First half was fun, Favre has much left to prove
Brett Favre's unfathomable season in Minnesota could be analyzed like a corporate earnings report. Through two quarters, the Vikings are meeting - or beating - expectations. How, then, will Favre fare in the next half of the 2009 season given his recent performances of fading down the stretch? The answer won't come until later, but Favre could not have done more to fuel confidence in his ability to hold up. Sixteen touchdown passes, only three interceptions and a completion percentage of 68 have equaled seven victories and one loss for the Vikings. "It's a pretty good position to be in at the bye week," Favre said in Green Bay after beating his old team for a second time. With a firm grip on the NFC North race and a good vibe among Vikings coaches and players, the reviews of this glaring move to bring in the 40-year-old Favre are naturally glowing. "Everybody is working well together," defensive end Ray Edwards said. "There's no separation, there's no division, and no schism." Edwards backed Tarvaris Jackson as the starting quarterback all summer. Before Favre signed, Edwards publicly suggested the NFL's all-time leading passer was a diva who would disturb locker room dynamics. Well, whatever skepticism he had seems to have disappeared. Favre has clearly ingratiated himself with these Vikings, rookies and veterans alike. "Brett came in from Day 1 fitting in well, even though he's old as I don't know what," Edwards said. "He's old enough to be some of our guys' fathers, but he's definitely been accepted and just out having fun with us." Safety Tyrell Johnson, one of so many players who were in elementary school when Favre started his prolific career, walked in the darkened video room at Winter Park for a study session one evening. He thought he had the place to himself, until hearing a clicking noise on the other side. "Who's that?" Johnson asked. "It's me, Favre," came the reply. Johnson said he found that funny - and remarkable. "I used to think he knows everything because he's been playing so long," Johnson said, "but he's still in there watching film and working hard." In the training room, too. "He's been in the cold tub more than in the past," coach Brad Childress said. "He spends a lot of time in this building." Favre's stays at the facility, Childress said, have lasted into the night so frequently he's befriended the custodian who cleans Winter Park after hours, and even learned some Spanish from him. All those durability records aside, Favre must get as much treatment as he can given his age. He looked old and played cold at the end of the 2007 season when the Packers lost in the NFC championship game. Last year in New York, another strong start gave way to a poor finish while Favre's rocket right arm fell apart with biceps problems. Favre has landed on the injury report this season with foot, ankle, knee and hip issues. He complained of a strained groin before the Green Bay game last week. According to sports researcher STATS LLC, Favre has been knocked down 40 times and hurried eight times. Through the first eight games in 2008, he was knocked down 39 times and hurried 14 times. Favre took 16 sacks with the Jets in the first half of the season and 30 overall, his most since 2000. Through eight games this year, he has been sacked 18 times. The heat actually helps him, even though it might lead to more Monday morning soreness. Always adept at reading the blitz, Favre has frequently shown off that ability this fall. According to STATS, Favre is leading the league with a 91.9 passer rating when under pressure, measuring performance on attempts when the quarterback is knocked down or hurried. Carson Palmer, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers round out the top five in that category. The Vikings have also protected Favre well when it counts most. He wasn't sacked and was barely touched in either game against the Packers, and with the bye symmetrically placed at the season's midpoint Favre has a better chance this time to be fresh for the end. "His body's doing just fine. He's taking good care of it," Childress said. So what about the arm? It sure looks strong. Favre saw Dr. James Andrews, the noted Alabama physician, for surgery in May on the shoulder that bothered him at the end of last year and nearly prevented him from coming back for a 19th season. Patient privacy laws prevent Andrews from specifically addressing Favre's case; he can acknowledge the procedure only because Favre first divulged it. Andrews said in an interview with The Associated Press that, in general, this type of surgery - which involves releasing the partially torn biceps tendon to alleviate the shoulder pain - doesn't guarantee good results. The success Favre is having is a testament to his strength and hard work, said Andrews, who sends Favre a text message after every game. "There could be continued pain, weakness and an inability to really throw with accuracy and velocity," said Andrews of the procedure's generally uncertain effect. "It's a little bit of an unknown situation. From a scientific standpoint, we still don't know the exact function of the tendon. However, the good Lord put it there, so it's there for a reason." Favre is in Minnesota for a reason, too. Super Bowls aren't decided in November, though, so the Vikings aren't boasting about their boldness despite criticism for their seemingly desperate desire to sign Favre. Owner Zygi Wilf politely declined to comment this week, and Childress routinely downplays any subject raised to him as a big deal. "My emotions are just that he's a member in good standing just like everybody else," the coach said, adding: "It's not like I wake up and say, 'Oh, gee, what note am I going to slip Brett today?' He's a professional football player, and he does a good job with it." Childress called this Vikings team a "unique group of men" with "tremendous chemistry." That doesn't sound like the superstar has been a distraction, with the swirl of hype and attention that surrounds him. "The dust is kind of settled now. He's just a teammate now," Johnson said. "He's not the new guy anymore, not the big star to us. To us he's just Favre, the teammate. He's another player, like us." The Jets started 8-3 last season, but these Vikings appear better poised for championship contention. With Adrian Peterson running through the line, Percy Harvin returning kickoffs and Jared Allen racking up sacks, Favre isn't forced to do it all. Despite throwing 50 passes in the loss at Pittsburgh, he is only on pace for 512 attempts. That would be his fewest since 2003. As the Vikings chase New Orleans (7-0) for the NFC lead, their schedule is favorable: three straight home games following the bye, and only one game in the cold when they visit Chicago on Monday night, Dec. 28. "That's the satisfactory part. We haven't underachieved," Favre said.