Here's the pitch: Vikings adopt baseball philosophy for Favre's arm
EDEN PRAIRIE, MINN. -- The plan going into the Minnesota Vikings' third preseason game is to have
gives up takes too many hits, Favre could be in for a rough night Monday against the Houston Astros Texans at Minute Maid Park Reliant Stadium.
Why all the baseball? Don't blame me. Blame the Vikings, who introduced the concept of a "pitch count" for their expensive and risky new quarterback addition after his Minnesota preseason debut Aug. 21 vs. Kansas City.
It isn't a widely used or at least commonly known metric in football, but numerous teams employ it, at least informally and early in camp. Besides, Childress' friend and former boss
With Favre air-dropping into the Vikings' preparation for 2009 three weeks late, with the lofty expectations and maybe a reckless urgency created by his decision to un-retire again, and with the wear and tear of 18 NFL seasons already hanging at his right side, it makes sense. If, of course, the strain, stress and torque on Favre's throwing arm bears any resemblance to what a grizzled deliveryman of fastballs and curves puts himself through over a lengthy career.
Childress and Favre surely believe it does. The Vikings head coach said after Favre's start against the Chiefs that he didn't want his QB overthrowing in either quality or quantity. Not at age 39, not after spending the past few months mostly tossing the ball around a high school field, not with $12 million -- $6 million of it reportedly guaranteed for skill and injury -- at stake. "You have a tendency to get on it a little bit harder with coaches around,'' Childress said. "I think by his own admission, he probably threw 200 balls in the Jets' first day of practice [last summer] and probably set himself back last year. With the fans and the crowd and trying to throw deep, showing off a little bit. So you have to make sure.''
Favre himself made the connection with the national pastime -- come to think of it, the NFL
That's when Favre suffered a torn right biceps muscle and his performance after 11 games veered down like a spiral thrown smack into a 50 mile-an-hour wind gust. The subsequent surgery, along with the unrepaired rotator cuff, makes the otherwise resilient Favre less
"I think it would be kind of foolish to go out the first day and just unload, even though my arm feels pretty good,'' Favre said the other day, when I asked him after practice about Childress' and Bevell's vigilance of his throws. "I'm not going to lie to you. The rest of my body feels like it hasn't practiced in quite a while, but with each day I assume I will get fresher. But my arm feels fine.''
Overdoing it wasn't a problem in Favre's first game with Minnesota; he took seven snaps, threw four times and completed one pass for four yards before making his intentionally early exit after two series. It doesn't seem to be a problem now in practice, either, since the Vikings' greatest concern would have been those morning
"He's not getting as many throws as he would have during training camp,'' Bevell said. "It would have been a big factor in counting those throws, but we're still counting them and making sure they don't get too high.''
How high is too high? "If there were two practices, then we wouldn't want him throwing over 90, but we won't get that in one day,'' said the coordinator, a former Rose Bowl quarterback at Wisconsin. "We're still going to count them and keep track, and obviously go by the way he's feeling as well.''
Keep in mind, with
Running Favre's numbers thus far, we know he has attempted 9,280 passes in his career -- that's just regular season by the way, not counting preseason, postseason, practices, balls thrown on plays nullified by flags, soft tosses with the kids of Oak Grove High or the many takes required by the director of his Wrangler commercials. His two throwing-est seasons came as recently as 2005 and 2006, when he attempted 607 and 613 passes, respectively, at ages 36 and 37. Favre not only has ranked among the NFL's top 10 in attempts 15 times in his 18 seasons but also has 11 of the top 100 single-season pass totals in league history.
So maybe an aging quarterback with a 169-100-0 lifetime record and a ticket already punched for Canton really does have lots in common with a Cooperstown-bound baseball pitcher of similar years. Handing off to a back as stellar as
Favre has tried to keep it simple as well, his ambitions on a leash. Heading into Monday's game at Houston, he was hoping to take a step or two forward from his brief Metrodome outing. "I'm glad that I got the handoffs [against Kansas City], called the plays correctly, we got 'em off on time,'' he said. "We were crisp enough, considering 2 1/2 days of practice. Believe me, I'd love for this week to be 'Every time they were out there, they scored.' If that happens, just remember I'll be probably the most surprised person in the building. But it's the things that people don't see that are most important. No one wants to see the ball on the ground, calling the plays wrong, throwing the wrong way. That stuff will come.''
That's how the great ones get to Carnegie Hall -- practice and preparation. Does Yo-Yo Ma count bow strokes? "You're not going to get that many reps to the same guy on the same exact play,'' Favre said. "But you watch it on film, you see where one guy may bend [his hook route] in a step more than another guy. That's where film is important -- you don't just watch film of who you're playing. I like to watch it of my guys. That's been the case throughout my career.''
A career and even a stay in Minnesota that, let's face it, has been and will be measured more by complete games and victories than by pitch count.