Football is the ultimate team game and the dynamics and chemistry in the locker room are critically important to any team's success. Championship teams have a palpable aura and feeling of internal unity to them. That's the main reason I don't like the Vikings' signing of Brett Favre. The messages this move sends to the rank and file are plentiful, and most of them are not good.
What is commendable is the front office showing the players it will do whatever it takes to field the best possible team. Brad Childress and Co. think Favre makes them better at the quarterback position. You may say that's debatable, but that's the Vikings' story and they're sticking with it.
Here are some of the bad messages, however, that I think the signing sends to Favre's new teammates:
• Training camp is not important: It's pretty obvious that one of the key sticking points for Favre was attending training camp in Mankato. ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported Favre told one Vikings player that if he didn't have to go to training camp and live in a college dorm, he probably would have said he could play three weeks ago. That's confusing because Favre said three weeks ago he didn't feel like he could make it through a season physically. He made no mention about his disdain for camp at that time. It will be pretty tough for coach Childress to ever convince the players that training camp is important going forward now that they clearly were willing to let Favre get out of it this year.
• Preferential treatment runs rampant in Minny: NFL players are not real keen on others getting preferential treatment, but the Vikings pretty much bent over backward for Favre, allowing him to become a distraction throughout the offseason. The Vikings allowed him to walk onto the field as the starting quarterback without taking part in OTA's, minicamps or the team-building that took place during camp in Mankato. They also are paying him quite handsomely -- $12 million in '09 -- for someone who skipped all of the mundane parts of the job.
If I were Adrian Peterson, I would be thinking I'm entitled to pretty much come and go as I please, at least for the rest of the Childress regime. Why not? Peterson is much more integral to the success of this team than Favre is and thus carries even more weight with the franchise. The Vikings are fortunate Peterson doesn't appear to be a prima donna because if he were so inclined, he has enough ammunition to act selfishly.
I'm curious to find out how things went down between second-year QB John David Booty, Favre and the No. 4 jersey. Standard protocol in the NFL is that a negotiation takes place in which the newcomer talks to the current holder of the jersey number in question. Given the expeditious manner in which Booty was seen wearing No. 9 at practice makes me wonder if those talks took place. I know, I know, he's Brett Favre and Booty has done nothing in the NFL. But that would be more preferential treatment the other players would notice.
• Favre is selfish at worst, disingenuous at best: The Minnesota players don't live in a fishbowl. They have friends or acquaintances who play for the Green Bay Packers and New York Jets. They have heard the rumblings about what Favre is like as a teammate and what the Favre media circus is like. Suffice to say, I've yet to speak with a Packer or Jet who wishes Favre was still playing for their team.
Let's not forget that Favre was still under contract with the Jets for this season before they relinquished his rights after drafting Mark Sanchez. Favre made a conscious decision that he didn't want to play for a very talented Jets team anymore, so his decision to play for the Vikings, clearly, is not simply about him just wanting to play football. This situation has been massaged and manipulated for months, all the way back to April, if not sooner.
Favre's actions and words have been incredibly unfair to the Vikings this offseason, particularly to Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels. Look, the NFL is a tough business and it never has been about fairness. But Favre's waffling the past couple of years has affected many people's lives in a negative fashion, most notably the two guys who thought they were competing for a chance to be the starting quarterback of a very good team. Favre would be well served to broach the subject with those two players, or the whole team, since it's uncomfortable having that elephant in the room. The other players aren't stupid. They know Jackson and Rosenfels had been working hard this entire time while Favre chose to stay away.
• Built-in excuses are OK: Most teams go out of their way to talk about there being no excuses for their team. The Vikings, with this news about Favre and his partially torn rotator cuff, already have a ready-made excuse in case things don't go well. The disclosure of this injury can only be a crutch for Favre if he has a subpar season, while the Vikings are left twisting in the wind.
• There's no loyalty or trust: Childress told the players three weeks ago that they were moving forward without Favre, going with what they had in Jackson and Rosenfels. Childress said publicly there was "not a chance from my standpoint" if he would still consider bringing Favre on the team at a later date. So much for that, since it was Childress who placed another call to Favre on Monday to get the ball rolling. People have a right to change their minds, but I will say that Minnesota and Favre have been misinformation central over the last couple of months.
None of these potential negative repercussions will be talked about publicly by any of the Vikings players because they are way too smart for that. They know their owner and head coach signed off on the move. If your boss makes a decision, you support it because, well, he's your boss. But deep down some of them will have their doubts and be skeptical until Favre can prove to them he is a team guy and truly playing for the right reasons. Doubts and skepticism are not the foundation of a championship club in the NFL.