Let’s make one thing clear.
Brett Favre says he is not out for revenge. This is about justice, and the football field is his court of law on Monday night.
Speaking at a press conference Thursday at Winter Park in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, Favre and Vikings coach Brad Childress stressed "team." The focus going into one of the most important games of one man's career is not about that one guy.
“I will never play for quote unquote revenge," Favre said . "It’s too long of a season…at this stage of my career, it’s definitely not worth doing that.”
Fans are divided. The media has spun this Favre saga in and out of its premature grave, making even the most ardent fan indifferent. The stories just resurface all over again with the hype for this NFL game between the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers becoming one of the greatest sports stories of our time.
And yet, this aging quarterback with a chip on his shoulder claims he doesn't have a score to settle with the team that dismissed him.
So how are fans to perceive what his mindset should be going into this monumental game?
Take a closer look at the word overused by sports writers.
According to Wikipedia, “revenge (synonym vengeance) is a harmful action against a person or group as a response to a (real or perceived) grievance. Although many aspects of revenge resemble the concept of justice, revenge connotes a more injurious and punitive focus as opposed to a harmonious and restorative one.”
You see its negative connotation? This is not some subway shooter with a vendetta. More aptly put, “justice generally implies actions undertaken and supported by a legitimate judicial system, by a system of ethics, or on behalf of an ethical majority.”
Isn’t that more like it? Wikipedia adds, “revenge generally implies actions undertaken by an individual or narrowly defined group outside the boundaries of judicial or ethical conduct. The goal of revenge usually consists of forcing the perceived wrongdoer to suffer the same or greater pain than that which was originally inflicted.”
This sounds exactly like what Favre’s motivation was last year after he was traded to the New York Jets. With this refereed affair, he doesn’t have to take the law into his own hands. He doesn’t need the court of public opinion. The aging future Hall of Famer just needs one win.
Don't be fooled by what Favre says. Just like his former head coach Mike McCarthy, he is playing it down. He says a player has to play with emotion to be successful, but still keep those emotions in check.
“If it doesn’t mean a whole lot to you, you shouldn’t be playing," he stated.
Favre says he is preparing for this contest just like any other game because, “it gives us a chance to go 4-0. So, I can’t look at it any different…it’s one game.”
But he still has something to prove.
Obviously intimating his feelings about his bitter split with the Packers, Favre said, "either you're told you're not the best or you feel that someone is going in a different direction. I think you'd want to, you know, prove that you can still do it."
Despite that mysterious arm injury that hampered the end of a promising campaign in 2008, he’s not washed up. The old gunslinger can still add to his highlight reel. Proof of that came just last Sunday, with the miracle finish against the San Francisco 49ers in his first home game in a purple jersey. You could see it inspired his team and turned many heads.
With a growing legion of believers now in Minnesota, Favre has more chapters to write. And we're just getting to the good part of the story, maybe the climatic or anti-climatic finish.
“I want to play well. I want to lead like I expect to lead,” Favre said. And you can throw away stat sheets, especially if you are comparing his performance by the numbers with Rodgers, who replaced him in Green Bay. Pure and simply, “what matters is winning.”
He won’t need his surgically-repaired arm to propel his team to another victory with Adrian Peterson in the backfield. He just needs to take what his old pals on defense give him. Even if that comes in the form of disguised blitz packages. The veteran will be able to respond in several ways.
If he’s not out for revenge, it shouldn’t be like Jay Cutler’s first game in a Chicago Bears uniform against the Packers. There’s a lesson to be learned there. Don’t force the ball—take the sack if necessary.
You can expect to see the "game manager," as he was in the first two games of the season. The 49ers secondary was an opportunity to open up the passing game. It’s a different situation with his old team.
As for motivation, Favre can find it anywhere. The reason why it is not about revenge, and foremost, would be to put his new team in a position to win a Super Bowl: The ultimate "revenge." If he were about setting records, then a win against the Packers would mean he’s beaten every NFL team.
On the other side of the ball, the Packers might be in it for the wrong reasons. The players over there want to send a message. "There’s a new kid in town" and "you’re not wanted anymore."
The players want to send a message that Rodgers is their man now. But doing it inside the Metrodome? The time to send that message should be next month, when their former golden boy returns home for a visit.
They aren’t thinking about retiring his jersey. Green Bay's defense likely wants to bury it, with him in it. Everyone thinks the Packers will show Favre no love and put him on the turf and try to swipe passes every chance they get.
His game plan would be to not give them that mental advantage by not taking risks. So, if he doesn’t have an axe to grind, the old warrior will play within the confines of the Vikings game plan.
Now, he’s on record intimating he would have liked to stick it to Packers GM Ted Thompson, if he were given the chance last season. He even admitted after being shipped to the Jets that exacting revenge would have been the wrong motivation. He’s had time to reflect and put an awkward year in perspective.
This is a new situation. He holds the cards. He has hope to do something that Thompson deprived him of with that blueprint for the Packers that required rebuilding with younger, moldable talent and lots of cap space he wouldn’t share with free agent talent (like Randy Moss) to make the team better. That same blueprint required scrapping the old quarterback, exiling him like Napoleon to the isle of Elba.
So, if you want to think of Favre as the former Emperor—he’s back. He’d like to rewrite history and not have a battle like Waterloo. The old general has able-bodied troops to support him in his quest to retain control of what was rightfully his.
If the old quarterback prevails, so will justice. Just not now. Not after Monday night or the end of the season.
When the dust settles, he should be ironically grasping the Lombardi trophy with much emphasis.