GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Poor protection from an inexperienced
offensive line. Conservative play-calling from a rookie head coach.
Defenders from a division rival he used to dominate, just waiting
to jump on errant passes.
And, for the first time in his career, zero points on the
Brett Favre came back for this?
After opening the season with a 26-0 loss to the Chicago Bears
at Lambeau Field on Sunday, the three-time MVP remains optimistic
that the young Packers can improve quickly. But he also has
considered the alternative.
"Maybe we just ain't very good," Favre said on Sunday night.
"I don't know."
Favre, who spent months deliberating his football future before
deciding to return to the Packers, isn't publicly questioning that
But after being shut out for the first time in his 16-year NFL
career, he knows a quick turnaround might not be possible.
"We've got a lot of football left that could be good or bad,"
Favre said. "So depending on how we play or how we handle it, I hope
we win some ballgames here. I really do. Because it will be a long
season. But if not, at least make it fun. Compete at a high level --
make some plays, go down swinging. Because it will be a long year
if we don't."
That's a stark contrast to the things Favre said early in
training camp, when he asserted that this was the most talented
team he had ever played on -- even more talented than the team that
won the 1997 Super Bowl.
"I caught a lot of heat for this earlier in training camp, but
if you look at some of those guys, we were not overly talented,"
Favre said. "Now, I say that, and that was a long time ago, and
maybe I have been hit in the head too many times."
Back then, Favre could count on his teammates. Now he can't be
Favre still has established players such as wide receiver Donald Driver, tackles Mark Tauscher and Chad Clifton, tight end Bubba Franks and running back Ahman Green, who rushed for 110 yards in
his return from a ruptured right quadriceps last season. Fullback
William Henderson remains in Green Bay, but didn't play on Sunday
after having recent knee surgery.
"Just getting a chance to talk to him after the Tennessee game [Green Bay's preseason finale],
we were both talking about how fired up we were going into the
season," Tauscher said. "He had a good feeling going into
yesterday and I really felt we were going to be more productive
than we were."
Henderson said he wouldn't allow himself to view Sunday's game
as a continuation of last year's struggles -- and expects the same
out of his teammates.
"I would hope so," Henderson said. "I'm only speaking for
myself, but for the most part, that's the message I try to convey
to the younger guys."
The Packers are trying to break in two rookie guards, a
third-year center and a rookie No. 2 receiver. Favre said the
current state of the Packers made it tough to face his teammates
from the 1996 season after Sunday's game.
"Yeah, I am happy to see 'em, and that was a great year,"
Favre said. "But I'm still trying to win a game for the Packers.
And that's a lot more difficult today than it was back then."
New Packers coach Mike McCarthy was Favre's quarterbacks coach
in 1999, but wants to take a run-first approach to offense.
Favre only threw only five passes in the first half.
"It's easy to point to play-calling, and I'm sure people will
say we were conservative and things like that," Favre said. "But
we as an offense have to make plays."
McCarthy said the main problem was that the Packers didn't
convert manageable third-and-short situations early on and didn't
get the chance to open up the offense.
"Every game plan is different," McCarthy said. "I mean,
there's days you're going to come out and want to establish the
run, there's days you're going to come out and you're going to mix
it. I'm hopeful there will be days that we'll come out throwing."
To do that, the Packers will need better pass protection.
McCarthy said some inaccurate throws by Favre in the second half
could be blamed on pressure by the Bears defense.
"He is about as accurate as a guy as I've ever worked with,"
But McCarthy didn't let Favre off the hook for the second of two
"He has to set his feet to make that throw," McCarthy said.
"That's a throw that probably in his younger days he could make on
the move, but that's a ball that needs to go in the end zone."
The Packers go into Week 2 still looking for the end zone, but
Favre said he still has high expectations for his young teammates.
"It's more I think believing in what you're capable of doing
than it is doing it sometimes," Favre said. "And it's too late to
talk about it after a game or at halftime. Some guys will get it at
some point and some guys won't."