NFL: Former Packers still bewildered by Favre's decision
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- When it finally happens Monday night, when Brett Lorenzo Favre -- wearing that purple helmet emblazoned with white horns -- breaks the huddle with the Minnesota Vikings and takes his first-ever gander at the opposing defense of...
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- When it finally happens Monday night, when Brett Lorenzo Favre -- wearing that purple helmet emblazoned with white horns -- breaks the huddle with the Minnesota Vikings and takes his first-ever gander at the opposing defense of the Green Bay Packers, fans of the Green and Gold aren't the only ones who are going to be experiencing a wide range of emotions.
"It will be an interesting moment for me," Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive end Willie Davis said this week. "I think I will have some sense of disappointment, some sense of that's the way things are because it's truly a business.
"If I knew why Brett Favre elected to play with the Vikings, I could probably appreciate it a lot more. I respect his right to do it; I just question what would motivate one to do it. I think in his heart, I truly believe he's a Green Bay Packer and I think when all the things happen to him after football, the Hall of Fame and things like that, he will be stepping up as a Packer.
"I just don't understand why he went to Minnesota."
That seems to the crux of the issue. That it's the Vikings (of all the gin joints in the National Football League) . . .
"When you switch to the Vikings, that's the one team you hate and hate's a strong word," said Packers Hall of Fame safety LeRoy Butler, a Super Bowl winner with Favre in 1996. "That's the one thing you dislike. You enjoy beating the (Chicago) Bears, it's a great rivalry, but when you play the Vikings -- Hatfield and McCoys, that's how it is. All the rules go out. You have to beat them. It's a must-win game. You can live with splitting with Chicago. You can't live and you can't sleep losing to the Vikings.
"It's going to be on every station, if they lose to the Vikings, for four days. I don't want to see that. I don't want to see the four-letter network have Brett's picture up and the lovefest. 'Ah, he's this. He's that. He just loves playing the game.'
"Nope, sorry Brett. You're on the other side now."
The home of Packers Hall of Fame guard Fuzzy Thurston, a five-time World Champion, used to be adorned with three framed Favre photographs -- an indication of the close bond Favre and Thurston shared.
The emphasis is on "used to."
Thurston's wife, Sue, took down the frames shortly after Favre signed with the Vikings. Even the one that's personally autographed: "To Sue -- From your favorite Packer, Brett Favre. Too bad, Fuzzy."
"It's such a mixed feeling," Sue Thurston said. "I just love the guy, always have, he was my big hero. But I like the Packers, too, and I hate the Vikings. It's just . . . I don't like it. It just makes me sick."
Fuzzy, who has trouble speaking because of his long-ago throat cancer surgery, also isn't handling the idea of Favre awashed in purple very well.
"We really don't bring it up in front of him," Sue said. "He doesn't like it at all. He's very disappointed. He blames both sides."
Management blew it
Thurston's "Run to Daylight" sidekick, Jerry Kramer, doesn't have any trouble letting people know he squarely places the blame for Wisconsin's most famous divorce on general manager Ted Thompson.
"I still feel that the whole Brett thing was handled badly by the people in Green Bay, so I don't blame Brett for wanting to play. I understand that perfectly well," Kramer said.
"That was a decision they made. The Packers decided they did not want Brett back and they let him know that. That's part of the reason he's still playing. I think that anger, that pissed-off, 'I'll show the SOBs.' I think it insulted him a little bit, hurt his feelings a little bit that they didn't want him back.
"Maybe if they would have handled it differently, it might have turned out differently, but I think that's part of the equation and Green Bay made the decision to go on without Brett and bring Aaron (Rodgers) into the picture.
"You can understand the decision. Aaron has certainly handled himself in an exemplary fashion. I mean, you couldn't ask more from a young man on how to handle the crisis situation with dignity and class. I just think Aaron has done a hell of a job and I'm damn sure pulling for him.
"But, again, the Packers made that decision and if that decision was a bad decision, then somebody ought to be called on the carpet and said, 'Why the hell did you do this?'"
An axe to grind
The former Packers are unanimous in the feeling that Favre, no matter what he says, will be out for vengeance on Monday night.
"I do believe this is the sole reason why he came back, for this game," said receiver Antonio Freeman, who caught the most touchdown passes (57) from Favre and also starred on the '96 team that won the Super Bowl. "I don't know how you balance the two, but I'm sure he'll find a way."
Said Butler: "I think this is one game Brett wants to win more than anything. If they win this game and they lose six straight, he'll be OK with it. Because the one thing you can't do to an athlete, you can't tell him he's washed up. You can't tell an athlete we don't need you. Every time you do something like that you're throwing wood on the fire. And the wood turns into lighter fluid. Not to mention he can still play.
"But at some point the team had to move on."
Butler also feels the game will be personal for Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy.
"They can be politically correct and say the cliches, how it's just another game and you want to win every game," he said. "No, no, no, no. In the real world, we've got to win this game. Of course they want this game. They want it to say they were right in their decision to go with Aaron."
Target on his back
The former Packers were also unanimous on this point: Green Bay will be coming after Favre as well.
Davis recalled Vince Lombardi's pre-game speech before the 1967 Western Conference championship game against the Los Angeles Rams at Milwaukee County Stadium.
"He said to us, 'Well, I just want to just share with you how I feel. This is a game that I truly would like to play myself because I think I'd feel very sure of the result. I think I could play this game with some feelings and distinctions that would be above all,'" Davis recalled.
"I've got to tell you that if I was playing for the Packers in this ball game, I would tell you one thing: In my mind, deeply buried in me, would be a desire to get to Brett. I think the motivation on every play would be to get to Brett. And I can't believe that won't emanate from most of the players. In the interest of winning the game, I would want to get to him, to be in his face, and up on him every time he threw the football.
"I feel the same sense about Brett. But there would be no doubt how I would play the game."
And the former players also feel for fans caught in the middle.
"It's kind of like a love affair that went bad," Kramer said. "There are a lot of emotions there. It's not just another person that walked away, it's Brett, whom we all loved and admired and thought the world of and now he's on the dastardly Vikings.
"The only thing that could be worse for me is the Bears and I don't know if that would be worse. Brett Favre wearing a Vikings uniform playing the Packers?
"That's about as bad as it gets."