GREEN BAY — A future Hall of Fame quarterback donning the uniform of a bitter enemy and coming back to face his old team . . .
Can you imagine?
Troy Aikman can. Because it almost happened with him.
Seven years ago -- back when Brett Favre was firmly entrenched as the leader of the Green Bay Packers -- Aikman, a Dallas Cowboys icon, almost came out of retirement to play for the hated Philadelphia Eagles.
Aikman, now a Fox color analyst who will be in the booth for today's Vikings-Packers game, said nothing he can recall is quite like this homecoming. But he can relate on a certain level. He disclosed to The Times that in 2002 -- after Philadelphia quarterback Donovan McNabb was injured -- he was contacted while broadcasting a game and asked to replace him.
"I was in San Diego working a game, and we did a game-break in the second quarter saying that Donovan McNabb looked like he might have broken his [ankle]," Aikman recalled in a phone interview. "All of a sudden a producer says in my ear, 'Hey, I need you to call somebody at halftime.' I said, 'What?' He had never done that. He gave me a number and said, 'It's Andy Reid.' "
Aikman stepped out of the booth at halftime and called the Eagles' coach, who explained the situation. He wanted Aikman to make a beeline for Philadelphia in hopes that he would be ready to play the following week, in a Monday night game at San Francisco.
"Andy was giving me all the reasons why this would be good, why this would work," said Aikman, who was 35 at the time and had retired from the Cowboys after winning three Super Bowls in large part because of concussion problems.
The Philadelphia situation was all happening too fast for Aikman, who explained to Reid he was in the middle of a broadcast and promised to call after the game. Aikman had plenty of time to chat too, because he and his wife were driving from San Diego to their home in Santa Barbara for a mini-vacation.
When Aikman dialed back Reid, the quarterback said he wanted to sleep on the decision but promised to call the coach the next day.
By the time he reached Santa Barbara, Aikman had a pretty good idea which way he was leaning.
"So I went to bed that night and said, 'I can wake up tomorrow and spend a nice couple of days in Santa Barbara. Or, I can be in frigid Philadelphia getting my brains kicked in,' " he said.
The next day, he called Reid and politely declined the offer. The Eagles did fine without him, reaching the playoffs behind the strong play of reserve A.J. Feeley.
It's notable that Aikman was not at all opposed to the idea of playing for the Eagles, even though there's no love between Philadelphia and Dallas.
"The decision for me not to come back and play had absolutely nothing to do with that," he said. "The reason I didn't go and play for Philadelphia is because I knew that it was just going to be for a few games to end the season. There was no future in it. McNabb was their guy. He was going to come back and play.
"So for me it was, 'Yeah, it would be kind of a fun story and it would be exciting, but where would it leave me when the season ends?' But I didn't weigh my decision on, 'Well, I wonder how the people in Dallas are going to feel.' "
And how would Cowboys' fans have felt?
The people of Green Bay have some inkling.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was named AFC player of the month Thursday, having tallied a sky-high passer rating of 121.7 in October.
Even more impressive than his 12 touchdown passes in a month?
It has been only 12 months since his reconstructive knee surgery.
"The timing of that award couldn't be more meaningful, to me, anyway," said Dr. Neal ElAttrache, an orthopedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine at the Kerlan-Jobe Clinic in Los Angeles. He first performed surgery on Brady on Oct. 6, 2008.
ElAttrache, who keeps in close contact with Brady, said the quarterback is "very upbeat and cheerful," and that experts have told the doctor Brady's throwing mechanics are as sharp as ever.
"The great thing is, he hasn't even peaked yet," ElAttrache said in a phone interview. "They're just getting rolling. It would be wonderful to see what happens in the second half of the season. The whole football skills just seem to be clicking better and better."
How many yards in a Miles?
Dallas receiver Miles Austin insists that he's not the Cowboys' No. 1 receiver, but is it even worth arguing?
He followed a 10-catch, 250-yard performance against Kansas City by rolling up 171 yards receiving against Atlanta.
If Austin hits triple digits against Seattle today, he will join Atlanta's Stacey Bailey (1983) as the only receivers to collect at least 100 yards in each of their first three starts.
Players with the most receiving yards in their first three starts:
*--* Player Team Yards Miles Austin Cowboys* 421 Anquan Boldin AZ Cardinals 378 Marcus Robinson Bears 377 Dave Stief SL Cardinals 361 Mike Quick Eagles 340
*Through two starts. Source: NFL *--*