Brett Favre: What, Me Worry?

Thursday, October 12th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Antonio Freeman believes that all the Green Bay Packers need is time.

``If we can protect, we can be a great football team,'' the Packers' wide receiver said as Green Bay began preparations this week for the San Francisco 49ers, another former heavyweight now struggling at 2-4.

The trouble is, Brett Favre has been running for his life and firing away passes prematurely as his protection collapses on him like a deflating pup tent.

Last week at Detroit, he fumbled twice and threw three interceptions, including one that foiled a last-minute comeback when he felt pressure that wasn't there and threw off his back foot — a residual effect, he said, of getting hammered so often.

Now he's getting a second rookie tackle to protect him, and he swears he isn't worried.

``They'll do a fine job,'' the Packers' bruised quarterback said of tackles Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher.

``You can't worry about who's in front of you, who's catching,'' Favre said. ``You have to have trust in each other.''

Clifton, a second-round pick from Tennessee, took over for left tackle Mike Wahle at practice on Wednesday.

He joined Tauscher, a seventh-round pick from Wisconsin who moved up when right tackle Earl Dotson opted for another back operation last month.

Coach Mike Sherman said Clifton would get plenty of snaps this week, and he'll decide by Friday who will protect Favre's blind side against the 49ers.

But all signs already are pointing to Clifton, listed as a 6-foot-5, 325-pounder.

Wahle's play has become a big concern for the Packers, who are off to their worst start since 1992, and Sherman wants him to take a step back and clear his head.

``Mike has a tendency to out-think himself out there,'' Sherman said. ``And I think this will afford him the opportunity to work through that. He's guessing a little bit about what a guy's going to do sometimes instead of reacting to what he is actually doing.''

So, what will Clifton have to do this week to officially earn the start?

Keep eating, apparently.

``The thing with Chad is, he's a big man and he's a big man in the National Football League,'' Sherman said. ``He's 330 pounds plus. It takes just a little bit longer to get around him. It's just a little farther to get around the edge when you have a big guy like that.''

Size matters, but so does skill.

``I'm just looking for consistency and someone who can give Brett some confidence that he can set his feet and throw the football,'' Sherman said.

Wahle said he's going to iron things out, even if he gets benched as everyone seems to expect.

``I just want to get back to playing how I should be playing, playing how I know I can, how I know I have before,'' Wahle said. ``What happens this weekend is a coach's decision.''

Offensive line coach Larry Beightol said the Packers aren't giving up on Wahle as they did another first-round left tackle, John Michels, last year.

``I've seen 20 plays of Chad Clifton in real battle,'' Beightol said. ``That's pretty good. But it was only 20 of them. I've seen Mike Wahle over 1,000 snaps. He just needs to get to get back there and get his footwork and his techniques down and he'll be fine.''

Like Favre, Beightol has no reservations about starting two rookies.

``It wouldn't bother me in the least,'' he said. ``We need to get our offensive football team jump-started here.''