As he celebrated his 41st birthday Sunday, Brett Favre was facing one of the most uncertain periods of his NFL career.
The league has fast-tracked its investigation into allegations that Favre sent inappropriate messages and photos to a former New York Jets employee, according to ESPN's Chris Mortensen. At the same time, Favre is dealing with a case of elbow tendonitis deemed serious enough to require an MRI test this week. He pulled back his throwing regimen during the Minnesota Vikings' final practices of the week and will face a Jets team that will surely test his fitness Monday night at the New Meadowlands Stadium.
First, let's address Mortensen's report. I would hope the NFL would never drag its feet in an investigation of any sort, let alone one of this nature. But I'm also quite sure that commissioner Roger Goodell wants to avoid any perception that he'll cut a break to one of his best-known players.
If nothing else, it's a reminder that Goodell has wide latitude within the league's personal conduct policy and has the authority both to suspend Favre and be the sole judge in any appeals process. That possibility makes this a hard news story.
Favre has played in 288 consecutive games. Could the streak end not for injury, but because of personal impropriety? As we discussed Friday, we still have no confirmed connection between Favre and the text/voice messages involved. So we need to limit the conclusion-drawing. For now, let's just say that a suspension remains in play for as long as the NFL's investigation continues.
As for the elbow, we can say this: Favre has played through more serious injuries his career. But elbow tendonitis did force him to miss the 2000 preseason. He was conspicuously icing the elbow during a meeting with reporters last week, said he has iced his arm more this season than in any other and acknowledged the obvious: Any injury to a quarterback's throwing arm is a concern.
The collision of events Monday night is hard to ignore in itself. Favre's year in a Jets uniform was spent battling a biceps tendon tear that dramatically lowered his velocity and accuracy. That he'll carry his twin burdens into a nationally-televised game against the Jets provides an awfully compelling backdrop.