- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 17, 2002

When it comes to NFL quarterbacks, Green Bay's Brett Favre is very much an unorthodox superstar.

The Packers' veteran throws passes off his back foot and even underhand or sidearm. And he's getting better with age in a profession where a 33-year-old is practically a senior citizen.

"Nothing really surprises me about Brett," Packers coach Mike Sherman said. "What he does on Sunday doesn't surprise you because he'll have practices where he won't throw an incomplete pass. He's that accurate. He doesn't make many mistakes."

Especially this season.

Playing with a group of receivers who previously had caught just 34 of his passes, Favre leads the NFL with a career-best 102.5 rating while also pacing the NFC in yards, touchdowns, attempts and completions. And the Packers' 5-1 start is their best since 1996, when Favre directed them to a Super Bowl title while winning the second of his record three NFL Most Valuable Player awards.

"I've had a lot of people say I look like I'm having a lot of fun," Favre said. "When things are working the way you practice them and you're winning, that equals one thing happiness. Right now, it's hard not to have a smile on your face. I love the game, and I think it shows. Your everyday Joe watching the game says, 'If I was playing, that's the way I would like to play.' That's one of the biggest compliments I can receive."

Favre's 301 touchdown passes are third all-time and his 40,244 yards seventh. But he's more taken with his incredible 163 consecutive starts (plus 16 playoff games). Favre's record streak is 94 games longer than that of Indianapolis' Peyton Manning, who's second among active quarterbacks. Just as startling is that Favre's streak, which began Sept.27,1992, is longer than that of any other current player at any position.

"Of all the things that I've accomplished and been able to do, that's probably the one thing that has impressed me the most," Favre said.

Sherman recalled Favre spraining his left foot at Tampa Bay in 2000 and being told that the quarterback would be out five to six weeks. Of course, Favre not only started the next week, he threw for 301 yards in an upset of the Colts, leading Sherman to call him "a true warrior." But that was typical Favre. He was bothered by tendinitis in his right elbow that entire season after being hampered by a sprained right thumb throughout 1999.

"It was an ongoing struggle with myself," Favre recalled. "[I would say], 'Yeah, I'm not playing very well, but it's just a matter of time before I come out of it and these injuries will feel better.' But that never really happened. I probably should have sat down for some period of time, but I didn't. Now I feel healthy and as mentally sharp as I did then. The mind and body are working together."

Which is why Favre downplayed retirement talk. And that's great news for Sherman, who teased that he and his assistants would quit if Favre was no longer the quarterback.

"Not many people can throw as hard as Brett," Sherman said. "He'll break your fingers if you're not careful. He can put [passes] in some tight windows. His escapability at 33 [is super]. He always makes the first guy miss. And he has tremendous concentration."

But Favre unlike such immortal quarterbacks as Dan Marino and Johnny Unitas is no role model.

"Brett can't give a clinic on how to drop back," said Washington's Danny Wuerffel, one of Favre's backups in 2000. "He breaks a lot of rules. I'll never forget one time Brett rolled right and as he was getting tackled, he threw sort of sidearm, sort of underhanded, and it was a perfect pass 15 yards for a touchdown."

Those kind of throws are hair-raising, but Favre usually makes magic happen. He has 201 touchdowns and just 20 interceptions in the red zone. His 108-55 record is third among quarterbacks since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger, and his 68-12 home mark is the best.

"It's not a conscious effort on my part to play that way," Favre said. "I honestly believe that there's no one who has ever played the position who has thrown and played the way I've done it. Usually every throw was all arm, going backwards and both feet off the ground. To throw the way I throw, you have to have arm strength and accuracy. Fortunately, I have both. It's kind of exciting to watch the film whether it be practice or games, because I have no idea what it's going to look like but it ought to be good."

Favre always is.

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