Brett Favre (Miles Kennedy/AP)
Interim head coach Leslie Frazier said Brett Favre will be his starter Sunday if healthy. However, that’s a big “if” since Favre hasn’t passed his concussion test yet. Plus, the league fines Favre $50,000 and the Vikings are already preparing for their season finale.
Interim Vikings coach Leslie Frazier has a decision on his hands if Brett Favre can pass his concussion test in the coming days. Should Frazier put Favre back in the starting lineup or go with rookie quarterback Joe Webb, who was solid in his first NFL start?
“It’s really not a hard decision for me. Brett is a terrific player, we feel very comfortable when he’s on the field that we have a great chance to win, so you always want to put the guy out there who is going to give you the best chance to win,” Frazier said. “If Brett is healthy, I think our entire team feels very confident that we have a great chance to win when he’s the starting quarterback. And nothing against Joe, Joe’s going to be a terrific player in our league, but if Brett is able to go, he’d be our starting quarterback.”
That may not be the popular opinion among fans, who saw Webb give the Vikings their first win this season against a team with a winning record. Webb completed 17 of 26 passes for 195 yards with no interceptions or touchdowns and ran for 31 yards, including a 9-yard touchdown. He ended up with a passer rating of 87.8.
In 13 games played, Favre has had only two ratings higher than that. He has completed 61.1 percent of his passes for 2,509 yards, 11 touchdowns and 19 interceptions for a 69.9 rating.
The key, however, is Favre’s ability to pass a league-mandated concussion test that he hasn’t taken since last week. Frazier reported on Friday that Favre hadn’t made much progress in that test after suffering a concussion Dec. 20, but Favre may not want the last memory of him on an NFL football field to be him leaving the field after a concussion.
"I know he's a very competitive guy, as we all know. I approached him (Tuesday) night in pregame, we were watching the offense warm up and I said, 'Hey, I know those competitive juices are flowing, aren't they? He started laughing and said, 'Yes they are.' And that's not gonna change,” Frazier said. “It's just a matter of if he can physically do it or not. He'd like to finish on the football field as opposed to watching, that's just who he is. If he can't physically do it, he can't do it."
Frazier said the sprained shoulder Favre suffered against the Buffalo Bills that ended his 297-game streak of consecutive starts, is no longer an issue.
His decision to start Favre if healthy doesn’t mean Frazier was unimpressed with Webb’s performance.
“He has a high ceiling. He's a tremendous athlete, a guy who's very charismatic. Players really rally behind Joe. They have a lot of confidence in his abilities,” Frazier said of Webb. “Although he's a very young player, they really believe in him and it's been that way all along. … You saw a glimpse of what he's capable of becoming, with his athletic ability, the way he can escape pressure, the fact that he had enough poise late in a ballgame on a crucial third-down situation to complete a pass to Percy, that really kind of secured our win (Tuesday) night. Just the poise under pressure that he showed gives you a lot of hope for the future. But also his ability to just lead our offense, our team, as a rookie on the road against a playoff team in a very hostile environment, to do what he did gives our staff and our players a lot of hope for the future."
And yet Frazier isn’t leaving Favre on the bench if he’s able to play.
“We’d love to see him play,” he said.
The NFL issued a statement on its investigation into allegations that Favre sent inappropriate messages and photos to former Jets game-day employee Jenn Sterger. The league fined Favre $50,000 for “failure to cooperate” with the investigation, but didn’t find enough evidence to conclude that he violated the league’s personal conduct policy.
“On the basis of the evidence currently available to him, Commissioner (Roger) Goodell could not conclude that Favre violated league policies relating to workplace conduct,” the statement read. “The forensic analysis could not establish that Favre sent the objectionable photographs to Sterger. The review found no evidence to contradict the statements of both Favre and Sterger that they never met in person, nor was there anything to suggest that Sterger engaged in any inappropriate conduct.”
Frazier said Favre was able to maintain his focus during football activities while the season-long investigation was taking place.
“I just know that whenever he's in meetings, whenever he's on the practice field, he's been all-in in every situation,” Frazier said. “I've never thought for a moment that he wasn't as prepared as well as he's prepared ever. I don't know what it's been like away from the building, but in the building, he's been the Brett Favre we've always known."
NO JOB CERTAINTY YET
Frazier said he spoke to the team owners Zygi and Mark Wilf after the Vikings’ win over the Eagles, but that was a congratulatory phone call that didn’t discuss Frazier’s future with the team.
“They were really pleased with the way our players played and the effort that they gave, and they were very complimentary,” Frazier said.
That said, Frazier said he expects talk of his future with the team to commence soon.
Running back Adrian Peterson left Tuesday’s game briefly after getting hit on the knee, but he returned to rush for 118 yards on 22 carries. With a short week of preparation, the Vikings aren’t likely to push Peterson or any other injured players too hard this week.
“We’ll have to keep an eye on him during the course of the week, because you’re right, the very first contact he got was right in that spot, so we’ll have to see how he goes,” Frazier said. “But he played well. He played terrific even with that injury, so we’ll see what happens the rest of this week.”
Despite having the day off, the Vikings had to issue an injury report based on their estimations of what each player’s availability would have been had the team practiced Wednesday. CB Asher Allen (abdomen), QB Brett Favre (concussion/neck/right shoulder), LB Erin Henderson (concussion), WR Sidney Rice (concussion), FB Naufahu Tahi (ankle) and S Madieu Williams (concussion) would not have practiced. S Tyrell Johnson (knee) and RB Adrian Peterson (knee) would have been limited in practice.
The Lions did practice, but CB Tye Hill (illness), CB Chris Houston (shoulder), WR Calvin Johnson (ankle) and LB Landon Johnson (concussion) did not practice. RB Jahvid Best (toe), DE Lawrence Jackson (groin) and QB Drew Stanton (left shoulder) were limited in practice.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.