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Inside The NFL


Quittin' Time?
Finding it harder than ever to leave Mississippi each year, Brett
Favre is starting to seriously ponder retirement

On the day Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre had to leave his
beloved house and 460 acres in Hattiesburg, Miss., to report to
training camp by 7 p.m., he began to think this might be his last
camp. As a private plane stood by at a nearby airstrip for the
2 1/2-hour flight to Green Bay, he was sweating a stream while
edging a mile of his property where it meets the road, refusing
to leave until the job was done. He finished just after noon and
jetted off, reluctantly, at two.

"I think about retirement a heck of a lot more than I used to,"
Favre said last Thursday night in Green Bay. "I miss home. I know
it's nuts, but [coach] Mike Sherman told us today he was giving
us Saturday and Sunday off this week, and the guys were all
excited. All I could think was, I wish I could be on my lawn
mower back home."

Favre's homesickness should probably be of little concern to the
Packers, whose prospects are the brightest they've been since
back-to-back Super Bowl appearances in 1997 and '98. Second-year
wideout Robert Ferguson told Favre last week that even though the
quarterback had been in the league forever (this is his 12th
season, actually), he still works like a rookie. Said Sherman,
"The way he competes in practice sets the bar incredibly high for
the rest of the players."

Favre turns 33 next month. He has a Super Bowl ring, three MVP
awards, a top 10 standing in every major statistical category for
quarterbacks and the record for most consecutive starts (157) by
one. For the first time in several summers, he has no pain
anywhere. He is 14 touchdown passes from leapfrogging John Elway
(300) into third place on the alltime list. It's conceivable that
if Favre were to play five or six more years, he'd break every
big quarterback record.

"People tell me, You could shatter this record, that record,"
says Favre. "Shoot, if I thought like that, I'd be playing for
the wrong reason. I don't play football to pass Dan Marino. I
play to compete and win. That's why I've been successful. If I
were basking in what I've done, there'd be a lot to bask in. But
I don't care. When the season's over, it's over. I don't golf and
talk football. Never."

Favre still likes his job, and he talks excitedly about piloting
a very good team with some new weapons. Gone are receivers Bill
Schroeder and Antonio Freeman, who accounted for 105 catches and
15 touchdowns last year. In are former Patriots malcontent Terry
Glenn and silky first-round pick Javon Walker, who's destined to
be a star. "I think we're as good as we were in our Super Bowl
years," Favre says. "You know how this league is. We could win
the Super Bowl again, or we could go 8-8. But I do think this
year we've got a real chance to win it all."

Favre enters this season thinking there will probably be a 13th,
but after that, who knows? He doesn't. And he's not going to
worry about it until he's back on the tractor next winter in

Randle El's Conversion
Former QB Is a Potent Wideout

Some rookie receivers dream of following in the footsteps of
Jerry Rice. Antwaan Randle El dreams of following in those of
Corey Patterson, centerfielder for the woebegone Chicago Cubs.

Randle El was a star high school centerfielder in Chicago and was
the Cubs' 14th-round pick in 1997. But he attended Indiana on a
football scholarship, a decision that wasn't entirely his. "Mom
said no to baseball," says Randle El. "Sometimes when I watch the
Cubs, I say, 'I could be playing right there, in centerfield.'
One thing would have been tough: hitting the curveball. But I
could track that ball down in centerfield."

He proved that at Pittsburgh's training camp this summer. The
Steelers had enough faith in the athletic ability of the 5'9",
191-pound Randle El that they chose him in the second round of
April's draft, intending to turn the former college quarterback
into a wide receiver. He tore up training camp, earning the slot
receiver job and forcing the trade of former first-round wideout
Troy Edwards to St. Louis last week.

Randle El scored three preseason touchdowns, one on a 32-yard
reverse at Washington. He was fluid and natural catching the
ball, making the hardest parts of the receiving game--such as
adjusting on the deep ball when it's thrown over the wrong
shoulder--seem simple. "Once I made up my mind to be a wide
receiver, it was easy," he says.

He gives the Steelers two former college quarterbacks--Hines
Ward is the other--whom offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey can
use to wreak havoc on defenses. "You watch," said tight end Mark
Bruener. "One day you'll see Hines, Antwaan and Kordell
[Stewart] lined up in the backfield at the same time. The
defense will have no clue how to play against that."

Robert Edwards's Comeback
A Fish Back In Water

Forty-three months. That's how long it's been since former New
England running back Robert Edwards leaped to make a play in a
beach football game in Hawaii and landed awkwardly on his left
leg, tearing all the knee ligaments, stretching a nerve and
slicing the artery that supplies blood to the lower leg. While in
recovery the doctor told him, "If you had been 15 minutes later
getting to the hospital, I would have had to amputate your leg."
Football was out of the question.

Last Sunday, after three major surgeries and two aborted
comebacks with New England, Edwards made it back to the NFL. He
survived Miami's final cut on Sunday and will be a backup
running back and special teams player. Lest you think this is
some charity case, check the video from Miami's final preseason
game, when it took three Bears to corral Edwards after a short

"My story is an illustration of believing that miracles do
happen," says Edwards. "You can't let negative thoughts cloud
what you do. There were plenty of times when I woke up in the
morning and thought, Why am I doing this? I have no chance of
playing. But I just refused to believe that I would fail."

When he discovered Sunday afternoon that he had made the
Dolphins' roster, Edwards did not celebrate. "I can't let it end
here," he said. "Just making the team can't be the end of this
story. I can still be a great back in this league."

Curtis Martin's Big Payday
Just Don't Take It All to the Bank

Last week the Jets signed Curtis Martin to an extension that,
with options, is worth $46 million over eight years. Not
surprising, considering that the 29-year-old Martin is 17th on
the alltime NFL rushing list after his first seven seasons,
amassing more than 1,150 yards each of those years. (He's only
the second player who's done that.)

Martin, 5'11" and 210 pounds, has lost only four games to injury
in his seven seasons, but it would be an upset if he remains
healthy enough to play out the contract. The Jets, mindful of
that, inserted a clause in Martin's contract that will compel him
to pay back a portion of the money if he suffers a career-ending

The End Zone

There hasn't been a player named Rocky in the NFL since 1987,
when the Jets employed tight end Rocky Klever. But last Friday
night Tennessee rookie linebackers Rocky Calmus and Rocky Boiman
combined on a fourth-quarter tackle of Green Bay fullback Chris
Gall. When the Titans announced their final cuts, both Calmus and
Boiman survived.

Read Peter King's Monday Morning Quarterback every week on

COLOR PHOTO: AL TIELEMANS Favre could hold almost every quarterback record in a few years, but he says he doesn't care about stats.

COLOR PHOTO: AL TIELEMANS Randle El (82) has gone from centerfielder to quarterback and now to Steelers wideout.


Bowing to NFL pressure, the Jets have decided not to hire
78-year-old Tony Veteri, a former NFL official, as the team's
instant-replay adviser (SI, Sept. 2). Veteri would have
communicated with New York's assistant coaches during games,
advising them when to challenge calls using the NFL's
instant-replay-appeal system. But the Jets withdrew their job
offer after the NFL expressed concern that Veteri would have
access to inside information as a former official and that his
hiring would inhibit the way officials are assigned to games,
because his son, Tony, is a head linesman.... The Patriots set a
dubious record last year: worst offensive efficiency in the
playoffs of any Super Bowl champ. They scored touchdowns on only
three of 37 drives. In replacing five of their top seven
receivers (the new arrivals are tight ends Christian Fauria, Cam
Cleeland and Daniel Graham and wideouts Donald Hayes and Deion
Branch), they've totally overhauled their passing game. The Pats
did finally show signs of passing life in the preseason finale,
when Graham and Fauria combined for six first-half catches for 55
yards.... Baltimore signed the undrafted and virtually unscouted
Will Demps from San Diego State to fill out its training-camp
roster at safety, the fifth of six rookie safeties to come to
Ravens camp. Now he's earned the starting strong safety job.
"Will didn't come off our draft board," said coach Brian Billick.
"He came off our leper board."... Tennessee defensive end Kevin
Carter, who went from NFL sack leader in 1999 to a pitiful two
sacks in 16 games last year, tried something really different
this off-season to improve his flexibility and increase his
vigor: yoga. "It's made all the difference," Carter said. "Look
at how I move now."