EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The salt and pepper in Brett Favre's hair is long gone, with only a few flecks of brown remaining in the silver atop his 39-year-old head.
He has a torn rotator cuff in that famously bionic arm, and it has been 12 years since he won the last of his three consecutive NFL MVP awards.
Most Minnesota Vikings fans are celebrating Favre's arrival as the missing link between their franchise and the Super Bowl glory that has eluded it for 48 years. They envision the exuberant, 27-year-old showman who ran around the Louisiana Superdome with his helmet aloft after throwing a touchdown pass to Andre Rison in the Green Bay Packers' Super Bowl XXXI victory over the New England Patriots.
But that was 13 years ago.
Even Favre doesn't know.
"I'd be the first to admit that I don't think I'm capable of making some of the plays that I used to make," Favre said. "My mind may tell me I can. But I don't know if physically I can do that. So understanding my limitations, how it pertains to what I can do, is all part of this process."
Favre practiced with the Vikings for the second time Wednesday, and the team believes there is at least one more year's worth of magic in a right arm that turns 40 in October. So the defending NFC North champions have brought in the once-hated rival to lead them past the Packers, Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions and to their first Super Bowl appearance since 1977.
"I think sports fans in general are going to say, 'Can the old man do it again? How well can this guy play?'" said NFL Network analyst Steve Mariucci, who served as Favre's quarterbacks coach during his best seasons in Green Bay. "All eyes are going to be upon the Vikings because they want to see if he can do it. My guess is he will."
Favre is entering his 19th season in the NFL, having played at his pinnacle from 1994 to 1997, when he revived the dormant Packers and helped return the franchise to elite status. In those four seasons, Favre won three MVP awards while averaging 4,015 passing yards, 36 touchdowns, 14 interceptions and a 94.6 passer rating per season. Green Bay won one Super Bowl and played in another during that span.
Favre became an icon in Green Bay -- and throughout the NFL really -- during those golden years. Zinging passes into the tightest of windows in double coverage, taking chances few other quarterbacks would take and laughing about it all the way earned Favre adoration that few others have enjoyed. The numbers continued to pile up in the ensuing years, but the Packers never returned to the big game with Favre.
Favre's statistics have dipped over the last four seasons -- three with the Packers and one with the New York Jets. He averaged 3,848 passing yards, 22 touchdowns, 21 interceptions and a modest 80.1 passer rating per season during that time, and he threw more TD passes than interceptions only once.
"I haven't been the best player. But I would love to think that every player I played with would love to have me in the foxhole," Favre said. "I have no idea what's going to happen this year, as I had no idea last year. As I look back, I gave it everything I could give. And that's what I'll do this year."
Favre was playing at a Pro Bowl level through the first half of last season with the Jets before a torn biceps tendon rendered him ineffective. He threw two touchdown passes and nine interceptions as the Jets finished the season 1-4 and missed the playoffs.
Favre had surgery in May to alleviate the pain, but he still told the Vikings he was staying retired at the start of training camp.
With quarterbacks Sage Rosenfels and Tarvaris Jackson both struggling with injuries and inconsistency in practice, Childress made one more call Monday to see if Favre would change his mind. Less than 24 hours later, Favre was on the practice field in Minnesota, wearing a purple helmet and talking about playing in Friday night's preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs.
"There's no question Brett Favre is going to make this team better," Vikings tight end Visanthe Shiancoe said. "He's the nucleus to this offense right now. He ran this offense for a long time."
This season should be different for Favre than last year in the Big Apple because he has more offensive talent around him -- reigning NFL rushing champion Adrian Peterson in particular -- and essentially is running the same playbook he did for 16 years in Green Bay.
"Much easier from a system standpoint," Favre said. "Still have to learn the guys and stuff, but it was so much easier just to call the plays I was familiar with."
So what does Favre's arrival do for the Vikings' chances? Quarterback was considered the team's lone glaring weakness, so if Favre can provide consistent leadership -- and a few of the big plays he has become famous for -- Minnesota should be a legitimate contender for the NFC crown.
"I'm not going to sit here and make predictions," Favre said. "But I didn't come here to lose. I don't think any guy in that locker room is here to lose. I think we can be as good as we want to be."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press