Training camps across the NFL will open at various points this week, including the Vikings’ camp in Mankato, Minn., this upcoming Friday.
Of course, Brett Favre will not be there.
Instead, Favre will be infamously mowing his lawn, playing football in the mud (and Wrangler’s) with high school kids, and hemming and hawing about his 2010 plans.
And despite enough Southern charm to sweep Scarlett O’Hara off her feet, Brett’s summer ritual of indecision has rendered him the target of more antipathy from NFL fans than anyone except Michael Vick.
Among the chief complaints trotted out by these detractors is Brett’s observable allergy to training camp—his apparent belief that 18 years of experience and a clear understanding of his physical conditioning is justification enough to show up on his schedule, as long as it’s before Week One.
Following the blueprint laid out by Roger Clemens, the perception is that Favre esteems himself different than the other players, which, to many, is a self-important, conceited way to behave.
Yet I’m not here to weigh in on the ethics of Favre’s tactics.
Is it fair that he gets to play by different rules?
No, it isn’t, but you’ve probably heard before that life isn’t fair.
Some kids are born into privileged lives, are not forced to get summer jobs in high school, are shepherded into Ivy League schools, and—deservedly or not—obtain six, seven, or eight-figure salaries.
When the head of your company takes the private jet for a vacation to the Bahamas, has he earned it?
They play by different rules because they can—the same goes for Brett.
Are there players on the Vikings that resent the fact that Brett gets different rules?
Probably, but there isn’t anything they can do to change it.
At the end of the day, every single player on that roster—save T-Jack and Sage Rosenfels—know they need Brett to take advantage of this opportunity to get themselves a ring.
The bottom line is, Brett has all the leverage here.
While Brad Childress and company surely will tow the company line and pretend that they’ll be just fine with Tarvaris Jackson, they know, you know, and I know, that putting T-Jack behind center instead of Favre is like running your offense through Toni Kukoc rather than Michael Jordan.
Whether Favre's actions—play games through the media, bide his time, and show up when he feels ready—are the right thing to do or not, at least credit him with putting himself in a position of business negotiation in which he has the Vikings by the you-know-what.
Two years ago, the Vikings showed that with average quarterback play, a good defense, and an all-world running back (fumbling troubles and all), they were a good enough team to make the playoffs and flame out.
With Favre, they were on the cusp of their first Super Bowl in more than three decades.
The point is, what you think about Favre’s strategy morally in this situation does not matter, because all parties involved are aware that the Vikings have no good alternative.
Though we can sit here and play protagonist/devil’s advocate about Brett’s resume and if it gives him enough currency to skip two-a-days, we both know we’d be wasting our time.
Favre is going to train on his own for a few weeks, go home to his wife and kids, and show up in Mankato from the second or third preseason game.
He knows he can, so he will.
Perhaps it’s selfish, but it also is what Brett wants.
It might not be ideal leadership, but I can promise you that the entirety of Vikings’ locker room will follow number four after that first come-from-behind, final two minutes, miraculous victory.
And I don’t know about you, but I can’t fault a 40-year-old Hall of Famer for exploiting the circumstances to get a little extra time with his family and a few more nights of sleep in his bed.
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