Fran lightens up on Favre

Published 10:24 am Friday, August 20, 2010

By Bob Sansevere
The Pioneer Press

Vikings legend Fran Tarkenton was critical of Brett Favre before and after Favre joined the Vikings last season. Tarkenton took issue with Favre’s annual inability to decide whether he was retiring or not. Then he ripped Favre for what he called “riding in on his white horse” weeks after training camp began. Tarkenton softened his view of Favre as the season unfolded and Favre led the Vikings to the NFC championship game. I checked in with Tarkenton today to see what he thinks of Favre now.

BS: What do you think about how Favre handled his return to the Vikings?

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FT: I just made an oath. I’m not going to talk about it. I talked about it all last year. I made myself known and I think everybody can interpret for themselves what they think. I weighed in on that. I made my statement, made it clear. I don’t need to continue doing that. I don’t have a vendetta here.

BS: Did you figure all along he’d be back?

FT: Yes. Three weeks ago, I put on my blog there’s no question Brett Favre will be back.

BS: Do you have much, if any, communication with Favre?

FT: I’ve never met him, no.

BS: Wouldn’t you think that somewhere along the way, some network would get you together with Favre and maybe Dan Marino, too, because you’ve all held the same NFL passing records?

FT: Johnny Unitas had the records before I had them. I had them for as many as 17 years: yards gained passing, touchdown passes and so forth. Then Marino beat me. Then Favre beat Marino. There’s no question about what Favre has done and not having missed a game in 19 years will never be repeated. It’s a remarkable accomplishment. To show up and play every week is remarkable. Last year, he had arguably the best year he’s ever had.

BS: Will this season be easier for Favre because he’s had a season in the system and with the players?

FT: I don’t know. Every season is different. The dynamics are different and the schedule is different. The wind blows different. When you have seasons like that (in 2009), there’s some magic to it. The one thing is it’s a very, very deep roster. Is the roster as deep as last year? Age always is a factor. How is the dynamic in the locker room?

BS: What do you think the Vikings’ chances are to win the Super Bowl with Favre?

FT: Don’t know. I don’t know about the other quarterbacks (with the Vikings). I haven’t seen them play. They will be competitive no matter what because they have a good team. The year before (in 2008) didn’t they win the division with Gus Frerotte? He was a hundred years old. The home field is a big advantage. How many turnovers did they have in the NFC championship game? Four?

BS: Five.

FT: That could have been the noise factor (in the Superdome in New Orleans). I think if Minnesota played New Orleans in Minnesota, the Vikings would have beaten them 100-0.

BS: Favre talked about coming back for the guys in the locker room. Did you miss the locker room after you retired?

FT: I used to love going to training camp. I go to training camp and Mick Tingelhoff is my roommate. We’d finish practice and go to a pizza place and have pizza and ice-cold beer and then we’d go give Burnsie (offensive coordinator Jerry Burns) some stuff, and play cards until two in the morning. It’s like a fraternity party. Sure, you miss it. You can’t duplicate that. You have no responsibility. You don’t have to deal with the real world.

BS: Enough about Favre. Sept. 17 marks the 50th anniversary of the first game ever played by the Vikings. You came off the bench and led the Vikings to a 37-13 victory. Does it seem like it’s been 50 years, or half a century?

FT: Yeah, it does. (laughs.) I am very, very proud. I think Sept. 17 is a historic day in the history of the Vikings franchise, in the history of that area. I don’t hear a lot about it.

BS: No, you don’t.

FT: You think about 50 years ago, Sept. 17. We were put together with chewing gum and rubber bands. We had a coach (Norm Van Brocklin) who played in the NFL championship game the year before (with the Philadelphia Eagles). He had no coaching experience. We had owners without ownership experience. We had five owners who didn’t know each other. Then, you start your team off. We go out Sept. 17, 50 years ago, and we’re playing the Chicago Bears. We played them two weeks before in exhibition and they beat us by a bazillion points. (Actually, it was 30-7.) I was going to start the game. Before game, Van Brocklin told me he was starting George Shaw. He’s a veteran. I’m put in sometime in first quarter. Here we have the Chicago Bears. And George Halas. A great team. I remember we ran out of the tunnel before the game and the fans didn’t know who we were. They knew who the Bears were. Sept. 17. That is the date. It started in such a magnificent way.