Update: Favre back in the saddle

Brett Favre's wife is doing well in her battle against cancer. That's great news for the Favres and, in turn, great news for the Green Bay Packers.

The Associated Press reported Thursday that Favre plans on returning for at least the 2005 season.

"It came down to his wife and she's doing well in her recovery," Packers coach Mike Sherman told The AP. "She wants him to play. He said he's looking forward to playing — hopefully without any off-the-field situations and ‘enjoying the journey."'

Favre revealed his intentions during a two-hour phone conversation with Sherman on Wednesday.

Favre's comeback was very much in doubt; doubt that only increased when Donald Driver told national radio programs during Super Bowl week that he expected Favre to retire.

Favre had one of his worst games as a pro during the playoff loss to Minnesota. After his four-interception performance, Favre was close to calling it quits but Sherman told him to take some time to think things through once his head had cleared.

"I still feel I can play, although I question that right now," Favre said after the game.

Meanwhile, Favre's personal life was in turmoil. From his father's death late in the 2003 season to the death of his brother-in-law in an ATV accident on Favre's property in Mississippi to Deanna Favre's breast cancer to Reggie White's death just after Christmas, Favre was hit by one emotional haymaker after another.

"After the season, he just needed to think about some things," Sherman said. "Any man would have to contemplate his future when his wife is fighting cancer. It's not like he had to work to make money. He didn't want to be a part-time husband and a part-time football player. It came down to his wife. If she's not healthy, it's obviously a different ballgame. But now she's doing good. She wants him to play."

That's the impression new general manager Ted Thompson got during a recent conversation with Favre. Earlier in the week, Thompson talked to Favre for the first time since being named GM.

"He's rarin' to go," Thompson told the Green Bay News-Chronicle. "From the conversation, you could pretty much sense that he was coming back."

So rarin' to go that Thompson said Favre could be back beyond 2005.

"He mentioned .... that he's not looking at this as just a one-year thing," Thompson told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "He may play two, three or four more years. I think, quite frankly, he doesn't want to be bothered by the question all the time."

Despite a recent history of poor play in the playoffs, Favre was very much at the top of his game during the regular season. For just the third time in his illustrious history, Favre topped 4,000 passing yards and 30 touchdowns.

Due in large part to his growing rapport with Javon Walker and the steady play of Driver, the Packers set a team record for most yards of total offense.

"The guy had last year pretty much a career year for most quarterbacks, throwing for more than 4,000 yards and 30 touchdown passes. Physically, he obviously can still do it," said Don Majkowski, the man Favre replaced during the 1992 season.

Majkowski is in town for Fan Fest, which will be held Friday-Sunday in the Lambeau Field Atrium. Favre is expected to attend, though the day has not been confirmed.

Favre's decision to play at least another season is huge for a team that has been rocked by personnel losses during this off-season. Favre has lost two of his key pass protectors in guards Marco Rivera and Mike Wahle. The Packers also were forced to part ways with safety Darren Sharper for cap reasons on Thursday.

With the team pressed against the salary cap and the Vikings making several bold moves, the Packers' grip on NFC North supremacy — and elite status in the NFL — is precarious at best.

With Favre back in the saddle, however, the Packers enjoyed some sunshine during an otherwise stormy off-season. Such was the news that even Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle, fresh off a trade mission to Mexico and embroiled in a bitter budget battle with Republican legislators, took time to hail Favre's decision.

"Like all Packers fans, I am thrilled that Brett Favre will be returning to action next season for the green and gold," Doyle said. "He is probably the greatest quarterback of all time, and as long as he's around, the Packers will always be contenders.

"Brett Favre has made incredible contributions on and off the field in Wisconsin. Not only did he bring Super Bowl glory to Wisconsin, he has also given back to our state through the Brett Favre Fourward Foundation. On behalf of Packer fans everywhere, I thank Brett Favre today for giving us one more reason to cheer."

For more reason to cheer, the Journal Sentinel reported that Favre has restructured part of his contract, turning a $3 million roster bonus into $2 million in guaranteed money and a $1 million bonus. That $2 million can be spread over the remaining five years on Favre's contract — $400,000 per year — giving the team an extra $1.6 million in cap space.

That move, along with the release of Sharper, puts the Packers more than $7 million under the cap.

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