NEW YORK -- I remember the first time
"You realize that half the kids in Wisconsin will rip the Favre posters off their walls and burn 'em in their fireplaces if you play for the Vikings,'' I said.
"I don't think it'll be that bad,'' he said.
Sixteen months later, it was. And Favre shrugged, basically.
I don't think there's been a game with a dramatic tinge to it in recent history like Favre's return to Lambeau on Sunday. Think of, say, the top 50 players ever -- Favre fits in there somewhere -- and think of how many of them played against their longtime team as an in-the-twilight player for another team.
Favre got the full-throated version from the time he walked out of the tunnel. "I had it at 80 percent boos,'' said
"Yeah, it's worth it,'' he said over the phone late Sunday night, back in Minnesota, driving home from the airport. "Now people can see why I came back, and why I came back to this team. But I will say I'm relieved it's over.''
He's relieved in many ways, as it turns out. Favre told me he pulled or strained his groin in practice on Wednesday and took it easy in practice for the rest of the week. There was never any question he'd play, he said. But about an hour before the game, during pregame warmups at Lambeau with the groin wrapped tightly, he aggravated the muscle on the field. "I told T-Jack [backup
And now, I wondered, how was the groin four hours and a lot of lost adrenalin later?
"It's throbbing right now,'' he said.
Now hold on here. A pulled groin? Is this the magic bullet, the injury that starts the 40-year-old Favre's decline? Is this the injury that, with Favre on the doorstep of his historic 300th consecutive start, finally rips him out of a starting lineup for the first time since
"I think I'll be fine,'' he said.
With the Vikes on the bye this week, and 13 days 'til Favre starts number 300 in a row (including playoffs), he's sure he'll make the call to the post when the Vikings host Detroit Nov. 15.
So now we go back to the Favre Bowl. A few observations:
Favre's laid a couple of pretty big eggs in recent years, both when playing hurt and feeling fine. He gift-wrapped the NFC title game to the Giants two years ago. But there's something about the games that have personal stuff on the line. Maybe it's a coincidence; maybe the three-game sample size is just too small. But three decisive wins, 11 touchdowns, no picks -- I sense a trend.
He can compartmentalize the things that matter and those that don't. It's simple. Or at least it sounds simple. He'd make millions traveling the country, maybe as
Nope. "I'm reluctant to say that,'' Favre said. "You know me. At this stage, I'm game to game. That's it.''
And so he moves on, relieved these games are over. I got no sense he took any great joy in beating Green Bay for vengeful reasons, but he wouldn't be human if he didn't feel some great joy for beating the team that said it wanted to move on without him. Who wouldn't feel good about that?
"Green Bay made a good decision,'' he said. "I know what I was a part of in Green Bay, and it was good. Now they've moved on. I've moved on. Am I a good fit for these guys [the Vikings]? I hope so. One thing I do know -- I felt the respect from those guys out there. And that felt good.''
In the end, Green Bay seems too nice a place to hold a grudge forever. Ten years from now, when his number's retired, Favre will step foot on Lambeau again. I doubt it'll be 80 percent boos then.
1. How can a player have a more redemptive day than
"I never had such a terrible game in my life,'' Ginn told me afterward, alluding to his dropped passes in Miami's 46-34 loss to New Orleans in Week 7. "I fought through it all -- the naysayers, the media, the critics. Today was the kind of day you dream about growing up.''
What I liked about Ginn was how he didn't try to shift the blame for what were his mistakes and his alone. "We're in a high-performance league, and if you don't perform, things happen.'' Like benchings. But not for long. Not if you return kicks 100 and 101 yards for scores.
3. Baltimore sent blitzing 'backers more often Sunday in the the win over Denver, and it worked. Defensive coordinator
When they ran it Thursday,
Jones has been a better player, Samuels a better leader. I'm writing about them because I think we -- fans, media, people in the game -- are so inured to players near or at the end of their careers that we turn the page with no regard to the person who has to walk away. That's life. But each has been such an honorable player and person in the game that I think a few paragraphs need to be written about them.
Jones, who turns 36 in January, couldn't come back from microfracture surgery on his knee. He's going to try again in 2010, but the history of microfracture is such that anyone with that much wear on his tires, and at that age, is doubtful to return. "It's too early for a career eulogy,'' said Seattle coach
Jones was dominant at the point of attack in the run game, and he had the feet to swing outside and latch onto the top pass-rushers. From this era, he and
Samuels was drafted by the Redskins third overall in 2000 to be their left tackle for a decade. He almost made it. He's started 141 of 150 games, playing through painful shoulder, knee, ankle, back and neck injuries. But now, having been advised he risks his long-term health if he continues to play with a neck injury, he'll sit the rest of the season. Many of his teammates think he's played his last game.
I followed Samuels in 2000 during the run-up to the draft and through training camp -- in part because
But as I followed Samuels, I saw not only a good player but also a compelling and conscientious person. The day before the draft, at the Marriott Marquis Hotel on Broadway, he twice turned away the housekeeper who wanted to make up the room. "It's OK,'' he said. "I got it.'' He'd already made his bed, tidied the room and straightened up the bathroom, hanging the towels neatly on the rack.
In training camp,
"I've been here six seasons,''
"It's just so unfortunate that we lose him. He's been the solid rock of the Redskins for 10 years. Cherished by the community. So respected by everyone in the locker room. He's the kind of guy who would have made a great Hog. That's about the greatest thing I could say about him -- he would have fit in with those great Redskins of the past.''
If Samuels and Jones are forced to retire, the league will be diminished without them, and without players like them.
They were dressed in their Giants' gear. Big game. Lots at stake. And they're not shy -- they cheered openly for their team (though there wasn't much to cheer about in the Saints' rout of the G-men). And over and over again, fans in the stands and on the street were beyond charitable to them. "They all kept saying, 'Thanks for coming to New Orleans,' '' Mike said.
"We're 3-0 in the division ... and it still goes through us!!!''
He's right: Miami's an AFC East-best 3-0 in the division ... and 0-4 in other games.
"I've got a lot of footballs. This one will mean the most.''
"No, Brett Favre did not lay down to give me a sack. Doesn't happen in the NFL, man.''
"The NFL sort of has this blanket denial or minimizing of the fact that there may be this link [between playing football and brain injuries later in life]. And it sort of reminds me of the tobacco companies pre-nineties when they kept saying, 'Oh, there's no link between smoking and damage to your health.' "
For the first five weeks of the year, Eli looked like Peyton. For the past three weeks, he's looked like
Really, could the day have been any more perfect? Four touchdown passes, tying him with
Now, you look at Franklin's stat line -- three tackles, one sack, one tackle for loss -- and you say, "Come now. There had to be 75 guys in the league with better defensive days.'' Franklin's game is classic proof that stats for defensive linemen are 90-percent meaningless. Franklin was a regular in the Colts' backfield, leading San Francisco's stout front that held Indy to 61 rushing yards on 21 carries, a 2.9-yard average. "That's a great defense,'' said
No player in this season -- perhaps in many a season -- has had seven minutes like Ginn had Sunday in the Meadowlands. With 10 minutes left in the third quarter, Ginn took a
The Texans, two weeks ago, held the Bengals to 46 second-half yards in Cincinnati; they gave the Bills just 83 yesterday in Buffalo. Bush has added speed and aggression to a defense that too long had been
At the Favre Bowl, a Packer fan with a green number 4 Packer jersey had "BENEDICT ARNOLD'' where the "FAVRE" nameplate is supposed to be.
I've made this point in the last couple of weeks, and it's more true now than it has been all season: The Cleveland Browns are no better off today than they were 10 years ago, when they were an expansion team, in the middle of their first season back after a four-year absence from the league.
Just look at the quarterback play. In 1999, the season's midpoint came on Oct. 31. This year, it came on Nov. 1. Comparing the numbers of
This is not a travel note per se, but more of an event note in a place I traveled to. Does that count? The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame held two concerts at Madison Square Garden Thursday and Friday, and I was lucky enough to be in the crowd on the second night, the most interesting night of music I've ever seen in person.
These concerts get big acts to do a few songs -- on Friday, it was
1. "Gimme Shelter,'' by U2, Mick Jagger and Fergie, of the Peas. When Jagger came onstage and the familiar chord began, the Garden went as crazy as I've ever seen a crowd go for a song. I thought Fergie was going to lose her mind gyrating and screaming the lyrics alternately with Mick.
2. "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For,'' by U2 and Bruce Springsteen. A King dream: the two giants of my music life crooning together into the same mike.
3. "Sweet Jane,'' by Lou Reed and Metallica. Metallica's good. Good and loud. Reed was perfect with them.
4. "You Really Got Me,'' by Ray Davies and Metallica. My God. We've forgotten how great the Kinks were.
5. "Because the Night,'' by U2, Springsteen and Patti Smith. They messed up the lyrics and the beat the first time through, and, exasperated, Smith almost left the stage. But they did it again, and she was outstanding, and the crowd loved her because she was a good sport.
From a holiday-season MMQB column: Dan Marino dressed up as Miami quarterback
And from a pre-draft MMQB column: Among the questions on the 480-question personality test given to all draft prospects: Do you enjoy beating animals? "And I wondered,'' said Oregon quarterback
You'll get dozens more Factoids, plus some actual football knowledge, by buying my book on
I'll be having a signing in my old hometown, Montclair, N.J., at the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center on Nov. 21, a Saturday, late in the afternoon. Good friend
What we've decided to do, additionally, about signings is this: You can mail the book to SI, and as long as I receive it by Dec. 4, I'll sign it (with however you want it personalized) and send it back to you so you'll have it in-hand by Dec. 12. No return postage necessary; we'll handle that. Send your book (or books) to:
It's an awkward arrangement, I realize, but I've had 75 or so requests for signings, so this is the compromise we've figured out. Buy a book, mail it to me, and I'll sign and return it.
"Just noticed this on my Packers credential: It's Green Bay home game No. 4. Of course it is.''
1. I think these are my quick-hit thoughts of Week 8:
a. Ugliest jerseys in the NFL: Jets' throwbacks.
b. Can't decide what's worse -- Jets' throwbacks or AFL refs' throwbacks. You know, the creamsicle shirts.
c. Any team more confusing than the Cardinals? Rout the Giants on the road, routed by the Panthers at home.
d. And in the category of Best Performance By a Running Back in a Game No One Saw, the nominees are:
e. Good start,
f. Quietly -- and, as my buddy
g. There is no better defensive player in football than Jared Allen.
h. I don't know what
i. I imagine Lerner must really retch when thinking about adding more people, more payroll, to his swollen front office. Are you aware he's paying former GM
j. By the way, I never noted this last week, and since I wrote about it when it happened, I need to conclude it in the same space: The league says it found no wrongdoing in the case of rookie Cleveland running back
k. Tampa Bay, 0-7, is the only winless team left. And 0-11 looks mighty probable, with Green Bay, Miami, New Orleans and Atlanta in the next month.
2. I think, as I said on NBC Sunday night (and I'm sure you all clicked off the Favre passion play to listen to my words of wisdom), the most logical endgame in the
The league hasn't finished its investigation into the charge by Raider assistant
Though Cable has never been indicted on any of these charges, the league could use its power under the conduct policy to advise Cable that he'll have to be evaluated professionally. At the very least, without concluding anything about Cable, what seems to make sense is to evaluate whether he has anger-management issues.
After the season, assuming Cable is still employed as the Raider head coach, the league could use this portion of the policy to have Cable evaluated: "Persons ... appearing to have engaged in conduct prohibited under this policy will be required to undergo a formal clinical evaluation,'' the policy says. "Based on the results of that evaluation, the person may be encouraged or required to participate in an education program, counseling or other treatment deemed appropriate by health professionals.''
3. I think the drumbeat grows louder, with Congress rattling sabers last week on the increasing evidence of brain injuries to football players and an excellent series of stories by the
4. I think a lot of Eagles deserve praise in the 40-17 rout of the Giants. Donovan McNabb was magnificent in the Eagles' 30-point first half, and
5. I think I'd bet a Jim Sorgi autographed football that the retractable roof will be closed for early games in Indianapolis from here on out, after what we saw in the first half of the 49ers-Colts game. With the sun shining brightly on the end zone and the Colts driving for a touchdown, Peyton Manning threw a catchable ball to
6. I think this is what I liked about Week 8:
a. Kudos to
b. Whoa -- what a shoe-top tackle of Ted Ginn Jr., on a first-half kickoff by Jay Feely.
d. The Panthers obviously had the game in Arizona circled on the calendar for months, because they came out and played like it was a playoff game.
e. No one knows Buffalo's
f. I actually think I like this:
g. Signs of life (26 carries, 90 yards) from
h. I really like FOX's pregame show going to Afghanistan next week. I don't care what the reason is -- anything to show those overseas we're thinking of them and supporting them, regardless of our political beliefs, I'm behind.
i. Now that's the way to make big plays,
7. I think this is what I didn't like about Week 8:
a. For a veteran who's surely been mugged on more than a few pass routes,
b. Are you kidding, FOX? The moment the game of the year ends and Brett Favre is hugging his way across the field, we hear
You do what? You send us to Carolina 34, Arizona 21? For God's sake -- FOR WHAT?!!!!!! What you should be sending us to is
d. Aaron Rodgers takes too many sacks.
e. Throw it downfield,
g. The Giants are sinking as fast as any good team has sunk in years.
8. I think this is my one leftover note on football in Europe, which I think is going to happen in our lifetime; I mean, I think there will be an NFL franchise there.
"NFL fans in the UK are savvy. Many of them may not stop supporting their original team, which might mean the difference between one or two games and season tickets. In my opinion, if the NFL put a franchise in London, it would average between 40,000-50,000 per game. That's really an astonishing number, as only eight soccer teams in the English league average more fans per game. But that will obviously not cut it in the NFL. It's a niche sport here, in many ways very similar to how the English Premier League is a niche sport in America.''
One difference: Kids here know and emulate
9. I think the funniest thing -- the saddest thing, really -- about the NCAA banning Oklahoma State wide receiver
What brainiac in Indianapolis said it'd be smart to issue a release announcing Bryant would be reinstated -- for 2010? All anyone wanted to know was when in 2009 he'd be reinstated, and, of course, he should have been. Imagine getting suspended for 75 percent of a season for fibbing about having dinner at
10. I think these are my non-NFL thoughts of the week:
a. I get the sense no one really believes in Iowa.
b. I get the sense no one knows what Oregon's colors are.
c. I get the sense
d. Seems to me the toughest thing to figure in the college top 10 is where to rank Boise State, Iowa, TCU and Cincinnati. Iowa has the great win at Penn State, and I suppose all that matters is the W. Cincinnati has blown out a bunch of teams outside the top 20. TCU has won on the road at Clemson and BYU. Boise's got one quality win, but that win looked a lot better Saturday.
Boise beat Oregon by 11 -- smothered the Ducks; one of the few college games I've seen much of this year -- and Oregon beat a top-five team, USC, by 27. You can't go crazy on comparative scores, but that one has some meaning. Amazing that Boise, of the four, might be the toughest game for one of the big boys right now.
e. Coffeenerdness: Funny thing happened walking to get the papers and coffee Saturday morning in Manhattan. Guy walks up to me at a newsstand on 7th and 53rd and says, "Peter King!'' I turn and shake his hand, and he said, "
We went to Starbucks and got coffee, and I asked him about Starbucks over there. Turns out he's quite the Starbucks aficionado. "We have 76 Starbucks in Kuwait,'' he said proudly. "Seven in one mall!'' So
He promptly went out Saturday and jacked one into the FOX right-field camera position for a home run. Some pony.
g. I really like FOX's sideline guy,
h. "The Cleveland Show,'' as spinoffs go, should last as long as "Saved By The Bell: The New Class.'' Now, if there was a Brian spinoff ...
There's something about the Falcons that's a little disconcerting, something that will confirm their road wild card status unless it gets fixed very, very soon ... like tonight, around 7:30 Central Time in New Orleans. Last year, the offense was a two-headed monster, with the maturing-before-our-very-eyes
For the Falcons to seriously challenge the Saints, there's no question that the Turner of 2008 has to re-emerge.