MANKATO, Minn. -- Brad Childress knows that many who follow the NFL have Thursday, Sept. 9 circled on their calendars. That's when the Minnesota Vikings get a rematch with the New Orleans Saints at the Louisiana Superdome, where the Vikings all but dominated yet lost in the NFC Championship Game last season.
"It's not the NFC championship ... it's one of 16 games," said the Vikings' head coach. "I know by the time we play, that game will seem like a Super Bowl."
Yes, it's only one game. If Minnesota wins, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell isn't going to hand the Vikings the George Halas Trophy or the Lombardi Trophy that the Saints eventually won against the Colts in Super Bowl XLIV.
Moreover, as the Vikings left Mankato on Friday, they weren't even sure if they'll have the same legendary quarterback available to play in that opener. Brett Favre is continuing rehab of an ankle injury suffered against the Saints and could retire.
"I don't know," said Childress about Favre's status for the season and the game. The coach also added that he didn't want to set any artificial deadlines for Favre's return, whether it's imminent, two weeks or even two months away.
On the latter speculated scenario, a return by Favre after the season begins isn't embraced by some key players.
"I don't want to drag it out and wait until Week 1," All-Pro defensive end Jared Allen said. "Brett's a great guy, he's a great teammate, he's a great quarterback, but I think [we need an answer] by the third preseason game. That's kind of the earmark. We're ready to rock and roll, and the closer we get to the season, we need stability at quarterback."
Tarvaris Jackson is the presumed starter if Favre isn't ready, either now or ever.
"I do hope Brett comes back, but in fairness to the team and in fairness to Tarvaris -- hey, we're done with camp now -- let's move things forward," Allen said. "Tarvaris has an opportunity to take this team over ... I think you have to have confidence in the quarterback. I think the quarterback has to be the leader of the team, especially the offense and, again, I think stability at the position is key as hell."
Allen, a free spirit, knows that he isn't the boss of the Vikings and that he won't be making a determination about Favre's "deadline."
"All I'm saying -- and I have a pretty good relationship with Brett -- I think this is the last year we want do the flip-flop thing."
The Vikings have other questions, especially at wide receiver. Sidney Rice, who caught 83 passes for 1,312 yards and eight touchdowns in a breakout 2009 season, has a hip injury that has his availability for the season opener in doubt. Receiver Percy Harvin, who had an explosive rookie season, is so plagued by chronic migraine headaches that Childress wouldn't even dare define his availability.
Other training camp observations:
• Childress didn't sound as alarmed about Adrian Peterson's penchant for fumbling as one would expect. Said Childress: "I keep reminding people that Walter Payton had more fumbles on fewer carries in his first three years. Adrian is a tremendous football player. He has to be more mindful, but he's a violent, thrashing, extra-yard runner and we'll continue to work on that [the fumbling issue]."
• Rookie running back Toby Gerhart has had some serious violent tests in practice from day one. On Thursday, defensive end Ray Edwards took a shot at him that caused a skirmish. Childress chalked it up to a rookie having to prove his mettle, especially replacing a veteran as popular as Chester Taylor, who signed as a free agent in the offseason with the Chicago Bears.
• Middle linebacker E.J. Henderson, who is back on the practice field with a titanium rod in his left leg, has made a somewhat miraculous comeback. And the Vikings believe linebacker Jasper Brinkley is on the rise. Henderson -- "the leader of this defense," according to Allen -- suffered a severe leg injury against the Arizona Cardinals last December.
• Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, a possible head-coaching candidate, also pointed to 340-pound defensive tackle Pat Williams "as a miracle man." Said Frazier: "The guy's 34 years old and he's not any worse for the wear."
• Childress admitted the sting of the NFC Championship Game loss to the Saints felt almost identical to the pain of a Super Bowl defeat to the Patriots when he was Eagles offensive coordinator. Said Childress: "It took me until May to get over it, but it's over."
ESPN senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen will file reports from all the training camps and send updates on the road via Twitter (@mortreport).