GREEN BAY — Brett Favre was scared.
Sixteen years ago, in October 2002, the legendary Green Bay Packers quarterback left Lambeau Field the same way his successor, Aaron Rodgers, exited on Sunday night — on a cart. After twisting his left knee awkwardly while being sacked by Washington Redskins linebacker LaVar Arrington, Favre left the game early in the third quarter and did not return, riding off to the locker room with ice wrapped on his knee and a towel over his head.
Favre would later admit that it was one of the few times during his NFL-record streak of 297 consecutive starts where he was legitimately worried.
“It’s just kind of a helpless feeling,” Favre recounted after being diagnosed with a partially torn lateral collateral ligament. “Going off the field — which doesn’t happen often — I’m thinking, `Is it going to be three games? Is it eight games? The rest of the year?’
“The way I was bent, I thought honestly my leg was broken. I wasn’t sure when I stood up if my leg was going to be dangling or what. So, I got up and put a little weight on it and I said, ‘OK, at least it’s not broken.’ But I knew something was wrong with my knee. It just didn’t feel right. I knew at that point I couldn’t continue on. And, I mean, it was just scary.
“Ever since I was a little kid, my dad said, ‘Never lay on the field.’ So, I wasn’t going to lay there. But as much as I wanted to stay in, I just knew there was a lot of pain in the knee as well as it just felt loose. And that part of it scared me.
“There’s been times where just for a brief second I’ve almost felt invincible. But I’m very aware that at any point it can be taken away. No one wants to leave because of an injury, but at some point, either you retire or they don’t want you anymore or an injury forces you out. Simple as that. Which one of those is my exit, I don’t know. I’d like for it to be on my terms, but fortunately, especially after looking at the hit, it could have been a lot worse. But what’s to say next time it is(n’t)?“
The Packers had a bye the week after his injury, and he was back in the lineup for his 165th straight regular-season start in a Nov. 4, 2002 win over Miami. There was no subterfuge about whether the NFL’s ultimate ironman would play. He and coach Mike Sherman both said he’d be good to go for the Dolphins.
Perhaps Rodgers, when he does his weekly Q&A session with reporters at his locker today, will make a similar announcement. But for now, he and the Packers are publicly keeping his status for Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Vikings hush-hush.
Appearing on ESPN Radio Tuesday morning, Rodgers retold stories of visiting with the Dalai Lama and swimming with sharks during Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week” and nearly signed off without being asked about his knee. When he was, it was in the context of a couple of cast members wondering about his availability for fantasy football purposes.
“I can’t give fantasy help like that,” Rodgers responded. “I’m sure there are a lot of experts out there who are forecasting things, but we’re taking it one day at a time.”
Asked again if he’ll play against the Vikings, Rodgers would not say.
“One day at a time,” Rodgers repeated. “One day at a time.”
Rodgers injured his left knee Sunday night, when it was smooshed beneath Chicago Bears defensive lineman Roy Robertson-Harris. Like Favre, he tried to get off the field under his own power — “You want to walk off the field on your own, so I was trying to get up there and when I put a little weight on my leg, it was definitely painful,” Rodgers said after the game — before stopping and letting the medical staff examine him.
Unlike Favre, he was able to return to the game — Rodgers said team physician Dr. Pat McKenzie told him that he “couldn’t further injure it at the time” — and wound up completing 17 of 23 passes for 273 yards and three touchdowns (152.7 rating) to erase a 20-0 deficit in the Packers’ 24-23 victory.
Rodgers said immediately after the game he would play against the Vikings, but he was unwilling to say that Tuesday. One person who expects him to play? Favre, who marveled at what Rodgers did against the Bears, raving about the performance during his weekly show on SiriusXM NFL Radio.
“You know, with Aaron, it’s one of those things where you go, ‘Just when I think I’ve seen it all,’ and, ‘The guy can’t get any better,’ he, I don’t want to say proves me wrong, (but) I say to myself, ‘Why would I ever doubt him?’” Favre said.
“When I saw him get hurt, obviously you don’t know. You speculate. When I saw him come back out (after halftime), I knew he would play. And I’ll be honest with you: I didn’t go around the house or call people and say, ‘Oh, this is bad news for Chicago.’ But there was a part of me that said, ‘It’s gone a little too well for Chicago at this point, and everyone’s kind of striking up the band, (but) there’s still a lot of football left.’
“Remember, 12 playing gives you (hope). I don’t care what the rest of the cast is like, to me a great quarterback is one of those guys who can elevate whoever is in the huddle with him and on the sidelines. You just know you got a chance to win no matter what. He has that ability and he’s proven time and time again that he can do that regardless of injury. I mean, the guy’s just good. I mean damn, what else can you say?”
Davis out, Burton in
The Packers claimed cornerback Deante Burton off of waivers from the Atlanta Falcons on and placed wide receiver/kick returner Trevor Davis on injured reserve with the recurring hamstring injury that has been an issue since the offseason. The team also signed cornerback Will Redmond to the practice squad and released safety Marwin Evans from the practice squad.
Burton, who played five snaps on defense in the Falcons’ opener last Thursday night at Philadelphia, is a converted college wide receiver whom the Falcons cut at the final roster reduction, signed to the practice squad and then promoted to the 53-man roster before Atlanta’s loss to the Eagles. The Falcons presumably wanted to get Burton back onto their practice squad if he cleared waivers.
The 6-foot-2, 200-pound Burton spent last season on Atlanta’s practice squad as well after catching 84 passes for 1,085 yards as a receiver at Kansas State.
Davis, who missed most of training camp before taking part in the preseason finale at Kansas City, showed up at Lambeau Field before Sunday night’s game complaining about the hamstring, and coach Mike McCarthy said it became clear after Davis’ pregame workout that he couldn’t play. Running back Ty Montgomery handled kickoff returns and wide receiver Randall Cobb was the punt returner.