‘Broadway’ Brett takes stage for opening New York act
Posted: Saturday, August 9, 2008 6:55 pm
By: By TOM WITHERS, AP Sports Writer
CLEVELAND (AP) — Stepping down from the dais after a news conference where he didn’t shed a single tear, Brett Favre squeezed the green No. 4 jersey in his hands.
Before the door to New York’s locker room was shut, the Jets’ new quarterback was asked one final question.
“Brett, is this a one-year commitment?” he was asked.
“We’ll see,” Favre said.
Goodbye, Green Bay. Hello, Gotham.
Favre closed a summer of discontent and opened a new chapter in his Hall of Fame career on Thursday by joining the New York Jets, who stunned the NFL by outbidding the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and trading a future draft pick to the Packers for the 38-year-old superstar.
One of the toughest to ever line up under center, Favre showed the slightest bit of anxiety about leaving the Pack after 16 seasons.
“To a certain degree, I don’t know what I’m getting into,” he said.
Favre brings instant relevance to the Jets, who went 4-12 last season and haven’t had a quarterback of his stature since Joe Namath ruled Manhattan more than 30 years ago.
Favre, though, isn’t trying to match Joe Willie.
“I’m here for one reason. Not to do commercials, Broadway all those things,” Favre said before the Jets rallied to beat the Browns 24-20 in their exhibition opener. “I’m here to help the Jets win.”
The three-time league MVP is expected to practice with his new teammates for the first time on Saturday, but there’s plenty to do before taking the field.
On Friday, Favre will be welcomed to New York by Mayor Michael Bloomberg during a morning ceremony at City Hall. Then, he’ll begin devouring the Jets’ playbook, which will have different terminology than the one in Green Bay he knew so well. Favre even joked that he’s looking forward to his first conditioning test after being away from football longer than he has since high school.
“I’m a little out of shape, compared to the other guys,” he said. “The last 24 hours have been crazy. This offseason has been bizarre. But I’m excited by this opportunity.”
As for New York and all its trappings, Favre says bring it on.
“I know how tough it can be,” he said. “And I know how great it can be in this city. Am I ready to face it, handle it, deal with it? I think so. I think it’s a great opportunity. It can be as good as you want to make it.”
Five months after a tearful goodbye, Favre, who won a Super Bowl title and set all sorts of records before his acrimonious split with the Packers, is starting over. He’s now part of a rebuilding Jets team which has been reduced to second-stringer status in New York behind the Super Bowl champion Giants.
Dressed casually in cargo shorts, a gray T-shirt and new white baseball cap bearing a green “NY” logo, Favre capped a whirlwind day and arrived at Browns Stadium a little after 6 p.m.
On his way to the Jets locker room, he recalled a few previous visits to Cleveland with the Packers before meeting with New York coach Eric Mangini, who is a year younger than his new QB.
Favre was then joined by Jets chairman and CEO Woody Johnson and general manager Mike Tannenbaum. During his drawn-out divorce with the Packers, Favre said he had been reluctant to speak with Tannenbaum because he was certain the GM would be able to sell him on joining the Jets.
Before the Jets received the opening kickoff, Favre and his new backup, Kellen Clemens, talked briefly on the sideline. Favre clutched a card containing New York’s offensive sets and after each snap, he discussed what transpired with quarterback Brett Ratliff, who in an instant went from raw rookie to teaching one of the game’s greats.
Following a delay for lightning, Favre and Clemens played catch.
He’s eager to put his messy breakup with Green Bay behind him and so, too, are the Packers.
“It’s like a marriage that ends,” Green Bay president Mark Murphy said. “It happens. Neither party is at fault.”
That was Favre’s read as well.
“I think we’re probably both at fault,” he said. “I’m not going to blame one side or the other. A lot of things happened this season, a lot of shocking things. But at this point it’s irrelevant.”
For the moment, Favre brings the Jets publicity and perhaps a better chance to compete in the AFC East. His preference was to be traded inside the NFC North to Minnesota. But the Packers didn’t want to send him to a division rival, and instead began talks with Tampa Bay and the Jets, who didn’t give in until they got their man.
“I woke up this morning and the trigger was pulled,” Favre said.
Already, his jersey is being scooped up by Jets fans who awakened to the news that the Mississippi country boy with the cannon right arm is on his way to the big city and its bright lights.
Told that 3,000 new jerseys had been sold online, he joked, “That’s all?”
Not long after the trade was finalized, the Jets released former starter Chad Pennington, who could wind up with Miami.
New York gave up a conditional pick for Favre. According to NFL.com, the selection would turn into a third-rounder if Favre plays in 50 percent of the plays this season, a second-rounder if he plays in 70 percent and the Jets make the playoffs, or a first-round pick if he plays in 80 percent and the Jets make it to the Super Bowl.
Favre is coming off one of his most productive seasons, one during which he answered any doubts about whether he still had game. He passed for 4,155 yards, his most since 1998, and had 28 TDs with 15 interceptions. The arm strength was still there, and so was his ability to improvise and make something of nothing.
“I hope I can play at the level that I’ve always played at,” he said. “There’s no guarantees. There have never been any guarantees for me. It’s football and anything can happen.”
Favre’s first objective is to bond with his new teammates.
“Were up against the clock,” he said. “I want these guys to know me, know what Im about, how I play, what type of leadership I have. Im not going to call team meetings, Im not going to be rah-rah, Im going to do what I have to do, pat guys on my back, hug them, pick them up off the ground and hope they do the same for me and hope thats enough to win.”