Following a brief hiatus, it is back to the NFL.
You might think that the Superbowl marks the end of the hard work for NFL teams, that they kick back, put their feet up and take a hard earned rest until the pre-season games begin in August. Not a bit of it. Most teams are already back in training, plus we are well and truly into Draft season, where mindless speculation rules supreme.
The big story over the last few weeks, though, has been the retirement of Green Bay Packers’ quarterback Brett Favre. For the last few seasons, Favre has played a ‘will he or won’t he?’ game with the media, his teammates and his family. It had almost become a tradition: season ends, Favre announces he might not be back next season, Favre goes on holiday, Favre hosts charity golf tournament, Favre calls press conference to announce he’ll play on for one more year.
This season was different. Favre had his best season in years. The Packers almost reached the Superbowl (ironically bowing out on a Favre interception) and on the way he broke just about every record in the book – career touchdowns, passing yards and (as he will forever be reminded) interceptions among them. So, needless to say, at the end of the season he came straight out and announced that he wasn’t coming back.
In fairness, the man hasn’t missed a game in 17 seasons. He played the night after his father died and with injuries which would’ve had lesser men in bed, whimpering. He even played through a significant substance abuse problem in the late-90s. The fact is, though, the game was getting harder for him. Whilst he could still make extraordinary plays – witness his underhand flick pass for a touchdown in the play-offs – and his arm remained as strong as ever, he was finding that he had to begin work for the next game as soon as one finished, thus reducing the time he could spend with his family. Even for him, this was too much.
The Packers now have an interesting problem. It is great to have a key player who makes 275 consecutive starts (the third most in history), but when he retires, how do you replace him? They have taken the bold gamble of sticking with Favre’s long time back-up, Aaron Rogers, but it means that they will start the season with, effectively, a rookie behind center and, unless they make some sort of move pretty soon, only the equally inexperienced Craig Nall as backup. It could be an interesting season at Lambeau Field.