CANTON, Ohio – The Packers fans who still have trouble with Brett Favre playing his final two NFL seasons for the Vikings should hear this.
Favre believes playing for an archrival actually made him appreciate his 16 seasons in Green Bay that much more.
Speaking with the media in Canton, Ohio, on Friday, one day before his official induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Favre talked about what it was like to walk out of the Lambeau Field tunnel as an opponent.
He had said before how he never realized, until those showdowns in 2009 and ’10, how difficult it is to be the enemy at Lambeau, and he reiterated that. But he added another sentiment as well.
“I’m thankful I had a chance to witness it from the other side, if that makes sense, because I think I would have taken for granted how special it is to play there,” Favre said. “When I came out as an opponent, I realized, this place is pretty special.”
It’s a special weekend all around for Favre, who’s still processing the honor being bestowed upon him. Putting on the gold jacket for the first time on Thursday night was just the beginning.
Like the appreciation for Lambeau and its fans, and like the Super Bowl XXXI title he won two decades ago, Favre said entering the Hall of Fame will mean more to him sometime down the road. In the moment, there’s so much to take in, it’s hard to grasp it all.
“I get that I’m about to be a member of this exclusive club, but it really hasn’t sunk in yet, and I think that says a lot about the magnitude of what this is,” he said. “It really shouldn’t sink in right away.”
In his 45 minutes with the media on Friday, Favre was equal parts humble and humorous.
One minute he’s wondering how he’s joining a fraternity that includes his childhood hero, former Cowboys QB Roger Staubach, and the subject of his first book report in third grade, former Packers running back Paul Hornung.
“I don’t know if I’ll ever feel like an equal to these guys,” he said. “I understand that I’m one of 300 or so that are in this club now, but I just hold these guys in the highest regards, as it should be.”
The next he’s cracking up the room, saying come Monday he might head back to Mississippi and mow the grass in his gold jacket.
Among many unscripted moments, he remembered how he saw the Raiders players smoking outside their locker room in his first visit to Canton for the Hall of Fame Game back in 1993, and that Matt Hasselbeck was the backup QB who complained the most about never getting to play because Favre never missed a game.
“He was always a whiner,” Favre joked, adding that his backups only half-heartedly clapped when he got up after a big hit because they were always waiting for their chance.
“Quite frankly, when I was a backup quarterback, and I’m not afraid to say it now, every time the quarterback got tackled, I was always hoping he got hurt. Call it what it is. I wanted to play. However I got in the game, so be it. I was never going to lose my spot.”
Favre also candidly admitted he was wrong about the Packers’ ranking, so to speak, within the Hall of Fame. Before the emotional walk through the gauntlet of gold jackets on Thursday night, Favre said he was chatting with the other Green Bay Hall of Famers in attendance, thinking he was adding to the Hall’s largest collection from one franchise.
“I stuck my foot in my mouth,” he said. “It’s the Bears that have more. So we still have a few more to go.”
The current score, with Favre, is Chicago 27, Green Bay 24. He lobbied for Mike Holmgren’s Hall worthiness, but other than that, he can’t do much more now to come out on top of a rivalry he dominated for most of 16 years. It’s safe to say he did his part, though, winning 18 of 20 in one stretch (1994-2003).
Some of those Bears games showcased Favre at his improvisational best, and it’s that penchant for “making plays out of nothing” that Favre believes got him to the Hall of Fame.
“I had no fear,” he said. “Part of me died when I started using my brains more than my talent.”
He’s going to draw on that talent one more time on Saturday night in his induction speech, which he said will convey what his late father Irvin meant to his career, and how choosing his wife Deanna as his presenter was “obvious,” but the remarks themselves will not be planned or practiced.
“My speech will be much like the way I played,” he said. “It’ll be ‘who the hell knows.’ But I say that, not to scare anyone that we may be here until three in the morning, but it worked out fairly well in my career.”
It did indeed.