Arash Markazi
Monday August 4th, 2008

It isn't easy for Steve Young to keep up with the ongoing Brett Favre soap opera out of Green Bay. Like watching a heart-wrenching drama that hits a little too close to home, he has to flip the channel after awhile.

It's been 17 years since Young replaced Joe Montana as the San Francisco 49ers quarterback after serving as his backup for four years. The memories of that daunting task and playing with Montana literally watching over him from the sidelines are as fresh as ever as Young watches Aaron Rodgers get grilled by reporters today.

"It's brutal," said Young as he shakes his head. "It's absolutely brutal. There's nothing you can do. You just put your head down and keep playing."

Young is standing in a private park in Southern California with Jerry Rice as they take a break from running through a series of training camp drills for a television show that will air in the fall. While Young can sympathize with Rodgers' situation, Rice believes the feeling in the locker room will be just as unsettling if Favre is forced to backup Rodgers as Montana did before being traded to the Kansas City Chiefs in 1993.

"What happens in a situation like that is you're going to have a divided locker room," said Rice. "It's hard. It was hard for me when Montana left and went to Kansas City because you get so comfortable with your No. 1 guy and we know that this guy has won Super Bowls and is a future Hall of Famer. ... You're going to have some guys in Brett's corner and you might have some guys who are tired of this and want to move on and side with Aaron. If that team doesn't come out strong and they start losing games with Aaron Rodgers, you're going to have a lot of people questioning why Brett isn't starting."

With strands of gray hair peaking out from underneath his baseball cap, Young admits at this point in his life he can understand what Favre is feeling as well, having played long enough to experience what it's like to replace a legend and watch as an upstart backup helps him off into retirement. While he was basically forced into retirement eight years ago after suffering a series of concussions, Young said he thought about coming back every day for about two years before realizing that while "the fire still burns, it's not enough."

"I don't blame anybody for wanting to play," said Young. "I wanted to play, everyone wants to play, so Brett retiring and then coming back, I blame no one for that. But it is a bizarre situation for such a marquee player to be put in that situation. The team's obviously started to move forward without him and now it just becomes awkward. For someone who represents the Packers and the Packers represent him in so many ways, I hope they work it out so there is a good Kumbaya feeling at the end."

Rice, who played for three teams in five years after he left the 49ers in 2000, knows what it's like to not feel wanted by the team you played for your whole career. Basically pushed out of San Francisco to make way for a young receiver named Terrell Owens, Rice saw the writing on the wall after watching the likes of Montana, Roger Craig, Ronnie Lott and other 49ers greats end their careers elsewhere.

"I think what happens is as you get older and you've been around for a long time, you can sense the organization trying to slide you out a little bit," said Rice. "Brett probably felt that pressure and at first he wanted to accommodate them by saying he was going to move on and walk away from the game, but afterwards, I'm sure he said to himself, I still want to play again. I think I should be able to play with the Green Bay Packers but if they don't want me then why not let me go to Minnesota or Chicago.' I'm sure they'd want to get him out of the division, but I think he has the right to make his own calls."

While Young has a good relationship with Favre, he has actually been in touch with Rodgers recently after speaking with Packers coach Mike McCarthy, who, coincidentally, was an offensive coach for the Chiefs when Montana was traded to Kansas City. He later became the 49ers' offensive coordinator.

"I've talked to Aaron, the Packers have called me and he and I have traded messages," said Young. "I actually meant to call him last week and congratulate him and let him know how well he's handling himself. It's not an easy spot to be in."

With Favre returning to the Packers this week, Young's advice to Rogers will be the same as it was before, although he admits it will be slightly harder to follow now with Favre literally standing in Rodgers' shadow as Montana was with Young in 1992.

"He's doing everything now the right way," said Young. "Don't play the victim. If you want someone to feel sorry for you, don't show it because it's not going to happen. Every step you take you're going to have to carve out of stone. No one is going to give it to you and he recognizes that. The truth of that matter is to make a career out of playing quarterback in the NFL is very rare, whether it's replacing Brett Favre or somebody else. You still have to go do the work. So who cares about the other stuff? Go make a career for yourself, and I think he will."

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.