Ten years ago today, Brett Favre turned 40 during what would become one of the most memorable seasons of his career. He was five days removed from beating the Packers on Monday Night Football, and he was three months away from nearly getting back to the Super Bowl for a third time.
Favre turns 50 today. He recently sat with Peter King for a podcast interview, and Favre addressed the question of whether he regrets playing the game as long as he did. He dubbed it a good question, and then he reflected on his stubborn determination to play through injuries.
“The more I played hurt and played well, the more I dug my heels in,” Favre told King. “I loved to play the game but there was a part of me, numerous times. You covered me on numerous occasions where [the question was] ‘Will he or won’t he?’ Quite frankly, Monday I would’ve said there’s no way in hell I’m gonna play with a broken thumb on my throwing hand. Not only did I play, we beat the Vikings on Monday night in Minnesota and had one of the best games up to that point that I’d ever had. So I said, ‘I’m gonna do it again. And I’m gonna do it again.'”
Making it easier for Favre to play was the reality that, for the vast majority of his career, the NFL’s concussion protocol consisted of one step: “How many fingers?”
“At the time, concussions were not an issue,” Favre said. “If you had a concussion, you sat out for a little bit. Coach is like, ‘Where in the hell’s Favre? Get his ass back in there!’ That was it. Now, we know a lot more about concussions and the seriousness of it. I’ve been asked a lot in the last few years, ‘Knowing now what you know, go back, would you play any different? Would you play as long?’ Honestly, I don’t know. I really don’t know. But I do know this: I’m a lot more fearful now than I was at 35. [At] 35, I knew I was getting closer to the end. But I don’t think concussions were thought of when I was 35 near as serious, or the repercussions. You may live, but your quality of life may be terrible. It was more, as long as you make it through without bad knees, you can play golf, you can do whatever.”
The NFL didn’t wake up to concussions until Congress essentially forced it to do so, 10 years ago this month. Favre spent nearly a generation playing under the “how many fingers?” protocol, and he surely had multiple moments that would have had him removed from a game and/or that would have ended his incredible, and likely unbreakable given current rules, streak of 297 straight starts.
The price that Favre ultimately pays for years of head trauma remains to be seen. He’s fine for now, but he’s understandably fearful regarding what the future holds.
As he turns 50, we wish him continued good health. All football fans should appreciate what he gave to the game. Given the league’s unprecedented focus on health and safety, it’s safe to say no quarterback will ever give as much to the game as Favre did.