GREEN BAY, Wis. (Nov. 9, 2005) -- Brett Favre took a day off at the coach's request. He didn't try to argue.
"I just kind of feel lethargic," the three-time MVP said. "I could have practiced, I would have been fine. It would have been tough."
Who can blame his lack of motivation?
The Packers haven't been 1-7 since Favre was 17 -- and he never lost more than eight games in any of his previous 13 seasons in Green Bay.
Green Bay has used 11 rookies this season, mainly because the battered offense lost three of its top players -- running backs Ahman Green (thigh tendon) and Najeh Davenport (ankle) and wide receiver Javon Walker (knee) -- for the season with injuries. Pro Bowl tight end Bubba Franks (knee) missed three starts, and Pro Bowl center Mike Flanagan (sports hernia) missed two more.
It has left Favre, who insists he's not injured and skipped Wednesday practices down the stretch last season, seemingly alone with a revolving door of castoffs.
"This is a huge challenge for me," Favre said. "For some of these guys that are lining up on offense for us, they don't know the difference.
"I don't want to say that they're just happy to be there, but they're kind of trying to find their place and this is their opportunity to make it or break it. But for me, I'm trying to get this team in the end zone and win."
Samkon Gado admits he's probably one of those guys. He's the fifth-string running back -- and the starter. Gado joined the team Oct. 17 and was promoted to the active roster 12 days later.
With Green, Davenport and third-down back Tony Fisher down with injuries, Gado surged ahead of fourth-string running back ReShard Lee on Nov. 6 in Green Bay's 20-10 loss to Pittsburgh.
"I know enough to function," said Gado, who finished with 62 yards on 26 carries and a touchdown. "But obviously, I am limited to a certain degree. Anytime you're dealing with rookies that are an unknown variable, you just proceed to function until experience, I guess, proves them able."
The Packers' running game is third worst in the league, mustering a franchise-low 71.9 yards per game with only four touchdowns rushing. Fisher has a puzzling rib fracture, and Lee fumbled on only his second carry against the Steelers.
It's left the offense on Favre's shoulders. He has passed for 2,064 yards and 15 touchdowns this season, but he's also been intercepted 14 times.
Favre is missing three of his top four wide receivers -- only Donald Driver with 41 catches for 596 yards remains -- and must throw to some players he has known for only a few days.
"You want to be able to just read the play out, anticipate the throw," Favre said. "But it only takes once or twice to be burned on something to where you say, 'I want to make sure he's doing what he's doing.':
Still, Favre isn't sure when he'll feel a bond with the new players that include the likes of Andrae Thurman, cut from Tennessee last month after missing a team meeting, and Chad Lucas, a practice-squad player promoted to the active roster.
"It kind of just depends on chemistry, how quickly the receiver picks up the offense," Favre said. "From my end, getting to where I feel like their route running is consistent enough that I know the timing part of it."
Fullback William Henderson said the veterans must mold the younger players into the system as fast as possible to take the growing pressure off Favre.
"You break it down to fundamentals and little increments to people and you see the lights turn on. Hopefully they stay on," Henderson said. "That's the one thing right now -- I'm wondering where the lights are (in this locker room), and they seem still to be on."
The Associated Press News Service
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