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Favre finally opens up

Brett Favre's fluttering overtime interception that led to the Packers' playoff demise was uncharacteristic. So was his unwillingness to talk about it afterward.

"It was more that I didn't have much to say," the quarterback said Wednesday. "I just kind of sat on the bus and had time to reflect on it."

Favre's last play of the postseason came on his first snap in overtime during the divisional playoff at Philadelphia. Under pressure, he threw a long pass well over receiver Javon Walker and right to Eagles safety Brian Dawkins, who returned it 35 yards to the Green Bay 34.

A few plays later David Akers kicked Philadelphia into the NFC Championship Game with a 31-yard field goal and a 20-17 victory.

"Do I wish I had it back? Sure," Favre said. "Do I wish I had a lot of passes back in my career? Yeah."

Favre credited the Eagles with dooming the play from the start.

"They had the perfect blitz for the play we had called," Favre said. "To say there was a miscommunication between Javon and I would be an understatement. He wasn't wrong, and in some ways I wasn't wrong. I'd thrown that pass to him numerous times where he jumps up and catches in traffic.

"I knew I had to get rid of it. You can say, "Throw it away,' or something like that, but in three seconds you don't have much time to make a decision."

BUMP AND RUN: Panthers receiver Steve Smith is growing tired of hearing about the physical play of the Patriots secondary, specifically cornerback Ty Law and safety Rodney Harrison.

When asked how he and Mushin Muhammad would fare against the defensive backs, Smith bristled.

"It's all of a sudden like I've got two catches for 5 yards," Smith said. "I'll do the same thing I did during the season: 88 catches, 1,100 yards and seven touchdowns.

"First of all, we aren't the Colts and Ty Law is going to win some battles. Receivers for the Carolina Panthers are going to win some battles. That is the football game. It is ups and downs. You have to be able to stay cool between the downs so you can concentrate and make that big catch when is is your opportunity. We've done that, game in and game out, and we aren't expecting anything less from ourselves."

CLOSE CALL: Panthers coach John Fox was pleased with his team's practice and thankful safety Deon Grant avoided a collision with Smith.

Smith was headed toward Grant while running a crossing pattern midway through the nearly two-hour workout at the University of Houston. Grant realized what might happen, so he pulled up.

"You always have some anxiety there," Fox said. "Players try to protect each other the best they can, but the important thing is we made it through unscathed."

PATS NEAR FULL STRENGTH: Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi didn't appear hampered by a leg injury during practice.

Every New England player participated in the 90-minute workout; Bruschi injured his leg in the AFC Championship Game. Patriots tight end Christian Fauria and running back Patrick Pass also were listed on the injury report.

Safety Eugene Wilson came to the sidelines at one point, but he returned to practice after stretching.

_ RICK STROUD, TIMES WIRES

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