Favre Arrival Lifts Jets' Fans Spirits In Upcoming Campaign
HEMPSTEAD, NY— Beads of sweat poured down Brett Favre's head as the future Hall of Fame quarterback stepped to the makeshift podium.
Moments before, Favre received another thunderous ovation from the record crowd of 10,500 people that assembled at Hofstra University to watch his first workout since coming to the Jets with a conditional draft choice going to Green Bay.
The three-time MVP has some grey hair in the temple, physical signs that the 38-year-old quarterback is not the same young man that led the Packers to a championship in Super Bowl XXXI. But Favre proved last season he can still produce and lead a team deep into the playoffs, though the 18-year veteran said he was still getting adjusted to New York.
"It's exciting. Really, I'm a rookie again," Favre said. "I don't know if that's good or bad. Being in the same system, being in the same place for so long, obviously you get used to your routine, you get used to guys.
"This was obviously different. I'm not going to sit here and tell you that I have this offense down, that I know every guy in the locker room, that they know me or the routine. I'm just kind of following."
Favre might have felt like a rookie the next day when coach Eric Mangini forced the NFL's all-time leader in passing yards, completions, attempts and touchdowns to run a lap with center Nick Mangold following a poor snap exchange.
The Mississippi native said that experience took him back to his youth league days, though he went along with the program.
"It's not punishment," he said. "It's more of a team unity thing. Nick and I ran it. I told to Eric on day one that unless I pass out, I am going to try to do everything that everyone else does. I'm no different aside from being a little grey headed and a little bit older."
But Favre isn't like many other players. Crowds started forming in the early morning for Saturday afternoon's practice.
Rows of fans stretched from the gate by the main parking entrance on Hofstra's north campus, snaking all the way around to the barricade by the VIP and media entrance on the other side of the field.
Hordes of No. 4 Favre jerseys were purchased at the team's on-site merchandise tent and from sporting goods stores across the state. Even fans wearing Packers Cheeseheads and Green Bay Favre jerseys came out to watch Favre, who received his first standing ovation simply by walking from Weeb Ewbank Hall to the practice field for stretching exercises.
Richard Silver, a Jets fan from Merrick, was part of the franchise's record-setting crowd and said the Jets trade should mean improvement from last season's 4-12 disappointment. He also said the move represents an improvement at the QB position from Chad Pennington, who signed with Miami following his release from the Jets.
"With Favre as the leader, we have great expectations," Silver said. "Hopefully they can make a run for the playoffs. When I heard about Bret Favre; he doesn't miss a game. He's consistent every year. With Pennington, there were some questions. He's been injured. They [now] can surprise some teams. I'm very excited."
Not all Jets fans are ready to buy tickets for the organization's first Super Bowl trip since 1969. Russell Seyfert, 23, said he fears Favre will experience an injury similar to the Achilles tendon injury that knocked out Vinny Testaverde for the year during the 1999 season, which started with championship expectations.
"This is the most media coverage they've had in the history of the franchise, but I'm a Jets fans, so I know that A) it has no chance of living up the hype and B) there's at least an 80 percent chance that something monumentally disappointing will happen," Seyfert said. "I'm not getting my hopes up too much."