The Packers list Brett Favre as questionable for the game Monday, but Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren has his doubts.
Oh, not about Favre or the injured nerve in the quarterback's right elbow. Holmgren questions the whole idea that Favre is anything other than certain to play Monday at Qwest Field.
"I would bet the ranch he's going to play," Holmgren said.
Favre always does, after all. He hasn't missed a game since becoming Green Bay's starter Sept. 27, 1992. It was the fourth game of Holmgren's first season as the Packers coach. Matt Hasselbeck was in high school, Seahawks rookie defensive end Darryl Tapp was 8 years old, and Favre was a second-year NFL quarterback getting his first big break. He has started every game since, making him the closest thing the NFL has to a mailman. Neither sleet nor sprains nor snarling linebackers will keep him from his delivery schedule.
"It's one of the more remarkable things in sports history," Holmgren said. "It's got to be."
The streak spans 14 years and 231 games, including the playoffs, and Favre doesn't expect to miss the game Monday despite being knocked out last week against New England. He was hit in the nerve in his right elbow and lost feeling in his ring and pinky fingers.
"At this point, I feel confident I'll be OK," he said Wednesday.
Green Bay @ Seattle, 5:30 p.m.
He suffered a separated shoulder in 1992 and not only played the next week, but passed for two touchdowns in a comeback victory in the game he was injured. He sprained an ankle so badly in 1995 that he couldn't practice all week, then went out and passed for a career-high five touchdowns against Chicago.
Favre's right hand was so swollen in 1999 he kept holding a football on the sideline so he wouldn't lose his ability to grip it during a game in Detroit. Favre sprained his left foot in 2000, spending a week on crutches before playing against the Colts.
"He had a size-13 shoe on the left foot by game time, and like a size 15 on the right," said Hasselbeck, then a backup quarterback in Green Bay. "Not only did he play, but he played well. He was unbelievable. He threw a touchdown underhanded."
Cal Ripken Jr. played 2,632 consecutive games to set baseball's record with a streak that lasted 16 years. But Ripken didn't have 300-pound linemen who would love nothing better than to use his arm as dental floss. Favre has stood tall in the pocket, as reliable as a sunrise and steady as a statue.
"You think of Cal Ripken Jr. and what he did, and then this is beyond that," Hasselbeck said. "The guy hasn't missed a game ever."
If Favre starts Monday, he will double what had been the record before he passed it, 116 by Ron Jaworski. The NFL record for consecutive starts at any position is 270, set by defensive end Jim Marshall, who played in Cleveland and Minnesota.
When Favre left the game Sunday against New England, it was only the sixth time in his career he was unable to finish a game because of injury. He was hit in the elbow while being tackled, and it wasn't the pain that got the best of him so much as the absence of it. He couldn't feel the ball in his hand, and acknowledged Wednesday the feeling hasn't returned to his ring and pinky fingers.
"It feels like the fingers are asleep," Favre said. "There's feeling, but it's kind of a tingling type of feeling."
Favre said he just has to wait for the feeling to return, but he expects to be ready to play Monday.
"As far as the pain goes, it's as minor an injury I have had to even question whether I would play," Favre said.
Favre became the Packers' starter when Don Majkowski suffered a sprained ankle. He entered the lineup as a quick fix and became a fixture. Twenty-one of the league's 32 teams have started at least 10 quarterbacks since then. The Bears have used the most, 20, and the Seahawks have had 12. But at least three things are the same today as they were in September 1992: the president's first and last name and Favre's status as a starter.
Where does Favre rank the streak on his list of career achievements?
"I would say first," Favre said. "I think it's an unbelievable thing to play that many games, but I think more than the fact that I played in every one of them physically, you have to play at a high enough level for them not to replace you."
He does have protections the league affords a quarterback. Don't hit him late, don't hit him with the helmet or on his head, and now defenders are forbidden from hitting low if they can help it. There's a noticeable trend in those rules, which is that the quarterbacks seem to be getting hit quite a bit.
"It's the only position on the field when you can almost guarantee he's never going to get to lay a hit on anybody," Seahawks defensive end Bryce Fisher said. "He's only going to be the receiver of hits."
Favre has avoided the kind of injuries that would make the question of toughness moot. Guts doesn't get you through a damaged knee ligament. Grit doesn't get you by on a broken bone. His backup this year, Aaron Rodgers, couldn't even make it to a start without going down. He suffered a broken foot Sunday and won't play again this year.
"I think it says a lot, his backup gets in for a little bit and now he's out for the year," Hasselbeck said.
Football is full of those freaky plays. When Favre was hurt last week, he thought it was from being struck on the elbow by a cast worn by one of the Patriots defenders. And the surprising thing isn't that it happened, but rather it hasn't happened more often, considering the amount of time Favre has spent in an opponent's crosshairs.
"You would think that just normal every-day life, you'd trip and fall or something and miss a game," Favre said. "Or catch the flu. Something would happen, but up to this point, I've survived."
More than that, he has thrived.
Danny O'Neil: 206-464-2364 or firstname.lastname@example.org
|Brett Favre's string of consecutive starts isn't just the most by a quarterback in NFL history, it's more than five years longer than anyone else:|