In skid, Favre won't check off NFL: A risk taker by nature, Packers quarterback isn't one to let a few interceptions change his game plan.

October 22, 1998|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

When Brett Favre was about 8 years old, he and his brother started feeding cookies to three alligators living in a river that surrounded his home on three sides in Kiln, Miss.

The alligators liked the cookies so much that they'd climb out of the river and go to Favre's house to get the cookies when Favre came home from school.

This went on for several weeks until his father, a high school football coach, came home one day to find his sons trying to turn the alligators into pets. His father stopped that by shooting the alligators.

"He was either going to shoot them or us for doing that," Favre said.

Favre and his brother denied they had been feeding the alligators and his skeptical father let it pass.

But that was hardly the last time Favre's reckless nature would get him in trouble.

He pretty much lived his life on the edge, on the NFL field going from the highs of a Super Bowl triumph to the lows of throwing nine interceptions in the last three games.

Favre, 29, who will take on the Ravens' defense Sunday at Lambeau Field, will probably never be a wily old veteran. Once a gunslinger, always a gunslinger.

His coach, Mike Holmgren, said: "I think he'll never lose the fiery, competitive side of him that will occasionally allow him to take chances. In the last few years, that's been a good thing for us. I think in the last three games, we've been too reckless. He knows that."

Not that Holmgren wants him to be too careful.

"He can never lose that part of him that makes him really great," he said.

Said Favre: "If I haven't changed any in eight years, I don't think I'll change any in the near future. The way I play the game, it makes Mike pull his hair out."

He added, "I could play 30 years and never conquer this game. It just ain't that easy."

Favre's life off the field has been as much of a challenge as his life on it.

He almost died when he was 10 months old, when he found some medicine and swallowed 15 Percodans and had to be rushed to the hospital to get his stomach pumped.

"Brett's the kind of kid you would kick out of kindergarten," his first NFL coach, Jerry Glanville, once said.

That prompted Favre's kindergarten teacher to write the local paper to say that he was a model student. Favre said he once went to school 10 years without missing a day.

That's Favre. There's also a serious side to him.

In his senior year in high school, an African-American girl was running for homecoming queen. When he heard some of his teammates saying they shouldn't vote for the African-American, he told his teammates they knew she was a good person and suggested they vote for her. She won.

On the other hand, he once lodged a BB gun under his brother's chin and pulled the trigger. He thought it was empty. It wasn't and his brother had a BB lodged in his chin.

He had mononucleosis as a sophomore in high school, got the last scholarship to Mississippi State when another player passed on it. He was the seventh quarterback on the depth chart. One of the players ahead of him was named Michael Jackson. The same one who now plays for the Ravens.

It wasn't long before Favre's arm won him the job and Jackson became his favorite receiver and good friend.

Life was good going into his senior year when Favre, as he likes to say, got into a head-on collision with a tree and the tree won. He was speeding when his car went off the road. He suffered a fractured vertebra, a lacerated liver and lost 30 inches on his intestine.

He wasn't drafted until the second round by the Atlanta Falcons. He sat around for a year before Green Bay general manager Ron Wolf traded for him. He then hooked up with Holmgren and became a Super Bowl-winning quarterback.

Favre, being Favre, it wasn't that simple. He had a seizure in a hospital in 1996 while undergoing surgery for bone chips in his ankle. That scared him enough to finally go cold turkey and beat his addiction to painkillers.

The NFL got involved and decided he should go into rehab. He did and when he came out, he predicted he'd win the Super Bowl and he did.

But he lost last year's Super Bowl and now has lost back-to-back games to Minnesota and Detroit.

Favre said, "All our guys know it's not won and lost by one guy."

But as Favre goes, so go the Packers.

Bill Ford Jr., the Lions vice chairman, recently said, "You can't overestimate the importance of a quarterback. If you look at Green Bay's roster, without Brett Favre, it becomes rather ordinary."

If Favre is going to break out of his slump, he couldn't pick a better time than this week. The oddsmakers have made the Packers a 10 1/2 -point favorite over the Ravens -- the biggest spread of the week.

The one time the Ravens have faced a quality quarterback this year, they gave up 376 passing yards to Mark Brunell of Jacksonville.

Favre also victimized cornerback Rod Woodson when he was in San Francisco in a playoff game in January, although Favre insists he didn't target Woodson.

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