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Favre wants to lay low, but that's not an option

October 04, 2009|Dave Campbell | Campbell writes for the Associated Press.

EDEN PRAIRIE, MINN. — Even for a team that has produced the Purple People Eaters, Fran Tarkenton, Randy Moss and now Adrian Peterson, Brett Favre is probably the most famous player to ever put on a Minnesota Vikings uniform.

Sustained success, a unique style, record-setting durability, an engaging personality and a Super Bowl victory caught the sports world's attention. Repeated waffling over retirement and a falling out with his former team during an age of around-the-clock reporting and an oversaturated media marketplace only exaggerated his larger-than-life image.

So no matter how much Favre has tried to shrug off the significance of facing the Green Bay Packers this week, he'll never be able to minimize his place in the spotlight.

"I don't think about it," he said Thursday. "I don't go home and watch TV, read the papers. I usually help with homework, and then we went to the movie yesterday. I usually lay low."

How did that work out?

"We went to a 4:15 movie, so there weren't too many people there," Favre said.

He's been fitting in fine here, with the Vikings off to a 3-0 start and Favre's infamous interception total at only one. He's thrown five touchdown passes, including that last-second fling to the back of the end zone that beat the San Francisco 49ers last week.

"He's on TV all the time, he's doing this or that, and everybody's watching his every move, but he seems like a normal guy to me," Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway said. "Just a country guy who likes to kind of lay low, but I don't think anybody's going to let him."

No, that won't happen.

Not this week.

Not with all the history between these teams.

Not when the game is on Monday night.

Not with the unresolved tension between him, the Packers and their fans.

"I don't know how you would put yourself on the outside looking in when you play 16 years in one organization and now have a chance to play them again," Vikings linebacker Ben Leber said. "When we played San Diego a couple years ago it was a big game for me, and I was only there for four years. So I couldn't imagine when you multiply that by four and what the impact is, what he's feeling like. I know that we're all behind him as much as we can, and we're going to go play as hard as we can."

First things first, though.

"I know that we want to go out and fight for Brett and get a win for him, but at the same time we want to be 4-0," Leber said. "It's been a huge motivation for us to be 4-0 and just keep this streak going. That's our main concern."

Favre's a natural storyteller whose southern drawl helps put him at ease on the podium. Despite his stated preference for a quiet off-the-field lifestyle, his words and actions over 18-plus seasons have helped increase the scrutiny whether he's realized it or not.

This week, though, he looked a little uncomfortable at his regular news conference as the inevitable subject of the Packers came up. On a conference call with Wisconsin reporters, Favre fumbled through some tough questions about his motivation for returning this season and the revenge factor against his former team, something he helped raise through past interviews.

His self-deprecating side came out, too.

"Believe me, I'm to blame like anyone else for saying things that you end up later doing," Favre said, referring to his two-time unretirement. "It's just that mine gets publicized all the time."

As for whether he's had communication with former teammates and coaches during this eventful week . . .

"I haven't had any. That will probably come out that Favre doesn't communicate with anybody anymore," he said, noting that former teammate Frank Winters often teased him about not calling back people. "I'm pretty lame when it comes to communication. Of course I get a bad rap for that too, but that's a different story."

Adding to the drama surrounding Favre's arrival with his former rival is a division that looks stronger than it has been in a long time. Last week, all four teams were victorious for just the second time since the league realigned in 2002 and created the new NFC North. Week 10 in 2005 was the only other instance.

The Detroit Lions already are a little better after going winless last year. After a bad first game against Green Bay, Jay Cutler and the Chicago Bears bounced back with consecutive victories behind a strong passing attack. The Packers are 2-1, too.

The Vikings are the reigning NFC North champions with more than enough talent to repeat, but that's no easy feat with all the others out to get them. Perhaps this is part of Favre's reluctance to reveal his true feelings about facing his old team, or reflect more deeply on the irony of participating in Monday night's game at the Metrodome from the other side.

"Obviously everyone else is excited about it," Favre said. "Not that I'm not excited. But this is one game. It's a big game. It's a division game. And one that we hope to go 4-0 with."

Ryan Longwell, who crossed the border far less ceremoniously when he signed with the Vikings in 2006 after nine seasons as the kicker for the Packers, prioritized the same way. He didn't shy from heeding the hype, though.

"It was a rivalry before Brett or I got involved," Longwell said. "With him being such a long-tenured guy and really putting the franchise back on the map, then coming over here, it's certainly fun and adds an element to it."

It's quite the highlight, whether Favre fully embraces it or not.

"When I watch film of the Packers during the week this week, it's not like it seems that odd to me," he said. "It doesn't. It makes for a good story for everyone else. But we're focused on the team here. We talked about that this morning, and that's important every week. We let everyone else make the game bigger. Every game is big that we play in. It's just another game."

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