- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 23, 2003

Brett Favre’s broken right thumb and Rich Gannon’s bruised right shoulder have put two of the three longest consecutive games streaks by current quarterbacks in jeopardy.

Fortunately, Favre’s Green Bay Packers and Gannon’s Oakland Raiders are off this week, giving two of the three active quarterbacks to be the NFL’s MVP two weeks to heal.

Favre, the record-holder at the position with 197 straight starts (including playoffs) dating to Week3 of 1992, got a similar break last year when LaVar Arrington knocked him from the Washington game with a sprained knee. The Packers were off the next week and Favre was back in the lineup against Miami 15 days after being hurt.

If Favre isn’t ready for the Nov.2 game at Minnesota, Indianapolis’ Peyton Manning would have the longest active starting streak with 90, counting this Sunday’s game with Houston.

Gannon has started 77 straight games for Oakland (including playoffs). But unlike Favre, Gannon is having an awful year at 37, ranking 12th in the AFC with a 73.5 rating compared to last year’s 97.3. Backup Marques Tuiasosopo nearly forced overtime against unbeaten Kansas City on Monday night, putting Gannon’s job security in question. The Raiders declined Wednesday to release the results of an MRI on Gannon’s shoulder.

Packers coach Mike Sherman said Favre’s thumb has a hairline crack and that he could have played this Sunday. So after not practicing this week with the thumb in a splint, Favre should be ready for the Vikings. However, the same thumb hampered Favre for much of 1999, the only one of his 11 previous years that the Packers didn’t have a winning record.

Even though he played well in St. Louis last Sunday, Green Bay still lost 34-24. The loss dropped Favre to 13-21 in domes, with 54 touchdowns and 49 interceptions. Outdoors, Favre is 115-48 with 286 touchdowns and 157 interceptions. Green Bay’s next game is in the Metrodome, where Favre is 2-9 with 12 touchdowns and 16 interceptions.

“I still think I can play and compete as well as anybody,” said Favre, who just turned 34 and is the NFC’s fifth-rated passer (89.3). “I’ve proven that … [but] the older you get, it becomes a tougher struggle every week.”

While the Packers have won one playoff game since reaching back-to-back Super Bowls in 1996 and 1997 and are 31/2 games behind the Vikings in the NFC North, the Rams are 4-1 since Marc Bulger replaced two-time MVP Kurt Warner at quarterback in Week2. Bulger, 10-2 the past two years, is the NFC’s third-rated passer (90.1). St. Louis trails Seattle by one game in the NFC West after consecutive conquests of Arizona, Atlanta and Green Bay.

Running back Marshall Faulk, the 2000 MVP, missed all three victories with a broken hand and an ailing knee. Faulk is practicing again, but coach Mike Martz sees no need for him to rush back although his hand has healed and replacement Lamar Gordon likely won’t play Sunday in Pittsburgh because of a sprained ankle. Rookie free agent Arlen Harris ran for 85 yards on 18 carries against the Packers after Gordon was hurt.

“Arlen is a terrific runner,” Martz said of Harris who will make his first start against the Steelers. “Could Marshall play this week? Probably. We just want to make sure the knee is as strong as it needs to be before we put him in a competitive situation.”

Non-travelogue — The 2-4 New York Giants can’t blame a grueling travel schedule for their disappointing start. When the Giants board a plane for Minnesota tomorrow, it will be their first air trip of the year — including preseason.

They’ll fly three more times — to Tampa Bay, New Orleans and Dallas — for 5,026 air miles. The Giants bused to New England and Baltimore in preseason, took the train to Washington and New England and will ride the rails again to Philadelphia. The topper is the game against the Jets at Giants Stadium, where the Giants officially will be the visiting team.

No shame — Mike Ditka earned the nickname “Iron Mike” for his toughness, but the Hall of Famer isn’t so macho that he can’t admit that he suffers from erectile dysfunction.

The 64-year-old former Chicago coach is the spokesman for the NFL’s Tackling Men’s Health program. Ditka said advertising on NFL telecasts is the perfect way to reach an audience that would be too embarrassed to read an article about such a sensitive subject.

“It’s silly,” Ditka said. “I can lead a half life or a full life. I want my life to be complete until I die. Why would I want to take that out of my life? The only way to correct it is to talk about it. I went and saw my doctor. He gave me some recommendations.”

If only — Imagine the fuss over Miami linebacker Junior Seau’s “fried chicken and watermelon” remark about former San Diego teammate LaDainian Tomlinson if Seau wasn’t a well-known solid citizen and if Seau, a Samoan, wasn’t a member of a minority group.

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