- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 28, 2004

There are the remarkable career numbers: a quarterback-record 215 consecutive starts, no losing seasons in his 12 full years as a starter, 359 touchdown passes and 47,364 passing yards. There are the highlights of leading the Green Bay Packers to back-to-back Super Bowls, winning one, and being the NFL’s only three-time Most Valuable Player.

But perhaps Brett Favre never truly showed just how special he is until he performed at an otherworldly level in the wake of tragedy.

Favre’s father, Irvin, died suddenly last Dec.21. The next night, Favre torched Oakland for 399 yards and four touchdowns before flying home to be with his family.

Two weeks ago, Favre and wife Deanna learned that she had breast cancer. In the next two games, Favre threw for 516 yards and four touchdowns to vanquish memories of the first four-game losing streak of his career. His passer ratings in those three post-tragedy games were a career-high 154.9, 102.6 and 126.7.

“If you’re going to play in those circumstances, you definitely don’t want to lay an egg,” said Favre, who will start his first game ever at Washington on Sunday. “If there was ever a time that you potentially could, that would be the time. For me, it’s a kind of a safe haven sometimes on the field, even in normal circumstances. That’s when you can kind of let loose, let your emotions go.

“Was I beating my chest after the Oakland game?” Favre continued. “Absolutely not. I was glad that at least I could go home with a positive feeling that I didn’t make it any worse. To me that was pressure. I would love to play and the only adversity I face is the opposing defense. The adversity my family and I have faced … has easily surpassed the adversity a person would face on the field. It sort of brings things into perspective. … Preparing for this defense or trying to get this team back on track is important, but it seems secondary.”

However, Favre, who could quit tomorrow at age 35 and still be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, doesn’t see his wife’s illness causing him to retire after this season.

“She and our kids come first,” Favre said. “She has been steadfast in saying, ‘You go out there and if there’s anything you can do for me, it’s to play and play well.’ That’s the way she is. Trying to balance football, my wife and our two girls is difficult, but we’ve been able to do it so far, and I don’t see any reason why we can’t in the future.”

Packers coach Mike Sherman said Favre isn’t playing for the millions or to break Dan Marino’s all-time passing records. The country boy from Kiln, Miss., just loves to play — and win. Only retired quarterbacks Marino and John Elway have more victories than Favre’s 139.

“To appreciate Brett, you kind of have to watch him on a daily basis,” Sherman said. “He loves to go out to practice and compete against our defense. He just loves competition.”

That inner drive will have Favre on the field Sunday despite an ailing left shoulder and an extremely sore right hand that kept him from throwing in practice yesterday. After all, Favre played the last nine games of 2003 with a broken right thumb and didn’t miss a start after tearing a ligament in his left knee in 2002.

“I expect to play,” Favre said. “I don’t think anyone’s concerned whether or not I’ll play. [But] only I know if I’m able to play at the level I’m used to. I feel like I need to practice, even if it’s [just] a walkthrough to reach a comfort level. My concern is that I want to play my style of game and not have to worry about the injury.”

Favre, who’s fourth in the league in yards and touchdowns this season, has the Redskins plenty worried.

“Brett’s one of the best that has ever played,” Redskins coach Joe Gibbs said. “He’s extremely tough. How many games he’s lined up for [in a row] is amazing. Sometimes guys play because they’re gifted and they have a great body. Then you have guys who just love to play. Brett’s one of the [latter] guys. Everybody really appreciates his enthusiasm for the game.”

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