As an NFL quarterback, Brett Favre was a genius, equal parts intuition, daring and joie de vivre. You didnt have to be a football fan per se to enjoy watching him play.
It was a subdued, occasionally stammering Favre who appeared Thursday on Megyn Kelly Today.
How many concussions did you have? Kelly asked the man who retired at 41 with the most passing yards and touchdown passes in NFL history.
That I know of, three, four maybe, Favre said. But as were learning about concussions, theres a term that is often used in football: I got dinged. And if that is a concussion, then Ive had hundreds, probably thousands, which is frightening.
Favre was one of a kind. He would throw a pass he had no business throwing and it would work out. He would jump up after a slam-bang hit as if it had never happened. He might heft a teammate across his shoulders after a great play. He seemingly had the ability to bend reality to conform to his wishes, never more so than that spectacular Monday night against the Raiders the day after his father died.
To see him on Megyn Kelly Today was to see a man who understands reality is now pushing back.
Kelly asked the requisite, and in Favres case hypothetical, question: If youd had a son, would you have let him play football?
If I had a son myself, I suppose I could make him not play, Favre said. But I would really, really discourage him from playing. And that seems to surprise people when I say that.
Its more ironic than surprising. Can you imagine a young Brett Favre taking that kind of advice to heart? No way. His father was a football coach. Favre was really good at the game. He contends now that my football career has meant a great deal to me and has provided a lot of things, a lot of joy not only for me but for my family.
Favre not only played, he played when probably he shouldnt have. He started 321 consecutive games (including the postseason). Thats a lot of playing hurt. For comparison purposes: Joe Namath and Jim Plunkett played 310 NFL games combined. Namath is so concerned about the concussion issue that he helped found a neurological research center in Florida. Plunkett is so wracked with pain that last August he told this newspaper, My life sucks.
Favre is still in denial.
I played 20 years, he said. Year 18, 19 or 20 is when the NFL implemented the concussion protocol. There had been an enormous amount of injury that had taken place in those 17, 18 years. Head injuries and concussions were never considered a problem for long-term (health) until now.
Not true. Steve Young retired after suffering a concussion in 1999 Favres ninth season in the NFL. It was known then that having a concussion could make one susceptible to future concussions, and that multiple concussions were bad for the brain. Not trying to pile on Favre here even knowing what he knew, Young made clear at his retirement news conference that he checked out medically and could have played another season or two if he had wanted. You probably have to have that attitude when you play a game in which 275-pound gazelles are trying to rip the helmet off your head.
Kelly asked Favre about his symptoms.
I consider myself somewhat fortunate, he said. Having played 20 years youd think I would be more damaged, not only to the brain but to the body. But I find that short-term memory has gotten a lot worse. Simple words that normally come out easy in conversation, Im stammering. Look, Im 48 years old. Like we all like to say as we get older, Yeah, I forgot my keys and they were in my hand. Where are my glasses? and theyre on my head.
I wonder if thats what it is, or do I have the early stages of CTE. I dont know. It makes you wonder.
Favre was the executive director of the recently released documentary Shocked: A Hidden Factor in the Sports Concussion Crisis. In it, he describes his final play in the NFL:
I threw a little swing pass to the left. The guy just kind of bumps into me, a harmless hit, no big deal. And as Im falling to the turf, the side of my head hits the turf, and bam. The lights were out.