In the offseason, Brett Favre complained about the Packers' lack of aggressive moves in the free-agent market. Favre, who saw the light flickering on his once great career, had doubts about the direction of the club, which sought to improve the team primarily through the draft.
While general manager Ted Thompson has replenished the Packers with youthful talent by drafting more than 20 players over the last two years, Favre voiced his preference for the acquisition of wide receiver Randy Moss. Seeing what Moss has done for Tom Brady this season, one could hardly argue with Favre's reasoning.
However, by sticking to their rebuilding plan, the Packers have one fewer win than the Patriots and a collective group of young wide receivers who are soon to become household names. In fact, it is those youthful pass catchers who have seen the biggest difference in Favre during the twilight of his Hall of Fame career. Even second-year undrafted free agent wide receiver Ruvell Martin, who caught two touchdown passes from Favre in the Week 10 victory over the Minnesota Vikings, has seen a positive changes in the 17-year veteran quarterback.
"Last year, Favre didn't really talk to us," Martin said. "All information would pass through the coaches on to us. The coaches acted as a buffer between Favre and the young wide receivers. But now we have developed a positive rapport with Brett, who now talks directly with us when corrections need to be made. We now have better dialogue in meetings and in practice."
As Favre has opened up to his new teammates, he seems to be playing with the same youthful energy which he became famous for.
Playing like there's no tomorrow
When Lance Briggs said he would hold out and not report to training camp in the offseason, he really meant it. As teammate Bernard Berrian said last spring, "If Lance says he's not coming, then I believe him."
But last week when I spoke to Briggs he said it was his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, who persuaded him to rejoin the team and end his holdout.
"He convinced me to separate my feelings from the business," said Briggs.
Briggs said he had every intention of holding out, and it took swallowing some pride to come in and join the team.
"But now, every day I feel like it could possibly be my last year in Chicago," Briggs said. "I'd love to be here in Chicago, but the franchise tag is known to be a one-year deal."
Briggs went on to say that he doesn't feel disrespected by the lack of a long-term contract from the Bears. When asked if he felt the money committed to teammate Brian Urlacher served as a preventative factor, Briggs said he enjoys and understands his role on the Bears defense and that Chicago is Urlacher's town.
"Playing with Brian allowed me to do things quietly as I developed in this defense," he said.
Briggs is also trying to remain quiet about the current status of his negotiations with the Bears. In the meantime, he wants to make more noise on the field, where his team has struggled to a 4-6 record and is in jeopardy of missing the playoffs for the first time in three years.
One day before Cleveland Browns running back Jamal Lewis led his team to a second consecutive win over his former team, the Baltimore Ravens, I learned that Lewis received the news of Adrian Peterson's record-setting performance in the most unusual way. Four years after Lewis set a single-game rushing record with 295 yards, the Vikings' rookie posted 296 yards in just his eighth career game to pass Lewis in the record books.
Lewis had just rushed for four TDs in an overtime win against the Seattle Seahawks and began his post-game press conference expecting to hear question about his more recent accomplishments. Instead, a reporter asked Lewis what he thought of Peterson breaking his single-game rushing record. Said Lewis, "It was the first time I had heard that the record had fallen."
Lewis said he pretended as if he had already heard the news by complimenting Peterson, but later thought to himself that he knew Peterson would be special, but not this soon.
"I know him and he's been a friend since he played at Oklahoma," said Lewis, in his eighth NFL season out of Tennessee.
When asked if he thought there might soon be a 300-yard rushing performance in the NFL, Lewis said, "It takes a lot of things to go right. You need several long runs to go the distance for touchdowns. Once you finish off runs in the end zone, then you need to get 30 to 35 carries to get those kinds of numbers."
Lewis needed 30 carries to gain his 295 yards in Week 2 of the 2003 season; Peterson got his 296 on 30 carries, as well.
Westbrook supports Reid
"I wish the media wouldn't make assumptions about what they think is best for us and our team," said running back Brian Westbrook.
Many fail to realize that Reid already took a full one-month leave of absence from the club last spring prior to the NFL draft in order to tend to his family's needs immediately after the crisis was first reported. To go home now after the sentencing and incarceration of his two older sons would be less meaningful.
Westbrook supports his coach remaining with the team.
Solomon Wilcots, a former NFL defensive back, is an analyst on the NFL Network as well as a color commentator for CBS football telecasts.