I remember Brett Favre four years ago talking about the aches of the game, about how the mornings were the toughest part of his career. The Green Bay Packers quarterback would roll his throbbing muscles out of bed and listen to a chorus of popping joints on that first walk to the bathroom.
Back then, the career contemplation rested with his body, so you figured the subject of retirement was an easy read. After all, this was a guy who played a season with a broken thumb.
Flash forward to Wednesday of this week. Those mornings have changed a little bit. And I believe Brett Favre's career motivation has, too.
"I was taking my five-year-old daughter to school this morning, she goes to kindergarten here [and] we just got talking on the way," Favre said Wednesday. "I always try to pick her brain a little bit and said, Are you ready for daddy to quit football?'"
OK, stop right there. There's more to this story, but let's just pick this apart.
The Packers are dead last in their division for the first time since 1988. The defense is awful, the offense is geared more for ground success than passing, and the star running back has a fumbling problem destined to pop up for the rest of his career. The Packers front office even has conceded they don't know what the direction of the team will be at the end of this year.
So when an uber-emotional player like Brett Favre starts talking about his family and retirement, this is when the topic gets serious. Forget his body and his age. He could throw spirals from a hospital gurney and still break a wide receiver's jaw. But when Favre starts mixing his family into the decision, then looks at a Green Bay team that can't seem to match his competitive juice anymore, what do you think happens?
How about this: You start asking your daughter for retirement advice on the way to kindergarten.
"She knows I play and she knows people want my autograph from time to time, but she hadn't really grasped the whole concept of what's going on," Favre said, continuing his story. "She said, Yeah I'm ready for you to quit playing football, and you can live with us full-time in Mississippi.'
"She's stays up here [in Green Bay] with us, our oldest daughter stays back home [in Mississippi], so it was kind of funny that she said that because I'm with her every night. I said, If I quit playing, there's no more football and no more games and no more cheering.' And she said, No, I'm ready. I'm ready for you to do that.'"
"Sometimes we know if you want the truth, sometimes you ask your kid," Favre said. "But I don't think she really knows."
Or maybe he's just hoping she doesn't.
Woo, boy, it has been a rough go for the controversial super agent duo of Kevin and Carl Poston. Owners of Professional Sports Planning, Inc., the Poston brothers watched star client and San Francisco 49ers linebacker Julian Peterson go down last week with a season-ending Achilles injury. For the Postons, that's the third major client in five weeks to suffer a significant injury. Detroit wide receiver Charles Rogers (broken collarbone) is out for the year, and Cleveland tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. (broken leg) may miss the rest of the season. Two others, Washington linebacker LaVar Arrington and Buffalo safety Lawyer Milloy also have had injury problems.
"There's no joy in seeing players getting hurt, but I'm not crying for [the Postons]," one AFC executive said. "Good luck finding someone who has a sympathetic view of it."
The injuries to their talent stable only has added to a stinging 2004 for the Postons, who have a history of being ripped by NFL general managers for their hard-line negotiating. Among the other highly publicized problems for the Postons in recent months: a contract blunder that could cost Arrington a $6.5 million roster bonus; a public bout of acrimony with the Cleveland Browns over Winslow's rookie contract negotiations; an offseason contract blowup by New England Patriots cornerback Ty Law; high-profile training camp holdouts by Peterson, Winslow, Oakland Raiders cornerback Charles Woodson and St. Louis Rams tackle Orlando Pace.
A bad run? It gets worse.
Pace fired the Postons in September, and the injuries to Peterson and Winslow are threatening to create serious financial havoc. Peterson was playing this season under a one-year contract as the team's franchise player. Now the Achilles injury has wiped out his leverage for a major long-term deal this season, with the 49ers already removing a six-year $37.8 million deal (with a $15.5 million signing bonus) they had offered before training camp. Now it looks like Peterson will be faced with two choices: Take a hit on a long-term deal or sign another one-year contract to prove he can bounce back in 2005 and warrant a big payday.
As for Winslow, he's likely to miss out on a one-time $5.4 million incentive package that was predicated on meeting at least one of 10 very reachable performance bonuses in his contract. But even if his broken leg heals quickly and he returns (we're hearing a miracle could push it to late November), he still is unlikely to meet even the easiest thresholds – taking part in 35 percent of the team's total offensive snaps or catching 41 passes.
Don't expect a flurry of trades when the NFL's deadline comes on Tuesday. The NFL's heavy trade period always will be around the draft and at the end of training camp. Why? Because people are trying to get something for players they are planning to release, and coaches still have time to work players into the framework of a team. But by the middle of October, most players acquired – especially on offense – won't even be versed in their new team's system until December.
As Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Wednesday, "You still have to bring him in, teach him your system, integrate him into the system and the program, and then get him ready to play."
Still, there have been a lot of names thrown about in recent weeks: Oakland's Jerry Rice, Tampa Bay's Brad Johnson, San Diego's Drew Brees, Kansas City's Larry Johnson and Miami's Ricky Williams. Here is one general manager's view of each of those players:
Rice: "Rice doesn't offer any value. I don't think he could crack the top three [receivers] of any likely playoff team. He's not going anywhere unless someone owes a favor and rescues him."
Brad Johnson: "Has to stay. His cap number is way too high and [Tampa] may need him down the line."
Brees: "He's not even available. Where did you get that? That's bogus. [Chargers coach] Marty [Schottenheimer] is probably coaching for his job, and now they've had some results. Putting in a rookie [Philip Rivers] would be like looping a noose around his own neck."
Larry Johnson: "They want a second-round pick, and that's too much. Maybe they would have gotten that in the offseason. But if he had something significant to give on offense, don't you think [Kansas City's Dick] Vermeil would have found a way to get him on the field by now?"
Ricky Williams: "Gimme a break."
It will be interesting to see what the Jacksonville Jaguars do about their recent attendance woes at Alltel Stadium now that the team is on the upswing again. Prior to the season, owner Wayne Weaver was planning to spend this year studying ways to shrink down the 76,000-plus capacity in hopes of avoiding television blackouts. But that was based on the downward spiral of fans that hit an all-time low of 56,213 per game last year – a slide of 17,000 over the previous five seasons.
Weaver vowed to avoid the temptation of ditching the downsizing if attendance rose again this year. Now we'll see if he can stick to that – the 3-2 Jaguars are averaging more than 71,000 in their first two home games and are expected to have similar results when they play the Kansas City Chiefs at home Sunday.
In this space last week, I called Denver Broncos running back Reuben Droughns "ultra-mediocre" and "one of the NFL's worst receivers out of the backfield." My hat goes off to Droughns for going out and rushing for a career-best 193 yards and catching a touchdown pass against the Carolina Panthers. As a colleague told me, "Being wrong sometimes comes with the territory."
Besides, I wasn't the only one caught off guard. When asked about Droughns, Panthers defensive lineman Mike Rucker said: "On Playstation I'd seen him a couple times returning kickoffs. That's all I really know."