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Packers' Favre Has Formula to Put Opponents on the Run

Pro football: Three-time MVP has plenty of experience to draw on as he prepares for Super Bowl.

January 26, 1998|NEIL BEST | NEWSDAY

SAN DIEGO — Brett Favre is chasing history with a joystick. It has been the most entertaining spectacle of Super Bowl Week, certainly more fun than poor, old John Elway and the endless revisiting of his Big Game failures.

On one hand, the three-time NFL MVP can use Super Bowl XXXII to take another huge step in his quick rise among the ranks of all-time greats, something he admits means a lot to him. On the other, the Green Bay Packer quarterback has approached the chance without losing any of his trademark boys-just-want-to-have-fun looseness.

News flash: Favre, a modern, ultra-successful, multimillionaire athlete, actually seems to enjoy playing. Maybe that, as much as his achievements as a player, will be his most important legacy in the cynical sports landscape of the late 1990s.

Oh, and by the way, America, Favre reports he is having fun this time than in his first spin around the Super Bowl block. "Enjoy it, because who knows if you'll be back here again," Favre said. "I'm enjoying it just as much as I did last year, if not more . . . Too many times we take this game too seriously. It's our job, but hey, it is a sport we played as a kid. Have fun with it."

By most accounts, Favre hasn't changed his personal style much since 1991, when he was a wild-eyed Atlanta Falcons rookie fresh from his native Mississippi. Tim McKyer, a Denver Broncos cornerback who was a Falcon then, shook his head recalling the "scout-team quarterback who'd show his butt in practice. He was silly. He had a good time. We called him 'Country.' I knew he had a missile [arm]. The guy had all this potential and it was going to waste." A year later, the Packers heisted him in the most important NFL trade of the decade, and the rest is history. OK, so Favre has not displayed his butt in public lately, as Chicago Bear quarterback Jim McMahon did in New Orleans before Super Bowl XX. But there has been a rash of stink bombs going off around the Packers lately, including one during a photo session involving NBC personnel Tuesday.

"I threw it into a garbage can, and Phil Simms went looking for it," Favre said. "He was going to put it on Paul Maguire's head . . . not that anyone would have been able to tell the difference."

Favre also has been known to dump ice water on teammates sitting in toilet stalls and amuse them with impressions of players such as the Broncos' John Elway. (Favre promised an Elway imitation during warmups before the game.) In training camp last summer, Favre and his Packer buddies, center Frank Winters and tight end Mark Chmura, would arrange "sleepovers" in which Chmura would carry his bed into the room shared by Favre and Winters.

Even in games, Favre keeps the mood light. "We're sitting there during TV timeouts, you've got to sing or do something to loosen the guys up," he said after a mid-week news conference he attended wearing a bright orange T-shirt, light blue shorts and shower slippers. "Chewy [Chmura] is trying to sing and he's awful. I am better than Chewy or Frank. We like to sing 'YMCA,' because they're always playing that at the stadium, or 'Start Me Up' by the Rolling Stones. During the Super Bowl last year, I sang ZZ Top."

Said Chmura: "Brett is Brett. He's a character. He does a lot of things that only Brett can get away with."

Sometimes Favre pushes the envelope, as in his playoff repartee with the Buccaneers' Warren Sapp and the 49ers' Kevin Greene. Coach Mike Holmgren would like to see Favre avoid that sort of thing, but as Favre points out, it's all part of the same personality package.

That's the beauty of his playing style, too. After 1993, when he had 19 touchdown passes and 24 interceptions, he learned how to harness his talent and turn apparent recklessness into an art form. During the past four regular seasons, he has thrown 145 touchdown passes and 56 interceptions while running his streak of consecutive regular-season starts to an astounding 93. On many of those touchdowns, teammates had no idea what he was doing until he was done.

"It's almost like drawing it up in the dirt: Go to the Chevy and take a right and go past the first hydrant," Chmura said. "It's just with Brett you never know. That's a great part of his game--making chicken salad."

Said Winters: "You're blocking and blocking and then you stop and look downfield to see what's going on, to see whether we caught the ball or not. You turn around and see he's way over there and hasn't even thrown the ball yet. Then he starts running back to us and we're like, 'Oh, man!"'

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