Paoletti: In Favre's world, football seems secondary


Paoletti: In Favre's world, football seems secondary

By Mary Paoletti

FOXBORO -- "Going into the tunnel on the cart I, thought to myself for a brief second: 'What in the world am I doing?' "

A pregnant question posed from Brett Favre on Sunday night. It's a shame nobody asked if he came up with an answer. It certainly isn't "Football," plain and simple, the way he tries to make it seem.

"Here I am, 20 years in the league," he said after Minnesota's 28-18 loss to New England. "I don't know how many games . . . a lot . . . I still feel like I can play at a high level. I think what would keep most guys out for a long time obviously hasn't kept me out. Call it dumb, call it hard-headed, call it what you want -- maybe all of the above -- I love to compete."

He was outdone again this weekend.

The Vikings are now 2-5 and Favre's pride was crushed by a blow to the face in the fourth quarter. The hit by Patriots defensive tackle Myron Pryor was clean; the laceration to Favre's chin accidental. After the QB tried to get up and crumbled again to the ground, teammate Steve Hutchinson tried to pull Favre up by the back of the jersey but was waved off. Number 4 was in some kind of excruciating pain.

A groan of 'Oh, God. What now?' rumbled through the stadium.

Two trainers helped Favre to his feet and off the field. Eventually, a cart rolled him into the tunnel, away from the football game.

And so the stage was set for next week's saga. Cue the cameras.

"No, I dont want to make a big deal out of it," Favre said in the postgame.

Part of you wants to believe him. You watch him at the podium and it looks like good ol' Brett: no suit but jeans (Wranglers?), sage sweater over a charcoal tee, close-cropped hair and a six-thirty shadow on his chin. The hair is more gray now than when he took the Packers' podium, but when he talks about running bootlegs you can almost imagine him in his Green and Gold glory.


It's never just about football with Favre anymore. How about that for irony? That's why he came back in the first place: love of the game. That need to stay connected (or the fear of being disconnected) from the NFL forced Favre to forgo a graceful exit and now it's all a mess.

There's always some other dramatic element; an injury, a scandal, someone crying or lying. There are cryptic interviews given from an idling truck. At some point, the team and his regular-season streak hangs in the balance. There is a triumphant return. The cameras will pan to Deanna, hands clasped together over her heart.

Another letdown and another good reason for it.

Even as old news it's a fascinating scene. Favre knows he's screwed up (J-E-T-S! Jets! Jets! Jets!). He crafts rationalizations like an addict. There's such a haze of humanity about him that a Vikings' loss can disappear in the smoke.

It did on Sunday night.

"I don't know what else to say," began one of Favre's ramblings. "I was shocked I was able to play and move around the way I was in spite of stress fractures in his foot and ankle. My prayers were answered. I wanted a chance to play at a high enough level and give us a chance to win, that was my main concern. I didn't want to play just to play. I didn't want to come in for one play, to get a start. I wanted to come in, help this team win."

He did have a solid game. Favre looked as sharp and in control against New England as he had in weeks, completing 22 passes for 259 yards. His lone interception was a ball that bounced off Percy Harvin's chest and landed in Devin McCourty's arms. More a freak play than anything.

But the Vikings didn't win and he should have had to answer for it. Instead, he was asked about his growing list of injuries and delivered a treatise about being tough.

" . . . There is nothing like competing. But, then again, there is nothing worse than losing. So weighing that, and for the physical side of it, I really can't complain. I probably should. I played with a broken foot and I am getting eight stitches in my chin and then the elbow I have been battling tendinitis. I thought I threw the ball as well as I have thrown it in quite awhile."

You catch yourself staring at his near-beard when he talks. There's still some blood around the stitches on his chin.

What was coach Brad Childress' answer about if Favre will play next week? "Let's have a little history, let's look a little bit back. You could probably venture, take a little guess, whether you thought he would go,'' Childress said. "I think he probably takes a swing at it next week."

Of course he will. Favre's strength is his weakness. The subtext in his comments aren't hard to read: I belong here. I'm tougher than anyone. Enough about mistakes. Why do you want me to fail? Every time I go down I get back up. I won't fail. You'll see.

"I didnt go through the mock game yesterday," said Favre. "I missed Wednesday and Thursday. I just went out for the last 10 minutes of practice. I don't know what to say. The foot is still broken; it is a clear break. It probably should hurt worse than it does.

"I don't know what to say. So, to be able to come out and play and to give us a chance to win and play at a high enough level, you know . . . Monday and Tuesday I couldn't even walk."

The self-defense that nobody asked for dragged on.

Eventually, he hit on playoff possibilities: "I think this team is capable of it, but I am not going to sit here and sound like Herm Edwards or Jim Mora, either. We have to win a game. No secret there."

And Randy Moss's quiet night: "If teams line up and play bump-and-run on Moss, no help over the top, I'd throw it to him every time. And we are doing some things from a route standpoint, by Randy's coverage what he is drawing, it is enabling our other guys to get open."

But the X's and O's almost sounded out of place. Nobody asked him much about playing the Patriots and he didn't have too much to say. That's just not Brett Favre's game anymore.

So what in the world is he doing?

Mary Paoletti can be reached at Follow Mary on Twitter at http:twitter.comMary_Paoletti.

Belichick on Long's sack: One of the best defensive plays of the year

Belichick on Long's sack: One of the best defensive plays of the year

It came against a rookie quarterback. It came against an offense that averages a league-worst 15.0 points per game. It came against an offense that has fewer yards than any other. 

Still there are signs that Bill Belichick is pretty pleased with where his defense is after beating the Rams 26-10 on Sunday. One came on Wednesday when published its "Belichick Breakdown" for a closer look at a handful of plays from the team's most recent win.

Belichick called his team's third-and-eight stop with about 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter "probably one of the best good, team defensive plays we've had all year."

The Patriots show a five-man front, but linebacker Kyle Van Noy feigns a rush only to drop into coverage.

"Van Noy in here does a good job on the rush," Belichick said, "and also on the coverage on the back. Just good team defense. Good pass coverage down the field. The quarterback really doesn't end up having a lot of time, but there's no one to throw it to right away."

Belichick noted that all four rushers -- Chris Long, Trey Flowers, Dont'a Hightower and Rob Ninkovich -- all are able to pressure Jared Goff on the play. Combined with strong coverage in the secondary, the Rams nver really had a chance.

Belichick said it looked like a "tidal wave" of defenders bearing down on the quarterback.

"Long wins here . . . on the inside spin," Belichick said, "and Trey Flowers and Hightower both win on the little twist game inside. Then that's Rob with good speed-to-power on [Rams tackle Rob] Havenstein on the outside. Four good rushers. Plus a fifth guy...Van Noy getting that two-for-one on the guard and the back.

"Good team defense. That's great to see. A lot of hard work an execution on the practice field to make that happen."

Harbaugh on Belichick: 'I feel like we have a good relationship'

Harbaugh on Belichick: 'I feel like we have a good relationship'

FOXBORO -- They sounded like a couple of old pals. 

First it was Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who spoke of Ravens coach John Harbaugh during a conference call like one of his favorite fellow lacrosse dads.

"John and I saw a game a couple of years ago, a [Johns] Hopkins vs. Maryland game," Belichick said, adding that Harbaugh's love for the sport is just starting to blossom. "Yeah, I think John is seeing the light."

Belichick added that the two might be closer if they weren't competing so often, both in-season on the field and for free agents in the offseason. 

"As you know, we get into a situation like we’re in now where they have a good team, we have a good team, we’re playing a big game on Monday night," Belichick said. "Both teams are going to do everything they can to compete as hard as they can on Monday night. That’s what it is and that’s what we all signed up for. We all know that’s a part of it.

"When we’re not going head-to-head, which isn’t very often because we compete against each other in the offseason, we compete against each other to build our team and so forth, it just puts things in a little bit of a different situation."

During his press conference with reporters on Wednesday, Harbaugh echoed Belichick's sentiments. Belichick was famously one of Harbaugh's biggest supporters earlier in his career, calling the Ravens on Harbaugh's behalf when the franchise was looking for a new head coach. And if only they weren't so frequently competing against each other, they might be even closer, Harbaugh indicated. 

"I feel like we have a good relationship," Harbaugh said. "Like you said, we're probably not socializing that much, but I don't know how many coaches really do. We're all so busy. I'll see him or any coach at the Combine or at the owner's meetings, and we have a chance to talk. It's always good. I have a ton of respect for him. I really like him as a person. I think he's a great coach -- greatest coach of this generation. He's earned that title.

"And I study him. I've always studied him. I've always studied coach Belichick from when I first met him when I was an assistant at the University of Cincinnati, and he came in and just was great to be around.  [We have a] similar background with the special teams and that sort of thing. All of that kind of goes out the window when you compete against one another. It's like anything else, you want to win. I'm sure he feels the same way."

The recent history between their respective franchises is rife with emotion: There was Baltimore's irate reaction to Belichick's unusual formations in the AFC Divisional Round two seasons ago; there was the Ravens' supposed involvement in sparking Deflategate; and there was Harbaugh's subsequent denial. But Belichick and Harbaugh made it sound on Wednesday as if all's good between them.