 years before Favre, who many view as perhaps the toughest quarterback to ever play, lined up under center in the first quarter against the Lions.

Childress invited Marshall to the game to be a part of the day, but even one of the most feared players of his generation couldn't stand up to his new bride. Marshall and his wife celebrated their first wedding anniversary last weekend.

"I thought about it," Marshall said. "Then I looked at my wife and knew that wasn't going to happen."

The iron men convention was the first time Marshall and Favre have met. Marshall will be at the Metrodome on Sunday when the Vikings play San Francisco in their home opener, and it was clear that playing through the pain during that incredible streak took its toll.

Marshall used a cane to get around the team's Winter Park facility following a knee replacement he had in July.

Favre was unavailable for comment on Friday, but he has previously made his respect for Marshall known.

"What Jim did, and you can talk about the game was smaller then and it wasn't as fast and the seasons were shorter, it's still football," Favre said last week. "You still have to play in every one of those games. And in his case, be physical and hit or be hit.

"I have said this all along, to even be mentioned with some of the greatest players to play this game regardless of position, no matter how long I've played or the honors I've received, I'm honored more than anything then to be mentioned in the same breath with guys like that."

It is a different game that Marshall will be watching on Sunday. He played at 248 pounds, which is more suitable for linebackers these days.

"I think you've got better specimens," Marshall said. "You look at some of these guys, man, they are better trained than we were. More muscular. It's a different game now. You can't really compare them."

And don't get Marshall started on the NFL's increased efforts to protect the quarterback. He remembered fondly the good old days of putting his helmet down and "hitting Roger Staubach right in the pit of his back and causing a fumble and not even getting fined for it."

That wouldn't fly today.

"Stick your hand in the quarterback's face and you get fined $10,000?" Marshall said. "What's this all about?"


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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