MINNEAPOLIS — As Brett Favre stood at the podium in the Louisiana Superdome late on the evening of Jan. 24, he refused to make any promises about returning for a 20th NFL season.
The Vikings had just suffered a 31-28 overtime loss to the Saints in the NFC title game, and the battered quarterback did not want to make any promises he wouldn’t keep. He did, however, provide one nugget of information.
“I wouldn’t say (it will take) months,” Favre said when asked for a timetable on his decision. “I know people are rolling their eyes or will roll their eyes.”
Turns out they again have good reason for doing so. Nearly six months later and two weeks before the Vikings open training camp, Favre still hasn’t said whether he will return — and from all appearances, he isn’t close to making an announcement.
Raise your hand if you’re surprised.
Favre’s wavering has become part of his legend and marketability. The Packers eventually tired of this dance and moved on with Aaron Rodgers, but the Vikings are willing to wait and bank on the belief that Favre isn’t going to pull the plug on his career.
Not with the nucleus of a team returning that went 12-4 last season and save for a 12-men-on-the-field penalty likely would have represented the NFC in the Super Bowl. Favre’s season ended with the memorable fourth-quarter interception he threw against the Saints, but it included a regular-season performance in which he threw for 4,202 yards (best since 1998), 33 touchdowns (best since 1997) and a career-low seven interceptions.
That performance clearly makes Favre the best option to play quarterback for the Vikings and in the organization’s view makes it worth putting up with what has become the |40-year-old’s silly season. No matter how long that season seems to continue. Vikings coach Brad Childress has said repeatedly that Favre is a special case and doesn’t have to be at the start of training camp — an approach that worked pretty well for Childress last year.
Anyone who saw Favre’s interview Wednesday following the ESPY Awards heard the usual self-doubt in his voice about whether he could physically continue to play. But if you read between the lines of what Favre said, it became more clear than ever that he’s going to be back.
Yes, Favre seems to have concerns about his surgically repaired left ankle, but this wasn’t a major procedure, it was essentially a clean-up job. Last year, Favre went through the same thing as he vacillated after having surgery on his throwing shoulder to repair a torn biceps.
The real question at this point is whether Favre even believes what he’s trying to sell to the public — and his employer. Some will say that Favre truly is filled with doubt. The cynic will call this all part of his offseason act. An attempt to stay away from training camp as long as possible and ride in on the white horse at a more convenient time.
So which is it?
In a lengthy story in Men’s Journal on Favre, the quarterback admits that recapturing the success of 2009 won’t be easy. The Vikings’ schedule appears far more difficult, and there are no guarantees the breaks again will go the team’s way. The last-second touchdown pass on which Greg Lewis made a remarkable catch and the missed field goal by Baltimore with 2 seconds left come to mind as examples of games that could have gone the other way.
“What are the odds that I have another season like that, even if I play well?” Favre asked.
But in the same article, Favre says he doesn’t have much of an exit strategy from football. “I’ve learned a lot through the years,” he said. “What I haven’t learned is what I’ll do and when I’ll do it.”
Someday Favre is going to have to make that decision, but there are few who believe it’s going to come in 2010. No matter how much Favre tries to convince us otherwise.