Favre joins to the Jet set
“To a certain degree, I don’t know what I’m getting into,” he said.
Favre’s summertime soap opera ended Wednesday night when the Green Bay Packers traded their iconic quarterback after 16 seasons to the New York Jets, who haven’t had a star of No. 4’s stature since the days Joe Namath was slinging passes.
“I’m here for one reason. Not to do commercials, Broadway all those things,” Favre said Thursday after joining New York for its exhibition opener in Cleveland. “I’m here to help the Jets win.”
It’s not certain when the three-time MVP will be ready to play. But he assured it will be soon.
“I’m a little out of shape, compared to the other guys,” said Favre, who winked while saying he looked forward to his first conditioning test with the Jets. “The last 24 hours have been crazy. This offseason has been bizarre. But I’m excited by this opportunity.”
Five months after a tearful goodbye to a Hall of Fame career, Favre, who won a Super Bowl title and set all sorts of records in 16 seasons before his acrimonious split with the Packers, is starting over.
He’s now part of a Jets team that went 4-12 last season and 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 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.
“He’s convincing,” Favre said, drawing a smile from Tannenbaum. “I know this team had a lot of talent.”
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.
Favre, expected to practice for the first time Saturday, later played catch with Clemens during a severe-weather delay and hung around to watch the Jets rally for a 24-20 win. On Friday, Favre will be welcomed to New York by Mayor Michael Bloomberg during a morning ceremony at City Hall.
Farve’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, preferably to Minnesota. When it became apparent the Packers wouldn’t do that, Favre was open to about anything to keep playing.
It only took a minute for him to be a hit in New York.
Already, his jersey is being scooped up by Jets fans who awakened Thursday morning to the news that the Mississippi country boy with the cannon right arm was 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?”
Until the deal was announced, it appeared the 38-year-old might be on his way to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But the Jets, who went to camp with Chad Pennington and Clemens battling to be the starter, persisted and landed Favre for a fourth-round draft pick in 2009.
Pennington, benched midway through last season, was released Thursday afternoon.
A draft pick is hardly a steep price for a player who holds league records in career yards (61,655), touchdowns (442), wins (160) and hasn’t missed a start in 275 consecutive games.
“We wish him the best,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “There’s no ill feelings. He has a positive reputation within this organization.”
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.
The Jets are hoping Favre can bring them some of the magic he created at Lambeau Field, a place where the sight of him dropping back into the pocket on a frozen Sunday and rocketing a ball downfield is as etched in Packers lore as legendary coach Vince Lombardi walking the sidelines.
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.”
He led the Packers to the NFC championship, where they lost to the Giants in overtime. Favre’s final pass was intercepted, setting up New York’s winning field goal. That pick, a blemish on an otherwise brilliant season, may have haunted him and driven Favre back onto the field.
“I always wanted to be a Packer and I think I always will be a Packer,” he said. “I’m not a traitor, never will be. It’s business. It’s the way it works. I gave everything I could possibly give. I hope the Jets fans see the same thing.”
In New York, Favre will step behind an offensive line rebuilt during the offseason by the additions of free agents Alan Faneca and Damien Woody. He’ll have wide receivers Laveranues Coles and Jerricho Cotchery as his primary targets. He’s got a new playbook to learn quickly, and in the media capital of the work, he going to have to deal with more attention than he ever imagined.
“I haven’t played in New York. I’m a South Mississippi boy, but I know how tough the city can be and I know how great it can be,” he said. “It can be as good as you want to make it.”
After leaving the podium, Favre was asked if he would commit to New York for more than one year.
“We’ll see,” he said.