Brett Favre was the master of that skill. His forte was to take a relatively simple, usually straight-forward question and give about a three-minute answer. He hardly stopped talking, but, in the end, it never really got to the point of the intended question, although it often revealed other information.
His skill became readily apparent to everyone last year when he was embroiled in the Jenn Sterger peccadillo. He somehow found a way to start answering the question, go on slowly but surely for three minutes and end up telling a story about 1999 in Green Bay when the team was up against the wall and rebounded nicely.
Donovan McNabb is similar, but his approach is different. He has nothing bad to say about anything. If he had been asked a question about the volatility of the stock market, he would talk about glimmers of hope for a robust return of a bull market. He also infuses humor – to the point that, in the transcript provided by the team of his Wednesday press conference, a point was made that McNabb laughed fived times and the intent of two other comments were denoted by the fact he was joking. In all, he had seven laughs – more than an open mic comic at the Chuckle Hut gets on an average Wednesday night.
McNabb did take some of the questions seriously, even if his answers didn't always jibe with the facts. The Vikings scored just three points in their preseason opener, but McNabb said he likes what he's seeing with his first-unit offense.
"We're very excited where we're at right now, but yet it's still a work in progress," McNabb said. "Communication-wise, I think the chemistry is flowing where we need it to be. But again, it's just the beginning and we want to continue to get better each day."
Despite a tight timeline in which he has had to work with his new offense, McNabb said he sees the step-by-step improvements that are coming each day. He realizes there is still a lot of rust that needs to get scraped off, but glimmers of hope are shining through more often.
"This is Week 2½ for me, so I'm excited to see the progression that we've made and excited about what we've been able to do on the outside with the receivers and our running game. There's a lot of things we've got to clear up, but yet we've done some good things."
Not surprisingly, the topic of Tarvaris Jackson came up. McNabb said he has been a supporter of Jackson and has tried to serve as a veteran mentor taking him under his wing. Asked about playing against Jackson, he said he is happy Jackson was able to find an opportunity to be a starter in Seattle.
"Tarvaris and I definitely kept in contact a lot while he was here and I'm excited about his opportunity in Seattle," McNabb said. "I thought it would come a little earlier being here in Minnesota, but you just have to be patient. That was one thing I tried to stress with him was patience. I think as a player, you want it to happen now and we all thought it could happen. But, obviously, when they brought Brett in, things changed a little bit. In this game, things aren't always going to go your way. I obviously learned that last year, but you just have to put it behind you and move forward."
McNabb's press conferences won't be the mea culpa type affairs that young NFL quarterbacks have following games or mid-week when their buttons are pressed. Where Favre would spin long yarns that pleased the ear but muddied up the point of the question he was asked, McNabb has come off as the eternal optimist.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for 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.