The quarterback played through broken bones, pain and heartache on his way to 297 consecutive starts. Now one of sport's greatest streaks is over.
Favre fails to beat injury on 298th instance
An unexpected postponement gave Brett Favre one more chance.
A little extra time for his right shoulder to heal, another day for him to show he was healthy enough to start.
So many times in the past, he had defied expectations and played on. This time, he was having trouble feeling his hand, which was an ugly shade of purple.
And with that, the streak was over. "I've always assumed I'd play every game," Favre said.
After 297 consecutive regular-season starts over 19 years, one of the greatest individual streaks in all of sports, Favre ran into an injury he could not beat and sat out Monday night's game.
The 41-year-old quarterback, who fought through broken bones, aches, pains and personal grief to play week after week, could not make it for the Minnesota Vikings in their 21-3 loss to the New York Giants.
Favre was sidelined by a throwing shoulder too damaged for even him to overcome and a hand too numb to take the field with.
"I've played through a lot of stuff," Favre said. "This is something different that I've got to be more cautious of."
The Vikings hoped Favre, who has started despite a broken foot and elbow tendinitis this season, could do it again when the game against the Giants was delayed from Sunday after the Minnesota Metrodome roof collapsed.
That forced the game to be moved to Detroit's Ford Field, but it was not enough time for Favre to get healthy enough to play.
Leslie Frazier, the Minnesota interim coach, said the plan was for Favre to go through a pre-game throwing routine to try to determine if he could play, but the three-time MVP was not on the field about 90 minutes before kick off, and the Vikings announced moments later he was inactive.
Frazier said Favre was not even able to try throwing on Monday.
"He was having trouble with numbness down through his shoulder and into his hand," Frazier said. "It was a no-brainer. We could not put him out there. He could not function as a quarterback."
Favre finally came out about 35 minutes before the game started, wearing a T-shirt and warm-up pants.
He hugged a teammate while receiving a few cheers from the crowd, then stood at the 15-yard line and chatted with Tarvaris Jackson, the new Minnesota starter.
After Minnesota's first drive, Favre looked at photo printouts with Jackson as the Vikings went over strategy. For the rest of the game, he remained near midfield, standing calmly much of the time while Minnesota's offence sputtered without him.
"Relief, in one sense. There wasn't a whole lot of pressure on me today," Favre said in an emotional news conference after the game.
"It's been a long time. I'd much rather be playing, that's just my nature.
"I don't want to say it was time, but it's probably been long overdue. There's probably been a lot of times the streak should have ended."
It is uncertain if Favre will play again in this, his third comeback season from a brief retirement. Neither he nor Frazier would rule it out, but this injury is obviously serious if it was enough to keep him out of even one game.
"I think it would be foolish to even consider playing if you don't have total feeling in five fingers," Favre said.
The crowd in Detroit, where tickets were given out for free, had a chance to witness a bit of history.
"Ahhh, I feel bad for him," said JoAnn Brown, a Vikings season-ticket holder, who drove 12 hours to see the game in Detroit.
"I wish he could've just got out there for the first play and just tossed the ball once to keep the streak."
Both Favre and Frazier had made it clear he would not be given a ceremonial start like that. At 5-7, the Vikings still have a slim chance to make the play-offs.
Favre was injured when Buffalo's Arthur Moats hit him square in the back and sent him to the turf on the third play from scrimmage last weekend.
Ron Jaworski previously held the consecutive starts record for a quarterback, but Favre passed him way back in 1999.
"I knew when my streak ended, it was because of a broken leg," Jaworski said.
"I knew it was over. It was just kind of interesting following Brett this week. Now that we know it's over, we can kind of look back on it and marvel. I don't know if I can even put words on it."
Jim Schwartz, the Detroit Lions coach, compared Favre's run to another athlete with a famous streak.
"I grew up in Baltimore and witnessed the Cal Ripken streak, but football is a completely different sport," Schwartz said.
"At quarterback, you have a target on you. It's a tough, physical job and you are not ever delivering the blow. It takes a self-sacrifice to stand in there and take a blow to make a play for the team."
As for Ripken, who played 2,632 consecutive games for the Baltimore Orioles baseball team, he took a moment to congratulate Favre as well.
"Brett has had an incredible career and his consecutive games streak is remarkable," he said through a spokesman.
"As a football fan I cannot fathom his accomplishment and I appreciate his dedication to and passion for the game. He is a true gamer and has provided us all with a lot of wonderful memories."
Season No 20, though, has been one of Favre's toughest. He has taken a beating on the field and played not only through two fractures in his left foot and elbow tendinitis, but 10 stitches in his chin along with aches in his neck, back and calf before he was crunched by Moats.
He has also been the subject of an NFL investigation into allegations he sent inappropriate messages and photographs to a game-day hostess when both worked for the New York Jets in 2008.
The investigation has lasted for more than two months now, and the lawyer for Jenn Sterger was vocal last week in trying to get a ruling announced.
Through it all, Favre has led his team on the field, extending his streak further and further.
Peyton Manning, the Indianapolis Colts quarterback, now holds the longest on-going streak at 205 games.
He would need to keep it going for another five years to surpass Favre.
It is a record that Favre cherishes. Over the years, he has played through a separated shoulder, several concussions, a sprained knee and a broken thumb - and he also took to the field following the sudden death of his father and his wife being diagnosed with breast cancer.
"It's been a great run. I would not hang my head one bit," he said. "When I think about, as a kid, goals, dreams, I've far exceeded all of those."