When you talk Brett Favre, you go across the seasons so we give you two generations of Bengals cornerbacks. Johnathan Joseph has seen Favre mainly on Madden. Eric Thomas still sees him in memory.
Here is the 24-year-old Joseph, who most likely starts against the Jets on Sunday in The Meadowlands when Favre makes his 258th straight start. Here is the 44-year-old Thomas, who was on the field when Favre made his Packers debut on Sept. 20, 1992 with a stunning 35-yard touchdown pass to Kittrick Taylor with less than 15 seconds left as Green Bay completed a ludicrous 24-23 come-from-behind victory over the Bengals.
"We didn't know who he was; some backup quarterback," Thomas recalled Wednesday. "But he figured out quick how to beat Cover 2."
Favre hasnt stopped finding weakness and pulling out miracles since that day he hopped off the bench when Don Majkowski broke his leg after nose tackle Tim Krumrie crushed him.
"I can still see Krummy with his arms around (Majkowski's) ankle," Thomas said. "It's funny because he was the same kind of quarterback. They called him 'The Majik Man,' and he would run around. I was on his team in college in the Blue-Gray Game, so I knew him. But we didn't know who Favre was when he came in. You don't prepare for a backup quarterback."
But one thing they found out quickly:
"He could chunk the ball and he can still chunk the ball. One thing Brett Favre can do is throw the ball," Thomas said. "He only made three throws that game. He didn't have a very good game. But he made three great throws."
Thomas said Favre was aided by the fact it was just the third game of the season and the Bengals had yet to put in Cover 3 or Cover 4. Thomas was on the other side of the field stalking Pro Bowler Sterling Sharpe. Taylor ran a streak past the other cornerback, Rod Jones, and with safety Fernandus "Snake" Vinson watching another route coming up the seam, he was slow coming over the top. Too slow to make a play on Favre's opening salvo to the Hall of Fame.
"We should have been in quarters coverage across the field," Thomas said. "The cornerbacks have to be dropped back. You can't let them get by you. That's the only thing that can beat you. They tried to run that play a little bit earlier to Sterling and he overshot him a little bit.
"I think they just asked him if he thought he could squeeze it in there. The receiver probably told him they weren't getting his hands on him and he sure squeezed it in there."
Thomas, now a personal trainer in Cincinnati, looks like he can still play. But he knows how hard it is to keep the body intact.
"I'm just amazed every time I turn on the TV and see (Favre) playing," he said. "A guy like that comes around only once every 20 or 30 years."
Thomas watch Favre again this weekend, 17 years and 258 games later, and he'll be sure to think of one thing:
"We were that close to being 3-0 that year and we ended up winning five games," Thomas said. "That hurt us."
"He's not afraid to take a chance to make a play; he'll take it every time," said Joseph of what he likes about Favre and the challenge of playing his swashbuckling style.
Joseph certainly liked to go to Favre in the video game world.
"The '06 (Madden) I think was the version that you could only see with the quarterback's vision," he said. "With a rookie quarterback, the field was real tight and narrow. But with Favre, you could see the whole field."
As a pro cornerback, Joseph knows full well Favre's reputation of throwing as many picks as interceptions. But that doesn't make him feel any easier about Sunday.
"I bet, Joseph said, "if he throws 15 passes and five are interceptions, he'll make 10 plays. He'll double the plays he makes."
Spoken like a 44-year-old.