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The Brett Who Cried Wolf

Favre says he's retiring -- but who believes him?

By 8.4.10

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There will be no 20th NFL season for Brett Favre -- for now. On August 3, he told the Minnesota Vikings he was hanging up his cleats. This being the third time he's announced his retirement, not everybody believes the decision is final. The Vikings' third preseason game isn't until August 28. If he changes his mind before then, the team would love to have him.

Green Bay Packers defensive lineman Cullen Jenkins, Favre's former teammate, thinks he may not have thrown his last pass. "I will not believe anything about him retiring until I see on that first day that he's not playing," Jenkins told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

A comeback is certainly not out of the question. Nobody doubts he can still play. Last season, Favre threw 33 touchdowns to only 7 interceptions, and quarterbacked his team all the way to the NFC Championship Game. Favre's ostensible final season was one of his best.

The problem is his ankle. He took a severe pounding during a playoff loss to the New Orleans Saints, and the ankle is still bothering him seven months later. At 40, Favre doesn't heal as quickly as he used to. But with another month to go until the regular season, that could change. Favre's notorious competitive streak may well prevail over his surgically repaired ankle.

If Favre reclaims the roster spot he vacated, he could win a lot of games, and he knows it. The Vikings have a loaded roster, and look playoff-bound once again.

But without Favre, the Vikings are left with Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels. Both are passable NFL quarterbacks, but neither is a threat to make the Pro Bowl. Favre's retirement almost instantly makes the Packers the favorites to win the NFC North.

That has to resonate with Favre on an emotional level. Favre has said all the right things publicly since he left the Packers on less-than-friendly terms in 2008. But he is said to hold a deep grudge against the team he led for 16 seasons, and especially against Packers GM Ted Thompson.

After Favre's emotional March 2008 retirement press conference, the Packers named Aaron Rodgers their starter. When Brett decided to come back, the team stuck with Rodgers, who has since become a top-5 NFL quarterback. Thompson traded Favre to the New York Jets, where he endured a middling season in a city he is known not to care for.

More than one source close to Favre said that his primary reason for signing with the Vikings was to stick it to Thompson and the Packers. The teams are division rivals and play each other twice per season. Favre shined in both meetings last year, throwing a combined 7 touchdown passes to beat Green Bay by scores of 30-23 and 38-26.

The Vikings know how Favre feels about his old team, and are no doubt playing that card to lure Brett back. They have other tricks up their sleeve, too.

Within hours of Favre letting the Vikings know his intentions, rumors hit the newswires that the team was offering Favre a raise from his already-generous $13 million salary to come back - possibly even a two-year deal - plus all the time he needs to reconsider. After all, Favre missed almost all of training camp last year and went on to have one the best seasons a Viking quarterback has ever had. No harm if he misses camp again this year.

That may even be for the better. Favre is the oldest starting quarterback in the league. He is also the NFL's first known active player to become a grandfather (his oldest daughter had a son on April 2). Besides giving his ankle more time to heal, sitting out camp would make the grind of the regular season easier to take. He already knows the Viking playbook, and has a good rapport with his receivers, who will no doubt rib him mercilessly for being a grandpa.

Nobody knows what's going on in that head of his. No doubt Brett means it when he says he's done. But that could change tomorrow. It all depends on what hurts more: his ankle, or the thought of seeing his old team(s) win without him. Expect the Vikings to do all they can to push him towards the latter.

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About the Author

Ryan Young is Fellow in Regulatory Studies at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.