Vikings’ Childress has no regret after begging Favre to come back

Minnesota coach Brad Childress knew there would be coaches, playerBrad Childresss and media wasting him for fawning after Brett Favre the way he has the past couple of weeks. “If you have to beg Brett Favre to be a part of this team, then I’ve lost respect for this team,” former Patriot Tedy Bruschi said on ESPN after the Vikings sent Childress (twice) and three players (once) on trips to Favre’s living room to drag him back to football. I’d predict half the coaches in this league feel the same way as Bruschi — and I talked with three of them myself — but they just won’t speak up to criticize one of their peers.

Childress is fine with being the punching bag for going waaaaaay over the top to get Favre back. Because, as he said last night from the Vikings’ locker room in San Francisco: “There are no sacrosanct rules in this business. You do what you have to do to win, and I’ve got no problem with that. You can’t get a hit if you don’t swing the bat.”

There’s one problem with the prevailing theory that Favre was coming back. No matter what, and the Vikings knew it. If that were true, why did Childress have to send the quarterback’s three best friends on the team on a secret mission to deliver him back to Minnesota if he was so sure Favre would be there for opening day?

That tells me Childress, and the Vikings, had some doubt. For whatever reason — the bad ankle, leverage for more money, classic Favre wishy-washiness — Childress felt he had to send Steve Hutchinson (Favre’s airplane seatmate on road trips), Jared Allen and golf partner Ryan Longwell to convince him last Monday. They stayed overnight at the 465-acre Favre compound in Sumrall, Miss., and when they returned on Tuesday, they had the quarterback with them.

Con job. Phony. A ploy. Say what you want. Favre was probably coming back anyway — we all know that. But that those three players spent 18 hours at the Favre house tells you Childress and owner Zygi Wilf had to have some question about Favre’s return.

I’m not sure who really knows Favre in our business. I think I do, but I’ve been wrong about his fate so often in the past three years I’ve surrendered my title as a Favrologist. But I have been on his property and in his kitchen and seen the world he inhabits down there. It’s comfortable. It’s country. It’s richy-rich. But it’s his own fiefdom, it’s private as hell, and if he wants to shoot an offending varmint, he can, and no one’s the wiser.

“The hardest thing we had to do, the hardest thing by far, was getting him down that long driveway in Hattiesburg,” Childress said. “Once we got him to go down that long driveway, we had him. He was in.”

That’s perfect — and absolutely true. Was he coming down the long driveway without those guys coming to put a lasso on him? Probably. But there was that shred of doubt in Childress’ mind. One of those it’s-never-over-until-it’s-over thoughts. Now it’s over, and Childress doesn’t have an ounce of regret over doing it this way.

One last point: I asked Childress if he’d alter his playcalls or game plans because of Favre’s bum ankle. Favre said the other day his May 22 ankle surgery hadn’t solved all his problems there; in fact, a new spur had grown on the ankle bone since the surgery. “Not from what I’ve see in practice so far,” Childress said. “Brett was never Michael Vick, obviously, but he doesn’t look a lick different to me.”

There you go. Now onto a few events of interest from the week:

The End Of Training Camp As We Know It?

Question: Will the 18-game schedule ruin the great tradition of NFL training camps as we know them? Do the math here. If the NFL goes to 18 games and two preseason games, my information is that the league is likely to push the season back two weeks and not start the games on Labor Day weekend or earlier.

If that’s the case — using this year’s calendar as an example — the preseason weekends would be Aug. 28 and Sept. 3. Team usually report to camp two weeks before the first preseason game, so let’s say teams start on Aug. 14 or 15. The 13 teams that go to college campuses — Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Arizona, Minnesota and others — may not have the run of campus anymore. Not only is school at many of the 13 campuses close to beginning then, but also are teams going to want to go to the trouble of packing up and going to camp for 10 or 12 days? “It’ll be hard,” Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome told me the other day. “At a lot of camps, you’ll lose your facilities [because of schools starting up].”

Don’t tell John Alvey, who was at Ravens camp the other day with his two nieces. He’s been coming to training camp once or twice a summer since the Ravens relocated to Baltimore in 1996. “It would really hurt the future,” Alvey said. “My daughter took a football card to camp once and got Ray Lewis to sign it and he talked to her for a couple of minutes. I came up once and retrieved balls Matt Stover was kicking. It’s a great personal touch that would be terrible to lose.”

My guess is some teams with a long tradition of going away to a specific campus — the Ravens in Westminster, Md., the Steelers in Latrobe, Pa., and Minnesota in Mankato, Minn. — would keep that going, even if it’s just for a few days. Some others would just let it die. A shame.

Ten Things I’ve Heard on the Training-Camp Trail, and on the Phone

1. Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA chief DeMaurice Smith are getting along markedly better — they had a mostly friendly meeting Aug. 13 — which is a good sign. But no one on either side expects much business to be transacted this fall. Except, possibly, for modifying some penalties for discipline — such as uniform violations.

2. I’d put the odds at the owners locking players out of team facilities on March 1, 2011, or thereabouts, at 80 percent.

3. Got a strong sense that some owners with huge money invested in stadiums and practice facilities will push for a radical new way of revenue-distribution in the CBA talks. Instead of players getting a percentage of the gross, some owners want them to accept a lump sum of, say, $3.5 billion in 2011, and figure a way to divvy it up. These aren’t speculating rubes who told me this, but a source close to two powerful owners who both want to take the percentage-of-total-football-revenue away from players to better control their own costs.

4. I don’t see Seattle trading for Vincent Jackson this week. It might get done, but talks have chilled.

5. I don’t see Darrelle Revis signing with the Jets this week either, despite reports to the contrary by Dallas columnist Tim Cowlishaw Sunday. But Cowlishaw’s good. That’s why I mention it at all — despite a source telling me there’s nothing to it.

6. Re the Ben Roethlisberger suspension: Goodell has a decision with enormous competitive ramifications for the AFC North. The Steelers have their bye in Week 5. If Roethlisberger’s suspension stays at six weeks, he’d be out of camp for 49 days (from Sept. 6 to Oct. 25). If the suspension is cut to four weeks, he’d be banned for 28 days. Huge difference.

7. The Ravens want to see Byron Leftwich in Week 4, not Dennis Dixon. They think Leftwich is a stationary target they could nail with that pass-rush.

8. The Redskins players really like their coordinators, Jim Haslett and Kyle Shanahan. Defensive players like go-for-broke blitzers, which Haslett does at times. Offensive players like Shanahan because he’s a football nerd who figures things out pretty fast for a 30-year-old who looks 19. “Kyle Shanahan is a brilliant football coach,” Houston coach Gary Kubiak said.

9. There will be a longer line chasing John Fox than Bill Cowher after the season.

10. Dexter McCluster could have the kind of impact on the Chiefs that Devin Hester had on the Bears four years ago. Not necessarily in the return game, but in pure explosive play-making ability.


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