In the wake of two embarrassingly lopsided losses, interim coach Leslie Frazier isn't giving up on Brett Favre and the Minnesota Vikings.
Frazier said he would not put Favre on season-ending injured reserve with a concussion and wouldn't rule out a return to the field before the season is over.
"He's proven time and time again that he's capable of coming back and playing," Frazier said Tuesday.
Favre made a surprise start against Chicago on Monday night after being ruled out on Saturday with a sprained right throwing shoulder. He threw for 63 yards with one touchdown and an interception before getting knocked out of the game in the second quarter on a sack by Bears defensive end Corey Wootton.
Frazier said it was unlikely the 41-year-old quarterback could recover from the concussion in time to play Sunday at Philadelphia, but wouldn't rule out a return for the season finale at Detroit on Jan. 2.
Favre has said several times this will be his last season, and Frazier said the veteran doesn't want to go out watching from the bench.
"He doesn't want to let his teammates down," Frazier said. "He really wanted to play in front of the home fans last night for maybe the last time. That was important to him. I think more than anything he likes to compete and the fact that we've got two ballgames left, he's a guy who loves his teammates and loves to play. I think that's what motivates him more than anything."
If Favre cannot play, rookie Joe Webb will be the starter with recently signed veteran Patrick Ramsey as the backup. The Vikings were also considering signing Rhett Bomar off the Giants practice squad as insurance.
Coming in for Favre against the Bears, Webb went 15-for-26 for 129 yards with two interceptions and a 13-yard touchdown run. The Vikings turned the ball over five times in the 40-14 loss that dropped the Vikings to 5-9, assuring them of their first losing season since 2006.
It's been an epic fall for the Vikings, who were one play away from going to the Super Bowl last season and brought everyone back for one more run.
But everything that could go wrong has gone wrong in 2010. Favre has been injured, ineffective and the subject of a scandalous NFL investigation. Randy Moss returned and left in less than a month. Brad Childress was fired midseason. The veteran team has been ravaged by injuries to stars like Sidney Rice, Adrian Peterson, Steve Hutchinson and Percy Harvin.
Oh, and the Metrodome's roof collapsed, forcing them to move one home game to Detroit (a loss to the Giants) and another one outside at the University of Minnesota on a cold, snowy evening.
"I don't know what else could happen this year," rookie running back Toby Gerhart said. "It's been a crazy year. You've just got to push through it and keep playing."
Perhaps worn down by all the drama, the Vikings have been outscored 61-17 in their last two games as they stagger toward the finish of this monumentally disappointing season.
"I experienced the best of football last year and the worst of it this year," Harvin said after the loss to the Bears. "It'll definitely be a year to chalk up not as something to remember, but to remind us how quickly things can turn south if we don't continue to stay focused. It's a great lesson for us and I'm going to keep working hard and give it everything I've got."
Frazier and most players insist they haven't given up this season, that their effort in practice and in the games has been satisfactory, but the results have not.
The simple truth is that jobs are on the line. Frazier is auditioning to become the permanent head coach and the Vikings could have as many as 17 players become free agents at the end of the season, including Rice, Chad Greenway, Ray Edwards and Ryan Longwell.
The Vikings finish the season at Detroit (4-10) and could wind up last in the NFC North for the first time in 20 years.
"We all have jobs we're fighting for. That's just the business of the NFL," Greenway said. "Coach Frazier certainly is in that position. The whole coaching staff. We have a ton of free agents. We don't want this to happen like this. We're working as hard as we can. Obviously we want to play better and that's just the facts."
(This version CORRECTS Corrects to Vikings in penultimate paragraph)