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Sam Farmer ON THE NFL

Intriguing matchup needs no translation

September 07, 2008|Sam Farmer

Now that he's the starting quarterback of the New York Jets -- a development that would have been inconceivable that day he tearfully retired as a Green Bay Packers legend -- Brett Favre has had to relearn so much of what once was second nature.

New city. New teammates. New playbook filled with new terms for everything.

"You know what I'd do with Brett Favre?" said Rick Neuheisel, who was offensive coordinator of the Baltimore Ravens before UCLA hired him as head coach. "I'd give him tapes of the New York Jets' language. It's like taking German and putting in those little cartridges while you're driving, saying, 'A bathroom is . . . ' "

Never mind the blitz, Favre's summer has been all about Berlitz.

"That's what I had to do with Steve McNair when he came to Baltimore from Tennessee," Neuheisel said. "I'd go, 'What did you call this? What did you call that?' We'd have those conversations."

Seeing Favre in a Jets uniform is foreign for everyone. And his first meaningful test comes today at Miami, when the Dolphins play host to an opener that, over the last month, has gone from dog to doozy.

Because not only is this Favre's regular-season debut with the Jets, but his team is facing the player he nudged out of New York: new Dolphins quarterback Chad Pennington.

And to think that when training camps started in July, the sexiest angle to this game was that it pitted two once-tough AFC East rivals, teams that were a combined 5-27 last season. But last week, the Dolphins had to equip their press box with smaller chairs to accommodate all the media, local and national.

"There's a lot of reasons to want to watch this game," Favre said. "But once the first kickoff takes place, it's all about football, and that's going to be the case all year long."

In a conference call with Florida reporters last week, Favre was asked if he thought his experience would compare to Johnny Unitas' finishing his career with San Diego, or Joe Namath's closing out with the Los Angeles Rams.

"Not really, maybe more so [Joe] Montana with Kansas City," Favre said. "I thought he had a pretty successful run there. Look, if it works out, great, that's what I expect it to do. If it doesn't, so be it.

"But I won't know unless I try, and I still know I can play. The odds are against me. . . . But I'm up for the challenge."

Favre said he knew what he was getting into from the start, "and it was one of those when I looked in the mirror and said, 'Are you ready for this?' And I was."

Pennington didn't have a choice. The Jets released him after signing Favre. That would fuel an urge for revenge in just about any competitive player, but Pennington has tried to downplay that motivation.

"I'd be remiss to say there are no emotions at all," he said. "At the same time, for some reason, my whole focus has been on what we need to do to try to win."

Adding yet another layer of intrigue to this matchup is the fact Pennington knows the Jets so well, and they know him. Weaknesses and vulnerabilities are laid bare on both sides.

In that regard, Favre is somewhat new to it all. He doesn't seem too concerned about that. Asked whether Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer has scaled back the playbook for him, he said: "I don't know exactly, because Schotty hasn't sat down and said, 'Here is the whole playbook. Here is what you've digested up to this point.' I know we've scaled back some.

"I feel comfortable with what we have in. Obviously our team feels comfortable with the plays that I've run. Will they all be perfect? I'd love to sit here and tell you yes, but I'd love to tell you that throughout my career, even with the plays that I've run hundreds of times, but that's never the case, and that's the beauty of football."

Every player understands that. No matter the language.

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sam.farmer@latimes.com

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NFL | Week 1

Thursday's Game

N.Y. Giants 16, Washington 7

Today's Games

Detroit at Atlanta, 10 a.m.

Cincinnati at Baltimore, 10 a.m.

Seattle at Buffalo, 10 a.m.

N.Y. Jets at Miami, 10 a.m.

Kansas City at New England, 10 a.m.

Tampa Bay at New Orleans, 10 a.m.

St. Louis at Philadelphia, 10 a.m.

Houston at Pittsburgh, 10 a.m.

Jacksonville at Tennessee, 10 a.m.

Dallas at Cleveland, 1:15 p.m.

Carolina at San Diego, 1:15 p.m.

Arizona at San Francisco, 1:15 p.m.

Chicago at Indianapolis, 5:15 p.m.

Monday's Games

Minnesota at Green Bay, 4:15 p.m.

Denver at Oakland, 7:15 p.m.

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