For Favre, football field a diversion from tragedy

In the past year, Packers QB Brett Favre has lost his father and brother-in-law, and his wife has been found to have breast cancer.

October 30, 2004|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

The last thing any grieving person wants to do is go to work.

But for Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre - who has dealt with more personal tragedy in the past year than any person should have to endure - studying countless hours of film and getting chased by 300-pound defensive linemen has been a much-needed distraction.

"For me, it's kind of like a safe haven," said Favre, who will lead the Packers (3-4) into FedEx Field for a 1 p.m. contest against the Washington Redskins (2-4) tomorrow. "That's when you can kind of let it loose and let your emotions go. ... You still have to deal with those things afterward, but it's kind of a place to vent right now."

Normally, Favre would have spent much of his 20-minute teleconference call with the Washington-area media talking about running back Ahman Green or wide receiver Javon Walker - both of whom lead the NFC in rushing and receiving yards, respectively - or relishing the challenge of meeting the NFL's top-ranked defense.

Instead, the league's version of Iron Man - Favre, 35, is set to start his 197th consecutive game at quarterback, an NFL record - answered numerous questions about his family, his perseverance and his dedication to football.

The past 11 months have been particularly trying for the Favre family. On Dec. 21, his father, Irvin, died of a heart attack. Favre's wife, Deanna, lost her brother, Casey Tynes, three weeks ago when he lost control of his all-terrain vehicle on Favre's property in Mississippi.

And on Monday, the family disclosed that Deanna Favre has breast cancer. She was recently released from a New York cancer center after undergoing a lumpectomy and is expected to make a full recovery after undergoing chemotherapy treatments for about five months.

Throw in a painful sprained right hand suffered in Sunday's victory over the Dallas Cowboys that makes it difficult for Favre to grip a football, and few people would be surprised if Favre - who has two daughters - took a step away from football.

Not Favre.

"I would say right now I expect to play," said the 13-year pro, who has thrown at least one touchdown pass in 32 straight contests and whose passer rating of 93.8 is the fourth-best mark in the NFC. "My concern is always not playing just to play, but I want to play my style of game and not have to worry about it."

Favre has made a living out of rebounding from adversity. The day after his father died, Favre threw for 399 yards and four touchdowns in a memorable Monday night victory over the Oakland Raiders last year.

After breaking the thumb on his throwing hand against the St. Louis Rams on Oct. 19, 2003, Favre returned from a bye week to pass for 194 yards and three touchdowns to help Green Bay beat the Minnesota Vikings.

Four years ago, Favre suffered a badly sprained left foot in a game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers but threw for 301 yards and two touchdowns the next week against the Indianapolis Colts.

"I think [Favre's] character is revealed through the adversity he's faced in his life," Packers coach Mike Sherman said. "He's handled it extremely well and continues to. He's very resilient."

Redskins quarterback Mark Brunell, who spent his first two seasons in Green Bay, marveled at Favre's passion.

"He's had a lot of things with his family the last few years, and it's got to be difficult," Brunell said. "Knowing Brett, [his family is] No. 1. To play football and to be as great as he is and having to go through all of that says a lot about his character."

Still, Favre doesn't want people to think of him as a hero who has overcome tremendous personal obstacles. After all, he's still human.

"I would love to play and the only adversity I face is the opposing defense," Favre said. "The adversity that I and my family have faced not only last year but this year has easily surpassed the adversity that a person would face on the football field.

"It sort of brings things into perspective and prioritizes life in general."

Next for Redskins

Matchup: Green Bay Packers (3-4) vs. Washington Redskins (2-4)

Site: FedEx Field, Landover

When: Tomorrow, 1 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 5/WNAV (1430 AM), WJFK (1300 AM), WJFK (106.7 FM), WQSR (102.7 FM)

Line: Packers by 1 1/2

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