Thursday January 20th, 2005

You want an answer from me about Brett Favre and whether he'll retire now, at 35. And the answer is: I can't give you one. I don't know.

The last two times I talked to Favre about this subject, in preseason and then again in midseason, he very unofficially listed five criteria for playing again in 2005:

1. He would have to be playing still at a high level. 2. The Packers would have to want him back. 3. It would have to be something that was OK with his family. 4. The game would still have to be fun. 5. He would have to want to play again.

Take those one at a time. One: He just finished his second season ever with 4,000 yards passing, 30 touchdowns and had a quarterback rating of at least 90. Two: The Packers definitely want him back. Three: Can't answer it, but I think they still want him to play. Four: He still loves it, as you could see in his animated reaction after throwing the underhanded touchdown that was called back for him being over the line of scrimmage Sunday. Five: Can't answer it.

Favre is as honest with his feelings as they come. I'm sure he has a gut feeling what he wants to do, but I'm also sure he doesn't know for sure what he will do. And I do know he would feel sick about going out on a game like he played the other day. I bet when he looks at the 31-17 loss to the Vikings and his role in it -- if he looks at it, I should say -- he'll think the first interception he just threw too hard and a little too high while Donald Driver got picked in crossing-route traffic, another was a doink-doink tipped job, another maybe Javon Walker should have sight-adjusted his route and cut to the sidelines instead of running a post, and the last he hung up trying to avoid an onrushing Viking. He'll see why he made each mistake and say to himself: "That's football. Sometimes bad plays come in bunches.'' He'll say he was a huge part in the loss, but it won't dent his confidence.

One more thing. I saw Favre on Saturday afternoon and asked him about his family. Deanna is struggling after her last chemotherapy treatment; she was in Green Bay with him. Brittany is now a junior in high school in Mississippi; she loves coming to the games. Breleigh, 5, loves coming too. Favre told me Breleigh had a cheerleading competition and wanted to stay back in Mississippi for it. Just a hunch, but as much as they mean to him, it's hard to imagine Favre playing his last game and the whole family not being around for it.

In the next few weeks, you'll hear all kinds of rumors and rumblings about whether Favre will play again. Most will be absolutely full of crap, because they will come from sources who aren't Brett Favre, because in the offseason he goes underground deeper than any star in any sport. I'll be quite surprised.

Tons of Favre and Randy Moss this week, with some Pats-Colts mixed in for good measure.

THE PATS WILL MAKE DO WITHOUT LAW. From Kainne Hansbury, of Medway, Mass.: "I think you're overrating the loss of Ty Law when it comes to the Patriots' chance to win this game without him. When the Patriots lost Law to injury against the Steelers, it caught them off-guard. As soon as the following game they were prepared, and only once after that did they give up 300 yards to a quarterback. Law is a great corner back, but the team has moved on.''

Very possible. But my feeling is pretty simple on this. This is the best Indy team the Patriots have faced, the Colts have been turnover machines in their previous two meetings in Foxboro, and the Patriots are playing without both starting corners. This will be the toughest Colt-Pat match for New England.

BE CONSISTENT, ESPN. From Jeffrey Peterson, of Binghamton, N.Y.: "ESPN wouldn't show Randy Moss NOT mooning the crowd, but showed the NBA brawl constantly for days. Which act do you think is more offensive?''

Of course the NBA thing was. It was ludicrous both networks decided not to show replays, and ESPN stuck with that for 22 hours, I believe. Amazing both networks make that decision -- and NFL Network decided to show it.

WE'VE GOT SOME FAVRE ANGER. From Michael Nilsen, of Seattle: "I was absolutely amazed and outraged by Brett Favre's play before halftime when he nonchalantly threw the ball underhanded into the end zone knowing full well he was over the line of scrimmage. I'm outraged because I can't understand what he is thinking. Packers down by two touchdowns, really needing a score. He could have tried to run. The key word: tried. He didn't. I'm also amazed that the announcers on TV said nothing. Laughed it off. Said something like, 'Well, it just shows that Favre doesn't feel the pressure.'''

True. Favre had to know that was a loss-of-down penalty, and though I don't think he would have scored by running, he could certainly have run out of bounds close to the pylon and had a good chance to get the first down at the Vikings' 2-yard line. Sometimes Favre does things like that, as you know, and it's a fault of his game for sure.

ROMEO WOULD BE A HECK OF A CHOICE, TONY. From Tony, of Cleveland: "Love your columns. As an avid Browns fan, I have to wonder about how good a pick for head coach Romeo Crennel would be? The reason is because I think that Belichick is the brains behind that awesome defense and all the scheming in New England.''

What would you say, Tony, if I told you that Crennel and his defensive assistants are the ones who create the game plan every week, then connect with Belichick. The biggest misperception about the Patriots is that Belichick is the man behind the curtain on everything the defense does.

THE TRADE, ONE YEAR LATER. From Brian Kirkmeyer, of Freehold, N.J.: "I'd like to hear your take on the Portis/Champ trade now that the season is over for both teams. I personally think the Redskins got the greater impact player in Portis. Besides, you can scheme to cover up a CB ... and Denver's season ended up just like last year's.''

Remember: The trade was Clinton Portis for Champ Bailey and Tatum Bell, because the Broncos used the second-round pick acquired from Washington in the Portis trade to take Bell. I still think it's a better deal for Denver, even with Bailey's effectiveness quasi-neutered by the clarification of the five-yard bump zone at the line of scrimmage. He's still a good to very good player at a position where the Broncos were destitute.

... Minnesota center Matt Birk.

MMQBTE: Was it difficult to stand up to Randy Moss after he walked off the field early in Washington?

Birk: "No. It had to be done. I addressed him on behalf of the team. And even after I did it, the whole plane ride home from Washington, I was steaming about it. I was pissed off. And so the next morning, I go to the weight room to get a lift in, and who's there but Randy. We're the only guys in there, and we're not saying a word to each other. Pretty awkward. If they didn't have music blaring in there, you'd have been able to hear a pin drop.''

MMQBTE: You OK with Moss now?

Birk: "Yeah. We talked about a lot of things last Wednesday at practice. Randy's not a bad guy. I like Randy. Last year, when our hockey team, the Wild, was playing, he came up to me one day and said, 'I've never been to a hockey game here. Would you take me?' I said sure. I took him and two of my buddies and we had a fantastic time. That's the side of Randy people don't see much. But it's there.''

MMQBTE: Was the win over the Packers a statement win for this team? What does it say about this team?

Birk: "You know, watching all the TV shows before the game, it was a joke. Everybody was so down on us -- on Randy, on how we played this year, on Mike Tice. You just want to stand up as a man and say, 'I'm mad as hell.' If you're a man, you don't take this. It's like Popeye used to say: 'I've had all I can stands, and I can't stands no more.' That was us.''

1. I think the Browns sit back and veg now about their coaching choices, with Romeo Crennel, Mike Nolan and Russ Grimm in some order at the top of their list.

2. I think, to get selfish for a minute, I owe a great deal of thanks to the Packer City International Trucks tailgate crew (Dick LePak, Mark Adams, John Gorski and others) for seeing an orphan like me wandering through the parking lot showing some family members what it was like to tailgate at a Packer game. They saw me, welcomed me, and fed me the best Polish sausage in NFL history, straight from a Polish deli in Chicago. Best pre-game Packer experience I've ever had.

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