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| J.A. ADANDE

Beware: Favre Strong-Armed and Dangerous

January 25, 1998|J.A. ADANDE

SAN DIEGO — It's time to acknowledge Brett Favre for what he is: Cocky. Childish. All those good things.

Look inside any of the great athletes in any sport and you'll find a big ego. It takes a big ego to say, "I do want to be the best player in the league for a long time. I would like to be remembered as the best player to play this game," which is exactly what Favre said Thursday.

It takes a big ego to assume he still would be here at the Super Bowl this week even if the Atlanta Falcons had not traded him to the Green Bay Packers for a first-round draft pick after his rookie season. That's what Favre said Tuesday. The Falcons in the Super Bowl?

"I feel like wherever I would play, I would be a winner," Favre said.

Because he isn't wearing sunglasses indoors when he says these things, because they come out in that aw-shucks southern Mississippi drawl of his, they don't sound so boastful. It simply sounds like a man fully aware of his talents and fully aware of what he can accomplish with them, a man who has a burning desire to be the best.

Favre wants to be a star, and wants everything that comes with it.

"He kind of enjoys being in the spotlight," Packer backup quarterback Steve Bono said. "He likes to be in the center. That's just his personality. And he handles it very well."

Bono, who used to back up Joe Montana in San Francisco, is a veteran star- watcher.

"Joe was much quieter, much more reserved," Bono said. "He didn't necessarily like being in the spotlight. He'd rather just play and get away from it."

Favre is one guy who actually seems to savor media attention. He'll stop his answers in mid-sentence to acknowledge a familiar face when more reporters join the huddle surrounding him. He never acts bored, even during the endless, repetitive interview sessions that lead up to the Super Bowl.

"What can you not like about it?" Favre said.

These are the good times for Favre. He has retreated from the brink of danger that marked his play and personal life. He doesn't have to worry about looking back and lamenting that he didn't make the most of his abilities, not with three most-valuable-player awards and a Super Bowl ring in his collection.

"I'm having a lot more fun this year than I have in the past," Favre said. "I got to a point this season when I said, 'We're pretty darn good.'

"It's a lot of fun. It's a kid's game. I started playing when I was in fifth grade. It's still as fun today."

Favre acts like a child with the coolest toy on the block. In this case, that toy is his incredible arm, and he always wants to use it. For all the throws you've seen in the highlights, they might not even be the best examples.

You should see him during the week.

"Sometimes, Brett comes to practice and he's jacked up and he's got that cannon cranked up," receiver Robert Brooks said. "It's unreal. You kind of get used to it in practice."

Or else you pay the price, such as the damaged ligaments Derrick Mayes suffered when he tried to catch a Favre pass. Then there was the time Favre drilled defensive lineman Seth Joyner with a ball that went through Joyner's facemask and hit him in the eye. Joyner had trouble with bright lights for a couple of days.

"I've been hit on my facemask before and had it deflect off," Joyner said. "He threw it so hard, it compressed and went through the face mask."

With such a strong arm, Favre thinks he can throw passes where he shouldn't, threading the needle, zipping balls into double coverage.

Other quarterbacks can only dream about throwing those passes.

"I would have tried it if I could throw the ball like him," former New York Giant quarterback Phil Simms said. "On a scale of one to 10, I could try a five. Brett can try all 10."

So he does. That's where that cockiness comes in.

"I think he thinks there's nothing he can't do out there," Packer tight end Mark Chmura said. "He just plays with so much confidence. The thing that's amazing about him is, when he makes a bonehead play, he'll come right back and do the same thing and throw it for a touchdown. There's no fear in him."

For a while, there didn't appear to be much good judgment, either. It's almost as if Favre took a while to read the instruction manual for his arm. In his first two seasons as a starter, he threw 37 touchdowns and 37 interceptions. Since then he has always thrown at least twice as many touchdowns as interceptions, including a 35-16 ratio this year.

Still, he insists on finding the outer reaches of his abilities.

"I know my limitations," Favre said. "But they have been exceeded at times."

Every once in a while, he hits a barrier, though. He tries things like that pass he threw from his knees against Detroit. It was intercepted.

"I still argue with Mike [Holmgren, Green Bay's coach] that there was a guy open," Favre said. "That's the way I play the game: I see a guy open, I go for the big play."

Because Favre dares to be great, he is.

"He's the man," wide receiver Antonio Freeman said. "He's a three-time MVP. He's the catalyst. When you think about pro football, you think about Brett Favre.

"You say, 'How does Michael Jordan take some of the shots that he takes?' He's the man."

Do you sense that Brett . . . ?

"He's the man," Freeman said.

And Favre knows it.

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