What do you think of when you hear the name Brett Favre?
Perhaps you think of the Packers veteran as, "That old quarterback who threw all the interceptions last year."
Maybe you remember last season's debates about whether or not he should retire as the Packers signal-caller, or maybe you remember the 2005 preseason stomping by the Patriots in which Favre threw three first-half passes that landed in the eager hands of a Patriots defensive back.
If that's how you think of Favre, you're just lacking perspective.
What comes to mind for Tom Brady when he hears Favre's name?
"I've always looked up to him, even back when he was beating up on the 49ers back when I was a 49er fan. They had some great battles with them and he was a guy who I always watched and loved to see play," said Brady during his Wednesday press conference. "I know when they beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl, you always had that vision of him after he threw his first touchdown with his helmet up in the air."
That's right newbies, Favre and the Packers beat the Pats in Super Bowl XXXI. For the record, Brady was still in college at Michigan.
It's understandable if you don't think too highly of Favre, who threw more interceptions last season (29) than in any of his previous 14 NFL seasons. But that was also the first losing season the Packers have had since aquiring him in 1992.
Favre has been with the Packers longer than any active player has been with any team in the league, and he's started 250 consecutive games during that stretch. Last season, Favre extended two NFL records he already owned: seasons with at least 20 touchdown passes (12) and seasons with at least 300 completions (14). Favre is a shoe-in for the Hall of Fame when he retires, if he ever actually gets to that, and you can bet that the Patriots aren't counting him and his team out of this weekend's game.
Not only are the Pats in their first losing streak since 2002, but also Favre has been solid in recent weeks. He's only thrown two interceptions in the Packers last five games - Favre's best stretch in four years. He's on pace to throw a career-low 12 interceptions. The Packers passing game is currently ranked seventh in the NFL.
"The guy is a Hall of Fame quarterback," said Patriots coach Bill Belichick of the 37-year-old Favre on Wednesday. "He does everything well. He's mobile. He has a good arm. He's accurate. He uses all of his receivers. He gets the ball to the backs a lot and the tight ends. He can throw it deep. He can throw it short. He sees the field well. He's hard to tackle. He is a smart guy. They do a lot of 'check with me's' and audibles at the line of scrimmage. The first touchdown in the Super Bowl, I think that was an audible play. It looked like he got to another one on the long pass to, whoever it was, the 80 yarder - I'm trying to forget it - in the Super Bowl. We've seen him audible at the line, change plays. Again, he's doing a lot of that now. He's a smart guy. He reads coverages well. He uses all of his weapons."
Cornerback Ellis Hobbs will be dealing with Favre and his receiving weapons this weekend. He's not underestimating Favre either.
"Any time you're going up against a guy of his caliber, it lets you know where you're at as a player," explained Hobbs on Thursday. "If you want to be the best and you want to think you're the best, you've got to play against the best. Regardless of what people have said about Brett Favre these past couple years, that he's on a downslide or whatever, Brett Favre is Brett Favre. He's making plays out there."
One of Favre's favorite weapons is wideout Donald Driver. He's a go-to guy for Favre, and his 56 receptions for 771 yards currently ranks sixth among NFL receivers. Driver caught a pass from Favre last week against Minnesota on a short slant route and ran for an 82-yard touchdown.
"Driver is a stud," said linebacker Junior Seau on Thursday. "He's out there running around with the ball and making things happen. He's a threat on every play. You've got to know where he is."
The Packer's No. 2 receiver, Greg Jennings has caught about half as many passes as Driver, but he's averaging 16.7 yards-per catch. According to Seau, Jennings is a good complement to Driver's play-making ability.
"They're doing an excellent job, the tandem of the two," Seau said. "The best thing about that is there's only one ball. We've just got to find the guy with the ball. But they definitely are a threat."
Seau and Hobbs agreed that execution will be key in shutting down Favre and his receivers this weekend in historic Lambeau Field.
"Just going out there and executing [is what we need to do], as simple as that may seem," Seau said. "Just going out there and executing your game plan and doing the things we know how to do."
"Execution of your defense [will minimize big plays]," said Hobbs. "Whatever the defense requires you to do, be there."
Comings and goings
In addition to signing veteran backup quarterback Vinny Testaverde on Wednesday, the Patriots also picked up offensive lineman Gene Mruczkowski. Mruczkowski was originally signed by the Patriots as an undrafted rookie free agent prior to the 2003 season. He has played in 17 games for New England since joining the team and had been released by the Patriots at the end of September. The 6-foot-2-inch, 305-pound guard/center missed his rookie season due to injury and returned to play in 10 regular-season games and three playoff games for the Patriots in 2004. Last season, the Purdue product played in seven regular-season games and one playoff contest. This season, Mruczkowski was listed as 'inactive' for each of New England's first three games before being released. Now on the active roster, Mruczkowski is likely to serve as a backup lineman. Guard Stephen Neal hasn't played in the last three games due to a shoulder injury. His usual replacement, Russ Hochstein also missed three games, but returned last weekend against the Jets. Guard Billy Yates was placed on injured reserve after breaking his leg in last week's Jets game.
Also, the Patriots placed rookie tight end Garrett Mills on the injured/reserve list with thigh and hip injuries. Mills was selected by the Patriots in the third round of the 2006 NFL Draft (106th overall). The 6-foot-1-inch, 235-pound tight end was listed as 'inactive' for each of New England's nine games this season.
The Patriots held practice outside today at one of their upper practice fields. Players wore full pads for the second day in a row, and the media only had access to stretching. Safety Rodney Harrison was the only player not seen on the field. Thursday's injury report lists Harrison as 'out' with a 'shoulder' injury, because he broke his scapula in the Colts game. Seven players are listed as 'questionable,' including cornerback Asante Samuel with a 'knee' injury. All of the 'questionable' players missed at least a portion of practice on Wednesday and Thursday. Rookie tight end David Thomas is listed as 'probable,' but he missed a portion of practice today for the first time this week.