Brett Favre’s emotional and surprising return to the field ended early.
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Favre shrugged off a sprained right shoulder to start the game on Monday night, receiving a thunderous ovation from the crowd when he was introduced before the game. But Minnesota’s 41-year-old quarterback sustained a head injury in the second quarter by Bears defensive end Corey Wootton, and the team said he would not return.
Favre’s helmet bounced against the ground, and he stayed motionless for a few seconds before slowly rising and walking off with his head hung down. Favre’s face was streaked with material from the artificial surface and he appeared dazed as he put on a jacket on the sideline.
He was 5 for 7 for 65 yards with a 23-yard TD to Percy Harvin and an interception in the game.
Favre wasn’t supposed to even suit up at all, after being declared out Saturday on the official injury report. But the Vikings upgraded him to questionable Monday after he woke up feeling better and wanting to give it a try.
The Vikings notified the NFL and the Bears of his status change, and league spokesman Greg Aiello said there is nothing in the rules that prevents a team from changing a player’s injury report designation.
”If a player’s medical status changes during the course of the week, the club must update his playing status accordingly prior to the game,” Aiello said. ”That is what the Vikings did when Brett’s status changed today.”
He came out for warmups wearing a black ski mask, and after making some pregame throws with flakes falling around him, he was announced as the starter. Favre had his NFL-record starts streak end at 297 games last week against the Giants.
Speaking before the game, Commissioner Roger Goodell said, ”We don’t allow people to play games with the injury list. They have to be legitimate medical injuries.”
Favre was blindsided by Bills linebacker Arthur Moats and drilled into the turf on his first pass of the game on Dec. 5. He watched practice again all week, with rookie Joe Webb declared the starter.
But Favre couldn’t be counted out, especially for the high-profile Monday night games. He’s had some of his greatest performances on the NFL’s biggest regular season stage, none more notable than when he threw for 399 yards and four TDs in a Monday night win at Oakland — the day after his father died of a heart attack.
”Brett Favre attempted to throw the football two days ago and was unable to,” Vikings trainer Eric Sugarman said Monday in a statement issued by the team.
”He declared himself out at that time. He woke up this morning feeling much improved. His symptoms and function have improved dramatically over the past 24 hours.
”In fairness to him and his team, he would like to be given the opportunity to play tonight if physically able.”
The Vikings and Bears played at the University of Minnesota’s outdoor stadium because the Metrodome’s roof collapsed last weekend after a heavy snowstorm. Without heating coils underneath the artificial surface, players openly worried about the condition of the field while the NFL and stadium officials declared it safe for competition.
Favre’s head was the first obvious collision with the turf, though it wasn’t clear whether his injury was related to the cold or not. Vikings safety Madieu Williams also left the game in the second quarter because of a hit to the head, though his contact was with the knee of Bears running back Matt Forte. The Vikins also said that Williams would not return.
The snow tapered by kickoff, but picked up again throughout the second quarter, the kind of wintry conditions Favre got to know well during 16 years with the Green Bay Packers.
He went 43-6 while with the Packers when the temperature was 34 degrees or colder, but his mythical status as a cold-weather warrior has been tarnished later in his career, especially when he threw an interception in overtime that led to a Packers loss to the New York Giants in the NFC title game after the 2007 season.
According to STATS, LLC, Favre has played 61 career games with the temperature at 40 degrees or colder. He has completed 61 percent of his passes with 98 touchdowns, 64 interceptions and an 85.1 rating.
But in the 16 games under those conditions since 2005, he has completed 57.7 percent of his passes with 11 TDs, 26 interceptions and a 64.1 rating.
His 20th NFL season has been one of his toughest. In addition to the streak ending, Favre started the day with 18 interceptions, which is tied for third most in the league, and his 69.6 quarterback rating was good for 30th.
Favre is also the subject of an NFL investigation into allegations that he sent inappropriate text messages and photos to a game-day hostess when both worked for the New York Jets in 2008. Goodell said he is still evaluating the findings and hoped to make a decision before the end of the regular season.
It was not known if he spoke with Favre.
”I’m still following up on some of the information, making sure that we’ve been thorough,” Goodell said. ”We want to be as thorough and serious about it and reach the right conclusion.”