It was Monday night, and Brett Favre was in the spotlight, facing the organization he spent 16 years and won a Super Bowl with.
Favre torched the Packers’ defense for 271 yards and three touchdowns in a 30-23 win. It was the most highly anticipated regular season game ever, and it was a little bittersweet for Favre.
“You can’t take away the 16 years I spent with Green Bay,” Favre said. “But they decided they wanted to move on, and I still wanted to play. I’m not going to lie to you, it was fun to go out there and stick it to them a little bit. I was just happy that we won.”
It’s still a little odd for most Vikings fans to actually see Favre in a purple jersey. He’s always been the player fans loved to hate.
Indeed, Favre led the team to a 6-0 start, a span over which he threw for 1,347 and 12 touchdowns with a quarterback rating of almost 110.
“I’m just here to try and help this team win games,” Favre said.
The majority of fans, whether they’re from Green Bay or Minnesota, have had trouble accepting the fact that he left the Packers and is now playing for their most bitter division rival.
But professional athletes are wired to handle team switches, even if it is to a bitter rival.
“What happened in Green Bay is in the past and it can’t be taken away. People may hate me for it, and they can do that,” Favre said.
What’s been most impressive about Favre so far is his leadership.
He will be in the NFL Hall of Fame, that’s a matter of when and not if. He has stepped in and led the Vikings’ offense in a matter of weeks.
“He stepped into the huddle on Day 1 and was a leader,” said tight end Visanthe Shiancoe. “He took over the huddle right away, and everyone was just really excited. That tells you what kind of player he is.”
It helps that Favre has the opportunity to hand the ball off to Adrian Peterson, one of the best running backs in the National Football League.
Peterson led the league in rushing last year and is currently second in the NFL after five regular season games. He runs the ball with a violent attitude and isn’t afraid to take any defender head on. Instead of running toward the sideline and getting out of bounds, he’d rather lower his head and put a defender on their back.
“I’m an angry runner. I always have been,” Peterson said. “You can’t do anything like that halfway. I want guys to know it’s me that’s running into them, plus I’m just trying to gain extra yards.”
He also has a handshake that can break any normal person’s arm. If he has any weaknesses, it’s hanging onto the ball. Peterson fumbled nine times last year, losing it to the opponent four times and has lost two fumbles in five games so far this year.
“I’m working on that,” Peterson said. “I need to take care of the ball more, value it better. If we don’t have the football, we can’t score.”
His biggest strengths beyond his physicality are his quickness and his speed. He turns the corner as quick as anybody in the league and breaks away from defenses as well as anyone.
“You don’t have too many backs who can score any time they touch the ball, especially in this league,” Favre said. “Adrian is one of the best backs I’ve ever played with. He’s so explosive and can make any play, any adjustment you need him to.”
He also recently said, even after winning a Super Bowl with the Packers, that this year’s Vikings’ team is the best he’s ever played for.
His teammates agree.
“I love having Brett here, everyone does. He’s seen so much in his time. He knows what to expect out there,” Peterson said. “He knows every scheme, every coverage, every blitz. He can tell us what’s coming before it develops. That’s huge.”
Early on, it wasn’t the easiest transition for Favre. He had to get to know his receivers and how they run their routes. He had to get timing down, and even five weeks in, it still isn’t perfect.
“Every week, we’re getting a little bit better,” Favre said. “I’m still getting to know the guys and how they play. Early on, it’s the little things. Getting the ball from the center, making sure the snap count is right, getting the cadence at the line right, simple stuff like that. Once you take care of the little things, everything else takes care of itself.”
The only question now is if Favre’s body can hold up for the whole season. For now, he just loves taking the field on Sunday.
“I get to play football for a living, and that’s fun,” Favre said. “Not a lot of people get to do something they love for a living. This is what I love.”
The Vikings would love to win their first Super Bowl with one of the best offenses in the league, led by a quarterback who, one day, will be enshrined in Canton, Ohio — as a Green Bay Packer.
Jeff Wald is the sports editor at the Northfield News. There, he covers high school, college and some professional sports.