MANKATO - Vikings players ride bicycles from their dorm rooms to practice at training camp, to save time and avoid signing autographs. As the 80 players who have reported to camp took the field for their first practice on Friday afternoon, a white bike remained in front of the players' dorm.
It was adorned with the number 4, a reminder that Brett Favre, the Hamlet of Hattiesburg, has placed his comfort over the needs and wants of a team offering to pay him $13 million for six months of employment, has again placed himself on a different plane than his teammates.
Favre's bike is like Jim Thome's favorite glove or Glen Taylor's trophy case: It will never be used.
Vikings coach Brad Childress has displayed wisdom and patience in his courting of Favre. He was right to recruit Favre last summer, and he is right to accede to Favre's wishes this summer. For all of his old-school philosophies about teamwork, cohesiveness, work ethic and responsibility, Childress recognizes that he operates in a results business and that Favre produces far better results than any other quarterback available to him.
Childress is right to wait for Favre. Favre is wrong to keep Childress waiting.
Favre's teammates and Vikings management seem content with his insistence on extending his summer vacation, but Favre is being illogical, irresponsible and lazy.
None of his excuses for skipping training camp makes sense, even if you can imagine them being delivered in a charming Southern drawl.
He wants more time at home? He's been in Hattiesburg since January, he'll be back by February, and if and when he does retire, he'll be there for the rest of his life, and there isn't much to do in central Mississippi, anyway, other than sweat and wish you lived someplace else.
He can't stand training camp? This is not an old-school camp, where coaches try to break down players for the purposes of developing toughness and encouraging male bonding. There are badminton tournaments with more hitting than these practices, and the team has moved into a cushy new dorm with air conditioning, and camp lasts two weeks instead of a month.
He doesn't like practice? Vikings players should be insulted that Favre would rather throw to high school receivers in 100-degree heat than throw to them in 80-degree comfort.
He wants to conserve his arm and energy? Favre would have just as much control over his workload in Mankato as he does at Oak Grove High.
He doesn't need much work to get ready? That proved true last season, when the Vikings began with games against two of the worst teams in existence, the Cleveland Browns and Detroit Lions.
This year, the Vikings begin with a game that is as ominous as it is symbolic -- an opener in New Orleans. Favre will not be able to pitch-and-putt his way to an easy victory while he reacclimates to the realities of the NFL.
The team that practiced in Mankato on Friday is as talented and deep as any in the NFL. If you want to find reason for concern in this camp other than Sidney Rice's hip or Cedric Griffin's knee, you need only look at the Vikings' two most renowned players, Favre and Adrian Peterson.
No one with the team would want to hear this term, but Favre is conducting a holdout. He is under contract and sure to play, so his absence should be called nothing less.
Including playoff games, Peterson fumbled nine times and botched one handoff last season. In his three seasons, his yards-per-rush average has dropped from 5.6 to 4.8 to 4.4.
He spent four days this offseason at Winter Park, missing most team activities.
Favre and Peterson avoided working with their team this summer, shirked tasks that would be expected of teammates. Their absences might not damage the Vikings, but any interception Favre throws in New Orleans and any fumble Peterson leaves on the ground in Green Bay will stand as proof that they spent this summer tempting fate and avoiding duty.
Jim Souhan can be heard at 10-noon Sunday on AM-1500. His Twitter name is SouhanStrib. • email@example.com