By Noah Trister / The Associated Press
DETROIT (AP) — An unexpected postponement gave Brett Favre one more chance.
A little extra time for his right shoulder to heal, another day for him to show he was healthy enough to start.
So many times in the past, he had defied expectations and played on. This time, he was having trouble feeling his hand, which was an ugly shade of purple.
And with that, the streak was over.
“I’ve always assumed I’d play every game,” Favre said.
After 297 consecutive regular-season starts over 19 years, one of the greatest individual streaks in all of sports, Favre ran into an injury he couldn’t beat and sat down Monday night. The 41-year-old quarterback, who fought through broken bones, aches, pains and personal grief to play week after week, couldn’t make it for the Vikings in their 21-3 loss to the New York Giants.
Favre was sidelined by a throwing shoulder too damaged for even him to overcome and a hand too numb to take the field with.
“I’ve played through a lot of stuff,” Favre said. “This is something different that I’ve got to be more cautious of.”
The Vikings hoped Favre, who has started despite a broken foot and elbow tendinitis this season, could do it again when the game against the Giants was delayed from Sunday after the Metrodome roof collapsed. That forced the game to be moved to Ford Field, but it was not enough time for Favre to get healthy enough to play.
Minnesota interim coach Leslie Frazier said the plan was for Favre to go through a pregame throwing routine to try and determine if he could play, but the three-time MVP wasn’t on the field about 90 minutes before kickoff, and the Vikings announced moments later he was inactive.
Frazier said Favre wasn’t even able to try throwing Monday.
“He was having trouble with numbness down through his shoulder and into his hand,” Frazier said. “It was a no-brainer. We couldn’t put him out there. He couldn’t function as a quarterback.”
Favre finally came out about 35 minutes before the game started, wearing a T-shirt and warmup pants. He hugged a teammate while receiving a few cheers from the crowd, then stood at the 15-yard line and chatted with Tarvaris Jackson, the new Minnesota starter.
After Minnesota’s first drive, Favre looked at photo printouts with Jackson as the Vikings went over strategy. For the rest of the game, he remained near midfield, standing calmly much of the time while Minnesota’s offense sputtered without him.
“Relief, in one sense. There wasn’t a whole lot of pressure on me today,” Favre said in an emotional news conference after the game. “It’s been a long time. I’d much rather be playing, that’s just my nature. I don’t want to say it was time, but it’s probably been long overdue. There’s probably been a lot of times the streak should have ended.”
It’s uncertain if Favre will play again in this, his third comeback season from a brief retirement. Neither he nor Frazier would rule it out, but this injury is obviously serious if it was enough to keep him out of even one game.
“I think it would be foolish to even consider playing if you don’t have total feeling in five fingers,” Favre said.
The crowd in Detroit, where tickets were given out for free, had a chance to witness a bit of history.
“Ahhh, I feel bad for him,” said Vikings season-ticket holder JoAnn Brown, who drove 12 hours to see the game in Detroit. “I wish he could’ve just got out there for the first play and just tossed the ball once to keep the streak.”
Both Favre and Frazier had made it clear he would not be given a ceremonial start like that. Minnesota still had a slim chance to make the playoffs before the game, although that ended with the loss to the Giants.
Favre was injured when Buffalo’s Arthur Moats hit him square in the back and sent him to the turf on the third play from scrimmage last weekend.
Ron Jaworski previously held the consecutive starts record for a quarterback, but Favre passed him all the way back in 1999.
“I knew when my streak ended, it was because of a broken leg,” Jaworski said. “I knew it was over. It was just kind of interesting following Brett this week. Now that we know it’s over, we can kind of look back on it and marvel. I don’t know if I can even put words on it.”
Lions coach Jim Schwartz compared Favre’s run to another athlete with a famous streak.
“I grew up in Baltimore and witnessed the Cal Ripken streak, but football is a completely different sport,” Schwartz said. “At quarterback, you have a target on you. It’s a tough, physical job and you aren’t ever delivering the blow. It takes a self-sacrifice to stand in there and take a blow to make a play for the team.”
As for Ripken, he took a moment to congratulate Favre as well.
“Brett has had an incredible career and his consecutive games streak is remarkable,” he said through a spokesman. “As a football fan I cannot fathom his accomplishment and I appreciate his dedication to and passion for the game. He is a true gamer and has provided us all with a lot of wonderful memories.”
Season No. 20, though, has been one of Favre’s toughest. He’s taken a beating on the field and played not only through two fractures in his left foot and elbow tendinitis but 10 stitches in his chin along with aches in his neck, back and calf before he was crunched by Moats.
He’s also been the subject of an NFL investigation into allegations he sent inappropriate messages and photos to a game-day hostess when both worked for the New York Jets in 2008. The investigation has lasted for more than two months now, and the lawyer for Jenn Sterger was vocal last week in trying to get a ruling announced.
Through it all, Favre has led his team on the field, extending his streak further and further. Colts quarterback Peyton Manning now holds the longest streak at 205 games. He would need to keep it going for another 5½ years to surpass Favre.
It’s a record that Favre cherishes. Over the years, he has played through a separated shoulder, concussions, a sprained knee and a broken thumb — and he also took the field following the sudden death of his father and his wife being diagnosed with breast cancer.
“It’s been a great run. I would not hang my head one bit,” he said. “When I think about, as a kid, goals, dreams, I’ve far exceeded all of those.”