Commentary

Favre knows his future is now

Green Bay may be building for the future, but the future is now for QB Brett Favre, writes John Clayton.

Originally Published: August 2, 2007
By John Clayton | ESPN.com

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Five years ago, Brett Favre's daughter tried to help him bridge the generation gap between him and his younger teammates.

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She bought him an iPod. Until last year, it stayed in the box.

Seeing an entire locker room of 22- and 23-year-olds chilling to tunes last season, Favre finally opened the box, had his daughter download some songs and headed to the airport to catch the team plane. "Is there actually music in there?" players joked to the new, hipper Favre.

"My cell phone is seven years old," Favre said. "But mine is the only one that works on a daily basis."

It's not easy being Brett Favre these days. He operates in a locker room of young strangers. He knows I formations and X receivers more than he does iPods and Xboxes, and the generation gap within his huddle is growing.

"I have people tell me all the time that they feel for me," Favre said. "They say, 'You don't have any friends.' That's not necessarily true. It's business to me now. I take losses tougher now than I ever did. Most of my career, I didn't have many losses."

Don't misunderstand Favre. He loves the game of football and the Packers. He loves his teammates. Remember, he decided to return and isn't looking back on that choice. Still, it's an adjustment running a huddle filled with kids only four or five years older than his daughter. He didn't create the generation gap, the reconfiguration of Green Bay's roster did.

But make no mistake about Favre's agenda this year. He's focused on only one thing: winning. He hopes everyone is with him because the clock is ticking. Although many believe Favre could play past this season, Favre understands the importance of this year.

"Any more 4-12, 8-8 seasons at my salary, it's time to cut your losses," Favre said. "I hope that doesn't happen."

Favre came back for a 17th season to win, but his return to the Packers may be most ironic occurrence in the NFL this season. He's on a team that is building for the future, and although he could play a few more years, those who know Favre understand his biological clock. His future, at age 37, is now.

With the possible exception of Roger Clemens' tour of the Yankees minor league teams during his prep starts for this year, Favre is in one of the more amazing generation gaps in sports. He's within a couple years of being old enough to be some of his teammates' fathers.

Being hip and young is one thing, but being able to communicate with youth is another. Still, Favre's teammates say it's a fun interaction.

"He's a character," said 23-year-old wide receiver Greg Jennings. "He's great. I love his stories. He never stops."

One has to wonder whether Favre revealed to his young audience what he was like as a 22-year-old. How he was so wild as a rookie the Falcons traded him to Green Bay, giving the Packers a quarterback for the ages. He remembers being young and thinking he could play forever in this league.

While Favre has seemingly played forever, he has also watched so many players who couldn't. Those experiences made him appreciate the importance of now.

"Young guys are thinking like this is going to go on forever," Favre said. "I don't have much time left. I'm here to win."

There were times when it was tough for Favre to fly home after a loss. He'd sit in his seat doing a crossword puzzle to keep busy, but his mind would be racing through the mistakes made in defeat and the corrections needed for the next game. What was worse were some of the sounds he'd hear on those flights home.

"Sometimes coming back on planes you can't tell if we won or lost," Favre said. "You hear some players in the back laughing. I don't question whether or not they care -- I know they do care -- but it's a big difference for me."

While Favre loves the game, he drags through some of the mundane tasks more than he did in the past. He laughs when he sees young players eagerly zipping along for practice. He tells the anecdote of training at his daughter's high school this offseason. Favre would struggle through a workout. When he'd finish, kids would come over and ask if he was going to run with them, prompting a Favre grumble.

"I see guys here running around being energetic," Favre said. "No thanks. I'm just trying to get through the day."

Favre keeps preaching to turn young energy into football efficiency. The offense, after all, doesn't work consistently if mistakes are made at 110 percent effort. He wants his teammates to be accountable and constantly improving.

Although 8-8 isn't Favre's goal, he had his moments last season, and there are still has a few old-school Packers around. Wide receiver Donald Driver, 32, has been around long enough to know what makes Favre tick.

"He's OK if you keep him laughing," Driver said. "I remember a play in the Seattle game last year. I caught his eye on a pass and took it 48 yards for a score. Before he threw it, he looks at me and winks. Having fun is the way to keep him enjoying the game. Once he gets to the point where he doesn't enjoy the game, that's when he will retire."

Though Favre saw some good, he also saw the bad last season. It affects him because he wants to win and mistakes drive him crazy. That, in itself, is funny. Favre used to complain about Mike Holmgren beating him up for mistakes. Now, the 37-year-old sounds Holmgren-like.

Jennings, for example, ran a deep route when he was supposed to run a short hitch. Vikings corner Fred Smoot intercepted Favre's pass to the shorter route and returned it for a touchdown. That throw, toward the end of last season, was one of the nagging interceptions that stayed with him.

"The hardest thing is my focus and their focus are different," Favre said. "I guess in some ways, I was the same way when I was younger. You think you are going to be around forever. After a bad play, you think, 'Oh, well.' I just think I'm here for one reason -- to win."

Camp started tough for Favre. Rocky Byrd, his wife's stepfather whom Favre was very close to, passed away. It forced him to miss a good portion of this week's practice. Favre hated to leave because he wants to practice hard and even wants to play more in the preseason.

He knows the importance of this camp.

"I worry because I don't have any chemistry with the running backs," Favre said. "Noah Herron has been around the longest, but I don't know how much he'll be in there. I don't know if one guy likes the handoff at one angle or another angle. We have such a small window, I need all the time we can get."

Favre just wishes his daughter could download some of those experienced Packers onto his iPod.

John Clayton is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

John Clayton

NFL senior writer