Packers' Favre Has Painkiller Addiction

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The toughest quarterback in the NFL sadly admitted Tuesday that he has not done it alone.

Brett Favre of the Green Bay Packers said he will enter an unnamed facility for the treatment of an addiction to painkillers.

Favre, the league's most valuable player last season, said he will remain in the facility, "for as long as it takes to get better."

"This is kind of a difficult time . . . because . . . throughout the last couple of years, playing with pain and injuries, I've become dependent on medication," Favre said.

He spoke briefly at a Lambeau Field news conference and then, overcome with emotion, left before answering questions.

Packer officials made no public predictions, but they expect Favre to be ready for the beginning of training camp in two months.

Coach Mike Holmgren and General Manager Ron Wolf said they learned of Favre's problems only in the last week, yet others close to the team said the announcement was not a shock.

"Yes, and no," said Brian Noble, former Packer linebacker and Green Bay TV announcer. "I'm surprised because they announced it. I'm not surprised because I can understand it.

"Brett is hanging around the wrong group of guys, people who aren't interested in Brett Favre the quarterback. He has to be more cognizant of what people want from Brett Favre."

Noble said that a "friend" of Favre's has been obtaining the potentially toxic medication and giving it to the quarterback.

"He needs to find a better quality of people to hang around with," Noble said.

Favre--an unassuming sort from Kiln, a small town in southern Mississippi--became the league's most valuable player last season while leading the Packers to the NFC championship game for the first time in 28 years. He threw 38 touchdown passes, an NFC record and third-most in league history.

But he is best known for not missing a start for the Packers since the fourth week of the 1992 season. He has a league-best streak of 61 consecutive regular-season starts.

Last season, he suffered a severely sprained ankle Nov. 5 in Minnesota and spent the next six days on crutches. He was supposed to miss the Nov. 12 game against the Chicago Bears.

But he stunned teammates and fans by hobbling on to the field that day and throwing five touchdown passes, tying a team record--despite an ankle the size of a softball.

After undergoing surgery on the ankle in February, Favre said he suffered a seizure that made him realize he had a problem with pain pills.

"It was kind of a wake-up call for Brett," said Dr. John Gray, Packer associate team physician.

Favre also still battles pain related to a life-threatening automobile accident in college. Surgery removed part of his intestine after the accident, and as recently as 1994, he had abdominal surgery to correct residual problems.

"I've been there," said Noble, who underwent 10 knee operations during his nine-year career, which ended in 1993. "There was one good year of my life that I can't recall a lot of pain. I was constantly on pain medication.

"I got tired of being in a fog all the time. It was like, I had to write things down to remember them. I was sleeping the days away."

Noble, who spoke to Favre earlier this week, said the quarterback did not display any signs of addiction.

"He hasn't gone psycho or anything like that, but then, that's not what happens," Noble said. "It becomes something psychological, where you just have to keep taking them and taking them. You get a feeling of relief, of euphoria. I think during his ankle surgery, doctors were surprised to discover the amount of toxicity in his body."

While acknowledging his problem, it was as if Favre was challenging others in the league to admit to their problems.

"Hopefully I can help other people throughout this," Favre said. "Hopefully other people are watching, whether NFL players, or kids throughout the United States, and can learn something and get better."

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