EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. – Brett Favre’s latest retirement lasted all of three weeks.
The three-time MVP has done an about-face for the second time in as many years and will play for the Vikings this season.
“I felt I did everything I possibly could do to get where I need to be,” Favre said Tuesday. “You’re 39, your arm may not feel like it did at 21. But the pieces are in place that you don’t have to do that much and I agree with that.
“If they were willing to take that chance, I was, too.”
If the wait for Favre’s decision seemed never-ending, it was resolved in a few short hours. He jumped on a team plane in Mississippi and was picked up at the St. Paul airport by coach Brad Childress himself. The two drove to the team’s practice facility, where Favre waved to hundreds of cheering fans.
No less than 90 minutes later, Favre was on the field in his familiar No. 4 jersey with purple shorts and a purple helmet, a vision that has had Packers fans cringing for months. He shook hands with a few of his new teammates and quickly began throwing as fans peeked through the security fence to catch a glimpse of the superstar.
Shortly after practice began, the Vikings confirmed the agreement that seemed so inevitable all summer, only to be held up on July 28 when the man who holds every major NFL career passing record told Childress he wasn’t ready to play, citing a lack of confidence in his beat-up body to hold up over an entire season.
Favre also had been told by doctors that he had a tear in his rotator cuff.
Green Bay visits Minnesota on Oct. 5, and the Packers host the Vikings on Nov. 1.
“The bottom line is it’s football,” Favre said. “Once you step into the huddle, I don’t look at the helmets. I look at the faces.”
Childress a few weeks ago said he had not planned to pursue Favre after the quarterback said he was staying retired. And yet here comes Favre, once reviled by a Vikings fan base that hustled to welcome him to town.
“I don’t have any problem rooting for one of the greatest quarterbacks ever,” said Phil Setala, a 23-year-old from Minneapolis who was at practice proudly wearing a purple No. 4 jersey.
Even the governor chimed in.
“It’s going to be good for the team. It’s going to be good for the state. It’s going to be exciting,” a giddy Gov. Tim Pawlenty said after a speech.
Last month, Favre explained his decision by saying he had to be “careful not to commit for the wrong reasons.”
“I’m 39 with a lot of sacks to my name,” he said.
He has a lot of interceptions to his name, too, more than any other quarterback in NFL history. The last time Favre appeared in the playoffs – a bitter loss at Lambeau Field by the Packers to the Giants in the NFC championship game following the 2007 season – he put up one of his worst performances in recent memory.
Now the question becomes how Favre will fit in with a team that’s already done with the grind of training camp, not to mention how his health will hold up so soon after he questioned it. Favre had arthroscopic surgery to fix his throwing shoulder in May.
The Vikings got an encouraging performance in their pre-season opener last week from quarterback Sage Rosenfels, who has been competing with Tarvaris Jackson for the starting job. But neither of them have been consistently sharp in practice this month.
And neither is anywhere in Favre’s league. His zinger of an arm and toughness in the pocket are a combination few possess. With an offence he claimed this summer he could operate in his sleep, Favre seems to fit well with Minnesota – especially given the Vikings’ problems finding a reliable quarterback since Childress took over in 2006.
The Vikings have Pro Bowl players all over their roster, with reigning NFL rushing leader Adrian Peterson in the backfield and a dominant defensive line. No matter who’s behind centre, they ought to be in position to defend their NFC North title.
To win the conference, and perhaps that elusive Super Bowl, they’ll need stability at the sport’s most critical position.
Favre has wrestled with retirement for most of this decade and the will-he-or-won’t-he saga became an annual off-season drama for the Packers, his longtime home. In Green Bay, the latest news elicited a few shrugs, little more.
A few months after Favre’s tearful goodbye news conference in March 2008, Green Bay traded him to the Jets when he tried to come back, only to learn the Packers were committed to Aaron Rodgers. Favre started strong in New York, but faded down the stretch amid problems with his throwing arm and, with another “I’m done” announcement, headed for his second retirement.
The Jets released him from his contract right after the draft and soon after, the Vikings were openly expressing interest. Favre spent the summer working out in Mississippi and led everyone to believe he was on his way back to the NFL until last month.
Now, he is back.