Thrown for a Loss
Sidelined by a bum elbow, the Packers' Brett Favre is feeling
Even with a nagging case of tendinitis in his right elbow that
threatens to hamper his play well into September and put a crimp
in the Packers' playoff hopes, Brett Favre is much the same
what-me-worry quarterback he's always been. So unconcerned is
the 30-year-old Favre about the condition of his arm that last
Saturday he lay down next to his 13-month-old daughter,
Breleigh, for a nap before leaving for Green Bay's final
preseason game and slept for 2 1/2 hours, nearly making him miss
the opening kickoff.
Favre didn't play in the game, as he hadn't in the two preseason
games before it, and the fact that doctors and coach Mike Sherman
are being so careful with him so close to the start of the season
should be a major concern. A good portion of Favre's game
involves hard throws from all arm angles, sometimes on the run.
On Saturday, with the season opener eight days away, he indicated
that he's not ready to make those passes. "I haven't thrown a
50-yard cross since I got hurt," he said. "The fact is, I'm
As Favre described his month-old injury, he held his right arm
out and rubbed his elbow. "Feel this," he said. The elbow had a
small lump on it. "That's the tendinitis," he said. "When I first
did it, it swelled up like there was a golf ball inside the
In the off-season Favre worked out four days a week and rarely
threw a football except during minicamps. He usually gets
calluses on every fingertip but his thumb once he starts throwing
in training camp, and in July he developed a painful one on his
middle finger that even bled occasionally. Favre changed his
throwing motion ever so slightly to relieve pressure on the
"I'm 99 percent sure that's how I got it," he says. "I know that
subconsciously I was favoring [the finger], and that's when the
elbow started hurting. One day in practice I rolled out and threw
hard to [wideout] Donald Driver, and I felt something pop. That's
when I got the swelling."
An MRI on Aug. 14 revealed the tendinitis but no structural
damage. "It's much better now," Favre said on Saturday as he
gripped a football and tossed it to himself in the air. "Three
weeks ago I couldn't grip the ball. If today were Wednesday, and
I had to start practicing hard, I'd be a little scared to play
[on Sunday]. So I may need another week before I can play."
Sitting out the opener against the Jets would end the longest
starting streak for a quarterback in NFL history--125 games. Even
if Favre, a three-time league MVP, thinks he's fit enough to play
on Sunday, he has doubts about how effective he'll be. "My
release and my arm strength have been what set me apart," he
said. "I've never, ever been afraid of making any throw. I'd get
away with so many things because of my arm. But now...." His
voice trailed off. Then he added, "Eventually something had to
give, the way I play. I ain't made of steel."
That said, it was time for Favre to watch someone else lead his
team. Backup Matt Hasselbeck wrapped up a terrific preseason by
completing 10 of 12 passes for 137 yards and two scores in a
34-33 win over the Browns.
"I know people are saying my best days are behind me," Favre
said. "But I've got a lot more to accomplish in this game. I'll
play again, and I'll play well."
Bear No Butkus Yet
Brian Urlacher's pro career is off to a rocky start. Urlacher,
who at New Mexico not only was an All-America linebacker but also
lined up on occasion as a safety, wideout and return man,
parlayed his versatility into a five-year, $8 million deal with
Chicago as the ninth pick in the draft. The Bears thought so much
of Urlacher that on draft day they installed him as their
starting strongside linebacker. But last week he lost his spot to
According to Chicago coach Dick Jauron, Urlacher was making too
many mental mistakes and getting caught out of position too
often. He wasn't neutralizing tight ends. "I'm struggling a
little bit, and Rosevelt's playing better," a humbled Urlacher
said last Friday after the Bears closed their preseason with a
34-28 loss to the Titans. "In college I basically just had to fly
around. But this game is 90 percent mental for me right now."
Urlacher smiled ruefully when it was mentioned that what had made
him so marketable coming out of college--his versatility--is what
is hurting him. "Playing all those positions was good for the
team and good to showcase me," he says. "But it's bad for me now.
I wished I'd have played linebacker [full time] in college."
Time to Bring Back Slash
One day in late July, at Steelers training camp in Latrobe, Pa.,
Kordell Stewart had a remarkable practice. He hit receivers from
the pocket. He hit receivers on the run. He pointed out mistakes
to young wideouts Plaxico Burress and Troy Edwards. Just before
the end of drills, offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride set up a
trash can on the goal line and had his four quarterbacks line up
at the 45-yard line. The objective in the Hail Mary exercise: Hit
the can or get the ball in it. Going first, Stewart dropped a
rainbow in the can. The other three quarterbacks threw a total of
15 balls but didn't come close.
After practice an observer told coach Bill Cowher that Stewart
seemed to be on his game. "He's having a good camp," Cowher said.
"But let's see what happens when he gets booed at home."
On Monday, after watching Stewart struggle through a preseason in
which he completed only 35% of his passes, Cowher named Kent
Graham his starter. Why has Stewart struggled the past two
seasons? Pittsburgh has tried to make him a classic drop-back
quarterback, which he is not; he can't handle media and fan
criticism; and, says a friend of Stewart's, the quarterback
doesn't think the coaches have supported him as much as they
The Steelers should do Stewart and themselves a favor and go back
to using him in the running-receiving-passing role that earned
him his nickname, Slash, in 1995.
COLOR PHOTO: JOHN BIEVER Favre's tendinitis has made him afraid to try the tough, on-the-run throws that make him dangerous.
Last year Colts wideout Marvin Harrison caught 115 passes, 53
more than any other player on the team. This season quarterback
Peyton Manning would like to spread things around more, with
Harrison, running back Edgerrin James, tight end Ken Dilger and
wide receiver Terrence Wilkins each catching 75 to 90 passes....
The Jaguars pursued Cowboys right tackle Erik Williams hard this
summer to replace the injured Leon Searcy, but talks ended when
Dallas owner Jerry Jones demanded that Jacksonville's
first-round draft pick in 2001 be included in any deal. The
Cowboys don't have a first-round choice next year, having sent
it to the Seahawks in a trade for wideout Joey Galloway....
Ravens tight ends Shannon Sharpe and Ben Coates had such
impressive camps that coach Brian Billick plans to play the pair
in tandem about 50% of the time. "And there will be plays,"
Billick says, "where they'll both line up as wide receivers."...
Survivors: Ronney Jenkins, a rookie free-agent running back out
of Northern Arizona who lost one kidney after a bike accident at
the age of six, fought his way onto the Chargers' roster. In
Green Bay, rookie free agent Herbert (Whisper) Goodman climbed
over a handful of more highly rated running backs to make the
team. Goodman, out of Graceland University in Lamoni, Iowa,
played only one year of high school ball, and that was in
relative obscurity after Hurricane Andrew ravaged his hometown
of Homestead, Fla.