The new NFL season will once again be marked by familiar faces in unfamiliar places.
Favre making a second start
It is nothing new in the age of free agency, but whereas past seasons have been marked by a rash of off-season moves for free-agent signees, 2008 standouts on the number of marquee players switching teams in trades. Brett Favre finds himself in New York, Jason Taylor is in Washington, Adam 'Pacman' Jones is a Dallas Cowboy, Jared Allen has landed in Minnesota and Jeremy Shockey is in New Orleans.
The tale of Favre - from his retirement in early March to his un-retirement in July and subsequent bitter divorce from the Green Bay Packers - was the most compelling story of the summer. When the Packers management and the one-time franchise icon finally came to an agreement on one thing - that Favre was not welcome back in "Titletown" - Favre was shipped to the New York Jets. "The expectations are obviously great here, that goes without saying," Favre said.
"But they were in Green Bay as well... those people throughout Wisconsin, they'd come to accept winning. A lot of tradition. "The bottom line is playing, no matter how good or how bad, you can't let yourself be affected by things you can't control. "That's kind of the way I've handled my whole career: just do what I can do, and not really get caught up in all the other stuff. "Here in New York, I'm sure that can be a lot tougher."
Favre's arrival makes the Jets relevant in the AFC East conference, which to that point was shaping up as a not-too-interesting battle for second place behind the New England Patriots. The Jets' acquisition of Favre, the league's only three-time MVP and career leader in numerous passing categories, also ended the tenure of the incumbent Chad Pennington, who was dealt to the division rival Miami and quickly earned the starting job with the Dolphins.
The juicy subplot? Favre and Pennington will square off when the Dolphins host the Jets on Saturday. Miami were one of the busiest teams in the off-season under the new director of football operations Bill Parcells, who finally put an end to another soap opera by trading the defensive end Taylor to the Washington Redskins. While Taylor earned acclaim during the season for his appearances on the TV show Dancing With The Stars, he also has a resume that compares favourably to that of Favre, with six Pro Bowl appearances and the 2006 Defensive Player of the Year award to his credit.
A sprained knee suffered in an exhibition game is threatening Taylor's status for tonight's season-opener against the defending Super Bowl champions, the New York Giants, although he is expected to be ready to return next week. Another player who has to be smart is Jones, who was reinstated on Aug 28 by the commissioner Roger Goodell following a suspension that lasted 17 months for a series of off-the-field incidents.
A standout cornerback with the Tennessee Titans at the time of his ban, Jones was traded to the Cowboys prior to this year's draft and upgrades the team's pass defence while also giving Dallas a dynamic punt returner. Jones had emerged as a budding superstar in his first two seasons with Tennessee, recording four interceptions and returning three punts for touchdowns in 2006. "I am very grateful for this opportunity, and I understand my responsibilities to the Dallas Cowboys and the NFL," he said.
"Right now I just want to keep working hard so I can accomplish the goals that I have set for myself both on and off the field." Shockey also wore out his welcome with his former team, the Giants. He broke his leg last season and was sidelined during the team's stunning run to the Super Bowl championship. During a team camp in June, a disgruntled Shockey reportedly got into a shouting match with the Giants general manager Jerry Reese and was traded a month later to the New Orleans Saints.
There is no denying the talent of the brash tight end, who was selected to the Pro Bowl in four of his six seasons with New York. Shockey is second among the active tight ends with 371 receptions and holds the second-longest active streak at the position with at least one catch in 83 consecutive games. He should be a perfect fit in a high-powered Saints offence and could help tip the balance of power in the NFC South.
Allen also will be an ideal fit with the Vikings defence. Although he lacks the "name" recognition of Favre and Taylor, not to mention Jones and Shockey, the Pro Bowl defensive end may turn out to be the single most important acquisition of the season. The NFL's leader in sacks with 15.5 in just 14 games last season with the Kansas City Chiefs, Allen joins a unit that ranked No 1 in the league against the run the past two seasons - but was last in pass defence in 2007.
The Chiefs were not willing to meet Allen's contract demands, so they dispatched him to Minnesota for a slew of draft picks, making the Vikings one of trendy picks to reach the Super Bowl. Whether that happens will depend on more than just Allen, but the pieces are in place - and not only in Minnesota. firstname.lastname@example.org