Now, it's the elbow
EDEN PRAIRIE — Brett Favre's latest problem is his elbow.
With the NFL investigating whether he sent lewd photos of himself to a Jets game hostess while he played for New York in 2008, Favre said Wednesday that his cherished, league-record streak of 289 straight starts could be in danger if the pain in his right elbow gets any worse.
The 41-year-old quarterback did not practice with Minnesota on Wednesday, preferring to rest the tendinitis that flared up noticeably on Monday night in the Vikings 29-20 loss to the Jets.
"I don't want to play just to play," Favre said. "It's kind of a funny injury. It could flare up and get worse."
It's even more adversity for Favre this season, which so far has been anything but a repeat of last year's charmed run to the NFC title game. How bad is it? On Wednesday, local TV station WCCO posted video of Favre getting hit in the groin by a stray football during a warm up before practice started.
Commissioner Roger Goodell said on Tuesday there is no timetable for completing an investigation into a Deadspin report that Favre sent inappropriate messages and photos to Jenn Sterger in 2008.
And the Vikings are off to a 1-3 start heading into what they call a must-win game against Dallas on Sunday.
"I don't rank them," Favre said on Wednesday when asked how the allegations measure up to other issues he's dealt with in his career. "I'm thrilled to be here and have an opportunity to lead this team to the Super Bowl. ... There's still a lot of football left. I feel very confident in a lot of ways.
"You go through different things in your life. Football is a very tough sport, mentally and physically. Last year was great. Almost too great. But I woke up this morning and was very eager to get over here. Moreso than last year at this time, to get this back on track. I feel confident that (the team) will right itself in the end."
In 20 years in the NFL, Favre has been through tough times before.
From his addiction to pain killers early in his career, to his wife being diagnosed with breast cancer, and through the death of his father, Favre has always managed to keep his focus on the game, often delivering some of his best performances along the way.
"I think he's really handling it well. I really do," said Vikings kicker Ryan Longwell, a close friend of Favre's from their days together in Green Bay. "The guy is so resilient and has his priorities straight, and I think in the midst of a tough, tough situation, across the board, I think he's handled it really well."
Favre said on Wednesday that it was his elbow, not the investigation, that hampered him against the Jets.
He completed 14 of 34 passes and grabbed his arm several times as he tried to rally the Vikings. He threw three touchdowns in the second half, but also sealed their fate with an interception that was returned for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter.
Coming off the most accurate season of his career, Favre missed several wide open receivers on throws "that I could have made blindfolded" were it not for the pain in his elbow.
"You're not going to make every throw but I would have made some of those throws," Favre said.
He insisted yet again that the allegations from a Deadspin report played no factor in his performance. Favre said his preparation and focus "may even be better" now than it's ever been.
Vikings coach Brad Childress said he's "worried about both" Favre's physical condition with the elbow injury and his mental state with the investigation ongoing. But he also said that he feels that way about all of his players after the slow start for a team that began the year with Super Bowl aspirations.
"I am not overly concerned about where he's at with whatever he's got going on in his life," Childress said. "I don't mean to minimize it. It is what it is. But I see a guy that is here ready and prepared and doing the work. I don't see ill effects from that."
His teammates are rallying around their leader, the man they prodded to return for one more run at a title.
"I respect the guy so much, and I've seen him go through a lot over the 14 years we've been together," said Longwell, who was one of three Vikings to visit Favre in Mississippi in August. "And certainly we realize he stuck out his neck for us when we went down there and we certainly are not going to turn now at this point."
The Vikings host the struggling Cowboys on Sunday and then have games at Green Bay and at New England to finish a brutal four-game stretch.
Favre said he will "be smart" with his practice reps this week to rest his elbow as much as possible, all while trying to quickly forge a connection with new receiver Randy Moss.
He feels "very good about the preparation" this week to face a desperate Cowboys team that needs a win as much as the Vikings do.
As for the investigation, said Childress on Monday night: "We can't afford to have it carry over the rest of the season."