THE SPORTS DOCTOR- Lazy bones: Favre punts training, Vikings win anyway

He's a tired Viking now...

It's no surprise that Brett Favre's performance against Kansas City this past weekend looked more like a blooper reel than the return of a legendary quarterback. The numerous sustained tackles and incomplete passes revealed just how unprepared Favre was to run back onto the football field, preseason game or not. It was an abysmal spectacle.

We've all seen athletes who hang around too long and it's always a sorry sight. Michael Jordan should never have come out of retirement, Willie Mays stumbled around the outfield, and an arthritis-hobbled Joe Namath could never have been a good Ram.

Some athletes keep going when they have little or nothing left to give and it's tempting to lump Favre in that category. But Favre isn't over the hill; he's just terribly selfish and lazy.

Brett Favre's 1991 debut with the Atlanta Falcons seems a lifetime ago, doesn't it? A man who has played nearly twenty years in the NFL and set so many records (most career passing yards, most consecutive starts among quarterbacks, even most career interceptions thrown) seems like a guy who's willing to work, doesn't he? 

Favre looks like he gets his hands dirty, with those Wrangler commercials and riding around on a tractor. But looks can be deceiving. These past few years, Favre's blamed his on again/off again urge to retire on a broken body and spirit, saying at his press conference, "I can play, but I'm not up to the challenge." 

We all know what happened then.

There's no need to rehash Favre's attempts to get back on Lambeau Field or his subsequent rendezvous with the New York Jets. Of course, he wanted to play football again; that's all he knew. No one can blame him for staring down the barrel of an approaching NFL season and panicking. It would have been difficult for anyone, but doubly so for someone like Favre, for whom football has been a way of life.

But that's precisely the issue. How can someone for whom football has been the Alpha and the Omega treat it so shabbily? It took seven months with the Jets for Favre to re-retire, another four months to request release from that retirement, an additional two months to announce he would consider playing again, one more month to confirm his retirement and a subsequent twenty-one days to sign with the Minnesota Vikings.

Whew. One year, three months and fourteen days after retiring the first time, Favre had played again, retired again, and signed to play again.

Make no mistake; Favre is lazy and selfish, but after almost twenty years in the NFL, those qualities are starting to take a real toll on his performance. Favre is so naturally gifted a player that he's long been able to get away with it, but no longer.

When a thirty-nine-year-old man who claimed in his first retirement speech that, "You can't just show up and play for three hours on Sunday," deliberately schedules a signing so as to avoid training camp, what would you call it?  Dedication? 

How the Vikings defeated Kansas City 17-13 is a mystery. Favre's lone completion went for only four yards, he misfired three of his four passes over two series, he looked completely lost outside the shotgun formation, and the Chiefs weren't shy about laying him out. In case Favre were wondering, that's what two and a half days of practice will get him.

But this is the legend, Brett Favre. Did he really need to attend training camp? Favre obviously didn't think so, despite saying in July that he didn't think he had enough to get through a season. The Vikings obviously didn't think so, despite shelling out $25 million for a guy who told ESPN, "I didn't feel like physically I could play at a level that was acceptable."

Would Favre's performance have been better, or at least less embarrassing, had he attended training camp? The answer is a resounding yes, but months of lying, manipulating and maneuvering bought Favre a nearly sweatless comeback. It's amazing such a lazy and selfish person can do that much work.