Favre: king of the hill Packers: Brett Favre is not your typical quarterback: He's a practical joker who talks trash and gets physical with the opponents' toughest players. He's also the most feared and respected leader in the game

Super Bowl Xxxii

January 23, 1998|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

SAN DIEGO -- No practical joke is too low, no goal too high for the Big Cheese of the Green Bay Packers. With Brett Favre, every day is the Mardi Gras, even when he's not in New Orleans.

"We've had people using toilets and Brett's been known to dump buckets of ice water over the stall," said Frank Winters, who not only is Favre's center, but a best pal as well.

Bodacious Brett leads the NFL in touchdown passes and pranks, saving his best work for lavatories and the football field.

Once again, Favre has come to the Super Bowl. Or maybe the Super Bowl has come to Favre. Either way, Super Bowl XXXII is a fitting place for the man who would be king of pro football.

Here's a sampler from his final press briefing before Sunday's showdown with the Denver Broncos.

On knowing what he is capable of: "I'm pretty sure what I can do and can't do. I know my limitations. But they have been exceeded at times."

On his improvisational skills: "When a quarterback gets out of the pocket, some go for the big throw, some go for the slide. I always go for the big play."

Of his personal motivation: "I'd like to be remembered as the best player ever to play the game."

That's a lofty goal for a quarterback drafted in the second round six years ago behind a pair of NFL washouts named Todd Marinovich and Dan McGwire.

But three consecutive league MVP awards constitute a great platform for a Hall of Fame bust, not to mention the 145 touchdown passes he's thrown over the last four regular seasons.

With one Super Bowl ring in the bank, and another seemingly around the corner, Favre is the best player in the NFL at the most important position. Opponents fear him. Coaches respect him. Teammates idolize him.

Listen to Packers fullback William Henderson:

"Brett is pure magic. He will make anything happen that we need to have happen. And when he's under pressure, he makes miracles happen."

Favre has evolved into such a commanding presence on the Packers that no one was surprised when he went jaw-to-jaw with Tampa Bay defensive tackle Warren Sapp, or helmet-to-helmet with San Francisco pass rusher Kevin Greene in the playoffs.

Given the arrival of excitable Denver linebacker Bill Romanowski, Packers coach Mike Holmgren hopes those confrontations are a trend that will cease come Sunday.

"I never like to see him do that, honestly," Holmgren said. "I don't think it does a quarterback any good. Brett is a little different type of player, though, than most quarterbacks that way.

"[Against San Francisco,] as an example, it was good-natured. He and Kevin Greene know each other. The thing with Sapp the week before was a distraction more than anything else. I would prefer that he not talk to anybody."

Opponents treat Favre differently than most quarterbacks, too. Take 49ers linebacker Ken Norton Jr.

"It's strange to see a quarterback with all his intangibles," Norton said. "Most quarterbacks, if you hit them in a head a few times, they get kind of [shaky]. This guy, it turns him on. He's not your average quarterback."

That was pretty much the message Favre brought with him when he was traded to Green Bay by the Atlanta Falcons in 1992. But it took three years -- and a summit meeting with the coach in mid-season 1994 -- to prove the point.

Holmgren had told the still-struggling Favre before the 1994 season that he might play then-Packers backup Mark Brunell "when things are going a little bit crazy." The news was unsettling for Favre. Enough so that seven games into the season, Holmgren re-addressed the issue. "I called him in and said, 'You're the quarterback, you and I are joined at the hip,' " Holmgren said.

"I said, 'We are either going to be at the top of the mountain together or we'll be in the dumpster. But we'll be together, so let's make this thing work.' It makes for a good story because he has been remarkable as a player since."

Said Favre: "I was playing average. I knew I had a ways to go, but I knew I could play. I didn't know if Mike knew that, though. When he told me they'd go as I went, I was a little more secure in my position."

Favre scaled his first peak a year later, when the Packers reached the NFC championship game before falling to Dallas. In the last seven regular-season games, he threw 21 touchdown passes and only two interceptions.

"From that point on, I said, I can play and put up big numbers and win," he said. "Before that, it was a weekly thing [of inconsistency]."

Holmgren and Favre reached the mountaintop together last season with a 35-21 victory over New England in Super Bowl XXXI. Favre threw for three times as many touchdowns (39) as interceptions (13) during the regular season to win back-to-back MVPs.

This season, the changes in Favre's game are subtle outside of a 25-pound increase in body weight, much of it muscle.

"I don't think I'm much different," he said. "I'm a little heavier [up to 237 pounds], but that's about it. As you get a little older and you accomplish some things, you start appreciating them a little more."

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