Fearful Brett Favre Would ‘Rather Not Know’ the Reasons Behind Some of His Memory Lapses

By his estimation, he’s was sacked 1,500 times in his football career. Former Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre took a ton of hits and those sacks don’t include when he got whacked taking off down the field or getting hit late. Favre said he used to be able to remember everything. Sometimes he forgets the little things now and doesn’t know if that’s because of football or just a part of the aging process. He prefers not to know the reason.

Brett Favre was as tough as they come

Quarterback Brett Favre (R) of the Green Bay Packers is thrown to the turf by Brady Smith (C) and Patrick Kerney (L) of the Atlanta Falcons during the first half of their NFC Wild-Card game in January of 2003 at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, WI.
(Photo by JEFF HAYNES/AFP via Getty Images)

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Brett Favre replaced an injured Don Majkowski in September of 1992 and never looked back. Favre played 16 years with the Green Bay Packers. He started every game after he rallied the Pack to a victory over the Cincinnati Bengals when he was called upon after Majkowski’s ankle injury forced him from the game.

Favre started an NFL-record 297 consecutive games at quarterback despite taking hit after hit. He wasn’t the typical, stand-in-the-pocket quarterback. Favre was a gunslinger and a guy who would scramble and do whatever it took to get that first down.

Favre earned a Super Bowl with the Packers and played in another one, losing to the Denver Broncos. He was a three-time MVP and an 11-time Pro Bowler. He’s thrown 552 career TD passes, postseason included. Favre was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2016. His biggest accomplishment, however, might be that string of 297 consecutive starts that may never be broken.

Brett Favre would ‘rather not know’ why he’s forgetting some things

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During a sit-down interview with Peter King in 2019, Brett Favre had a candid conversation with King about life after football. All the hits Favre took at quarterback came up. Favre said his neck was hurting that particular day, and he said he would be a horrible hide-and-seek player because his bones are always cracking. The topic turned serious when the subject of concussions came up.

“Not long after I retired, my agent Bus (Cook) called me and said Dr. Julian Bailes (neurosurgeon featured in the movie ‘Concussion’) wanted to talk to me. We talked on the phone. (Dr. Bailes) was doing a study to determine if tau protein, which I had never heard of… He had discovered there was a high level of tau protein in all the deceased players he had studied. He wanted to do it on living, whether present-playing or just retired players to determine if there is a relationship with this tau protein and problems.

Dr. Bailes told Favre that in his studies, high levels of tau protein, which everyone has, are signs of head trauma. He wanted to fly Favre out to take some tests. “I said Doc, let me ask you,” Favre said. “What if I do have high levels? Do you have something to treat it?” Dr. Bailes said there was nothing to treat it. Favre wouldn’t fly out. “No disrespect, but I’d rather not know,” Favre told Dr. Bailes.

Favre admits to being fearful and thinks about Junior Seau

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For the most part, Brett Favre is feeling pretty good after a Hall-of-Fame football career. He’s 51 years old and he declined Dr. Bailes’ offer to test him because he doesn’t want to overthink things. “Every time you forget your keys or that your glasses are on your head – that happens to everyone – are you thinking, I’ve got tau protein, elevated levels, I got head trauma? I just would rather not know and it’s easier to write it off as you’re 50 and you forget your keys.

“I also know the way that I played and the fact that I played 20 years and you count four years of college and high school, which should never be overlooked because the brain, you’re not developed. There’s a lot of fear. I knew Junior Seau very well. That guy loved life. I thought he’d play forever. The last person I would ever think that would kill themselves would be Junior Seau. There’s just no way. He had too much energy.

“I love life and I love everything about it. I have good days and bad, but I don’t want to leave this place. But if he can do that, what about me?”

All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference.

How to get help: In the U.S., call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Or text HOME to 741-741 to connect with a trained crisis counselor at the free Crisis Text Line.