MMQB Mailbag: 'Glorified ankle sprain' likely won't keep Favre out

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There's a misconception out there right now that Brett Favre is so significantly hurt that it'd be a huge longshot for him to play Sunday in the Vikings' vital game at New England.

In the wake of the news that Favre has two significant injuries to his left foot and ankle, I spoke with a top NFL team orthopedist, who said not only is it realistic to think Favre will play Sunday, but also that if this were a playoff game, most quarterbacks in the league would very likely play with what Favre has.

It's always dangerous to ask a doctor about a patient he has not seen, so take what this ortho says with a grain of salt. (I talked with him with the agreement that I wouldn't identify him.)

"I think it's extremely misleading to say he has two ankle fractures and leave that impression,'' the orthopedist said. "Technically, with what I have read, he does. But you are not playing an NFL game with two fractures in the sense that we think of fractures.''

Favre has two situations, according to coach Brad Childress. One is a stress fracture of his ankle, and the other "avulsion fracture'' of his calcaneus, or heel area, where a portion of the heel bone has chipped away.

The "stress fracture'' near the ankle is particularly tricky because it can vary from a bone showing signs of being near-fractured, to a bone with a high amount of stress in one area that could become a fracture with more wear and tear. But the stress fracture, the orthopedist said, is something a player can play with and can have shielded before play and also be medicated before a game. "It's a glorified ankle sprain,'' he said.

The heel injury, the doctor said, could also be helped by an injection to mask the pain. "I don't believe [the calcaneus] is a critical structure at all,'' he said.

In short, Favre can probably play Sunday if he's willing to play medicated and/or with the pain. At 41 and cognizant he's likely playing his final 10 weeks of football, Favre, I presume, sees it exactly that way. My guess is he'll play unless his coach wants to wrest control of the offensive team and prove to Favre who's boss -- highly unlikely just two months after Childress dispatched three players in a private plane to go get Favre off his property, and after the Vikings paid Favre $3 million extra as motivation to come back.

Now for your email:

• THE WEIRD CALL IN MIAMI. "The video of the game clearly shows one official 'digging' in the pile to determine possession. The CBS in-game replay shows the Dolphins falling on it first and the CBS in-game replay shows the same Dolphin coming out of the pile with it. Given that Gene Steratore is a repeat offender in misinterpreting the rule book (Calvin Johnson) and given that the head linesman who made the premature touchdown call was the same Jerry Berger who was disciplined for inappropriate behavior regarding player autographs, wouldn't the NFL be justified in terminating these two officials as repeat offenders? The Steelers postgame show and the Miami Herald both talked about Steratore and Berger's residency in the Pittsburgh area. One weekend wrapup show in Pittsburgh even speculated that the NFL could try to make sure the referee does not live in the town of the games he is officiating.''--Richard, Wexford, Pa.

The problem with the replay of this play is that it did not satisfy the one thing that needs to be satisfied to overturn a call. There was not indisputable visual evidence that the Dolphins possessed the ball at the bottom of the pile and retained possession. Now, the first player to jump on the ball was Ikaika Alama-Francis of the Dolphins, and he's the one who came out of the pile with the ball. Is it likely he recovered the fumble? Yes, from what I saw. Is it certain? No.

Now, the NFL does have a rule interpretation that applies to a play like this, and if you haven't seen it, here is the case study of a ruled touchdown with a fumble that followed the ruling:

"If there is a pile-up and you can't see who recovered the ball or a long delay with players stopping before the ball is recovered, the offense retains possession but the ball will be placed at the 1-yard line.''

As much as a Dolphins fan doesn't want to acknowledge, the right call was made, though it wasn't explained well and it appeared awkward at best. As far as your second point about where officials live and not allowing them to do games involving the team closest to where they live: I think it's a dumb idea. To the best of my knowledge, three NFL referees live in southern California; should they not do any Charger games? Officials are graded on their performance on the field, and if they perform poorly or shade their calls in any way toward a particular team, they'd be hurting their own careers.

• THE BRONCOS ARE IN A FREEFALL. "You touched briefly on the Raiders/Broncos game, and I'm curious about your thoughts on Denver at this point. In particular, three points. 1) What happened to that ferocious defense from early last season? 2) Is Josh McDaniels in danger of losing his job at the end of the season? 3) If so, how likely do you think he goes with Tim Tebow to try to spark his team, and in the process bench Kyle Orton (despite Orton's play this season)?''--Brian Bunch, Fairfax, Va.

If Orton is benched anytime soon, McDaniels should be fired. I believe his job is safe after the season unless he has a few more Sundays like the one he just had. Re the D, I think the losses of Elvis Dumervil and Robert Ayers have been debilitating.

• WHY, THANK YOU. "Peter, I enjoy your work; MMQB is among the most relevant sports columns around. I have a two-part question. First, there are a number of top-flight head coaches not working in the NFL right now (Bill Cowher, Jon Gruden, Herm Edwards, Brian Billick and Tony Dungy all come to mind); which ones are most likely to get back in the game? Second, what are my beloved Broncos' chances of landing one of them? I like Josh McDaniels, but yesterday's abomination shows that he's not ready to lead an NFL club, and the team has definitely not bought into his philosophy.''--Travis, Denver

Thanks for your kind words. I don't think Dungy is going to coach anytime soon, if ever. He loves the family/TV/philanthropic life he's living now. Billick wants back in, badly. Herm would certainly coach again. Cowher is interested if the right position came along. Ditto Gruden, though Gruden would be happy to stay in TV because he likes his life. Don't forget John Fox; he'll be on the market at the end of the year. I still see McDaniels lasting through 2011, but let's see how the rest of this year goes. He's now 4-13 in his last 17 games, and Pat Bowlen is not going to stand for stretches like that.

• IT'S A PHYSICAL GAME, YOU KNOW. "I agree with you that players can play hard without tackling above the neck but it seemed like a lot of games were pretty high-scoring yesterday. Eight teams scored 30-plus for the first time this season and it wasn't a full slate, with four on a bye. Coincidence or did it have something to do with the memo from this past week?''--Keith, Enfield, Conn.

Probably coincidence, but we'll see in the coming weeks. I believe there were nine interceptions returned for touchdowns; there's 63 points right there, and they had nothing to do with defensive players being softer. Let's let the thing play out.

• DON'T SLEEP ON THE BUCS. "You mentioned the Redskins potentially being one of the NFC's best teams, but crazy as it sounds, what about the Bucs? They have a QB who has proven clutch down the stretch and a young defense whose confidence grows each week. Can they make noise in the playoffs?''--Isaac N., St. Augustine, Fla.

Well, I would like to believe in Josh Freeman and the Bucs as far as being a January factor. But the Bucs have played two good teams this year, the Steelers and Saints, and lost to each by 25 points. So let them win a game against somebody good, and then I'll start to have some faith in the team.