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Updated: March 2nd, 2012 7:24pm
Zulgad: Brett Favre's words say one thing but actions spoke volumes

Zulgad: Brett Favre's words say one thing but actions spoke volumes

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by Judd Zulgad
1500ESPN.com

Why can't everyone just leave the Minnesota Vikings alone?

Coming off a 3-13 season and quietly minding their own business, trying to rebuild a roster that only two seasons ago was on the verge of a Super Bowl berth, the Vikings, and their fans, were forced Friday to visit what has to be considered a very dark place in franchise history.

The 2009 NFC Championship Game.

Perhaps not as painful as the overtime loss to Atlanta in the 1998 NFC title game, if only because that one was played in the Metrodome, the Vikings' 31-28 overtime defeat to the Saints on Jan. 24, 2010 still brings back plenty of painful memories.

The fact the Vikings outgained the Saints 475 yards to 257. The Vikings' six fumbles, three of which were lost, and two interceptions thrown by Brett Favre. One of those lost fumbles came on a botched handoff between Favre and Adrian Peterson with the ball at the New Orleans 4-yard line, a minute to go in the first half and the scored tied at 14.

The 12th-man in the huddle penalty on the Vikings that put the ball back at the Saints' 38-yard line with 19 seconds left in the fourth quarter. Instead of being able to have Ryan Longwell attempt a field goal, a hobbling Favre forced a pass across his body for Sidney Rice that was intercepted by Tracy Porter.

Then there was the controversial pass interference call on linebacker Ben Leber that moved the ball from the Vikings 41 to their 29 and got the Saints that much closer to Garrett Hartley's winning 40-yard field goal.

And why did all of this have to come up?

Because more than 26 months after the fact, the NFL has announced that the Saints had a "bounty" on Favre's head that day. It wasn't the first time the Saints had done this and wouldn't be the last. For that, the NFL is going to make sure they pay and pay big.

But for Vikings fans it opens a wound that didn't need to be opened.

In retrospect, it's now clear that at least some of the key participants on the Vikings sideline, including coach Brad Childress, knew something wasn't right with how aggressive coordinator Gregg Williams' defense was being against Favre. Childress would say as much several months later.

There were rumblings at the time about this, but suspecting a team might be taking a few extra shots and finding out there are big bucks on the line is a little different. This might be naïve but did anyone really think that Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma was offering any teammate $10,000 to knock Favre out of the game?

That's the information that Peter King of Sports Illustrated reported was found in a 50,000 page investigation that the NFL sent to the 32 league owners.

The league's investigation also turned up plenty of other information that will land the Saints and Williams in hot water. Williams has left the Saints to become the Rams defensive coordinator but you have to wonder if his spot with St. Louis is now in jeopardy?

The Favre dynamic in all of this is interesting.

Childress made it clear the summer after the loss in the NFC title game that he felt the Saints had tried to injure Favre.

It was hard to believe that the high-low hit delivered by Bobby McCray and current Viking Remi Ayodele in the third quarter was anything but the Saints' version of a Malachi Crunch, but we now come to find out that that hit was simply the most effective.

Favre was left writhing in pain on the ground and while he continued to play, he went from being pretty immobile to completely immobile.

Favre talked to King on Friday night and, in typical Favre fashion, downplayed what happened that day as being part of football.

But it's now interesting to recall that on the night of Sept. 9, 2010, the Vikings opened the NFL's regular-season on a Thursday night in the Superdome in a rematch of the conference title game.

The threat of a lockout following the season remained - months later it would happen - and, as a result, almost every player on both the Vikings and Saints stepped onto the playing field and held a finger in the air to express their solidarity as a member of the players' union.

One player ignored it at all.

Standing on the sideline with his back turned was Favre.

At the time it seemed odd. Perhaps it was caused by the fact that Favre almost certainly knew he was in his last season and would not be impacted by a work stoppage.

Friday night, Favre's decision not to acknowledge the Saints made far more sense. As random as Favre's actions could seem at times, he rarely said or did anything without there being a purpose for it.

Favre knew exactly what the Saints were trying to do to him on that January day and while he has no intention of giving them the satisfaction of speaking out, and thus admitting their grand plan worked and led to a Super Bowl championship, he wasn't about to join them in any act of solidarity.

In retrospect, that might be the only memory from this mess in which Vikings fans can take solace.

Judd Zulgad is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Judd | @1500ESPNJudd | Mackey & Judd
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