It was more than a streak. It was a guarantee.
If Brett Favre was on the roster, he would be starting.
That ended Monday as the Minnesota quarterback's NFL-record string of 297 consecutive starts spanning 18 years came to an end because of a sprained throwing shoulder.
The visual of Favre on the sideline in a black Vikings T-shirt and purple watch cap was just another bizarre sight on the strangest of nights. Because heavy snowfall caused the Metrodome roof to collapse, the Vikings played host to the New York Giants at Ford Field in Detroit, NFC North enemy territory on any other day.
The turf was painted to look like a Minnesota home game, complete with colored end zones and a large Vikings midfield logo. Within 90 minutes Monday, thousands of free tickets had been distributed.
Obviously, Favre's streak had to end at some point. And when it did, it gave his peers a chance to reflect on just how incredible an accomplishment it was.
"People ask me to put this in perspective, but there's no perspective. This is uncharted territory," Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young said.
"I've always said in a game where the best athletes in the world are paid an extraordinary amount of money to make sure you don't play two games in a row, it's just unfathomable. I don't want to compare it to Lou Gehrig or Cal Ripken, it's just different."
Peyton Manning now moves to the top of the consecutive-starts list with 205, dating to the first game of his rookie season in 1998.
"Peyton Manning will probably break it, barring an injury, in six years," said Young, an ESPN analyst. "But he'll be doing it differently. … Favre did it in a swashbuckling style."
Favre also found a way to cash in on the end of the streak. Profootballtalk.com noted that shortly after the quarterback was ruled ineligible for the game, his official website began selling autographed footballs commemorating the streak for $499.99 each.
The message on the site read: "The NFL's own Ironman Brett Favre has ended his consecutive starting game streak at 297. Chances are if your under 40 you don't remember a time in the NFL without Brett Favre playing on Sunday. This is a monumental feat especially at the quarterback position."
The footballs are inscribed with what reads like an epitaph: "297 starts 1992-2010."
The NFL's focus on concussion management is having an effect on the game, and the numbers reflect it. According to data obtained by the Associated Press, there were 154 concussions reported from practices and games in the first half of the season, a 21% increase from last season (127) and a 34% bump from the 115 reported over the same span in 2008.
The league sees that as evidence that players and teams are taking concussions more seriously and making more honest assessments of them. Many agree.
"I think it's absolutely encouraging," said Vernon Williams, a neurologist at the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic in Los Angeles. "We've always talked about the most effective way to manage this problem is to have a cultural shift. We know that as the NFL goes, so go colleges, high schools and Pop Warner football.
"The gladiator mentality really predicted that people would under-report concussions. We're starting to see that shift."
Chris Nowinski, a head-injury researcher, said he's similarly encouraged by the NFL's strides, but said there is a long way to go on the issue.
"Some studies indicate we miss nine out of 10 concussions in football," said Nowinski, a former Harvard football player and co-founder of the Sports Legacy Institute, aimed at advancing the study, treatment and prevention of the effects of brain trauma in athletes and other at-risk groups.
"In reality, guys in the NFL can't report every time they are symptomatic because they'd have a hard time staying on the field or getting re-signed."
That said, some teams have shown they are willing to make the hard decisions on sitting out players recovering from concussions. Green Bay, for instance, sidelined quarterback Aaron Rodgers after he was hit hard in the head in the second quarter of the Packers' 7-3 loss to Detroit on Sunday. It was his second concussion this season.
Coach Mike McCarthy, whose team's playoff hopes are in jeopardy, said the Packers will err on the side of caution with Rodgers and might not play him in Sunday's pivotal game at New England.
"We're not going to take any chances," McCarthy said. "No different than on game day. When it became a question, an issue — was he clear, wasn't he clear — we pulled him immediately. We'll always take the high side of caution in these types of situations."
He was tripping
The New York Jets have suspended and fined strength and conditioning coach Sal Alosi, who admitted to intentionally tripping a Miami Dolphins player running down the Jets' sideline during a punt.
Alosi has been suspended without pay for the rest of the season (including the postseason, if applicable) and has been fined $25,000.
"There is no place in the game for this type of behavior and his conduct falls disappointingly short of our expectations for anyone associated with the New York Jets," General Manager Mike Tannenbaum said in a statement released by the team. "I have also reminded all members of the organization with sideline access that it is both a priority and their responsibility to maintain a safe environment."
Alosi was remorseful with reporters Monday, saying he "wasn't thinking" when he extended his knee to trip cornerback Nolan Carroll, who was slow to his feet and limped back to the Dolphins' sideline.
Said Alosi, fighting back tears in a news conference: "If I could go back again, I would sure as heck take a step back."