Mississippi two step

Time will tell on whether Favre will continue on with football career, says Bob Fox

July 28 will be a very interesting day for the Green Bay Packers as they open training camp. The question will be simple. Will Brett Favre report to training camp or not? The speculation has gotten wild as Chris Mortensen from ESPN reported Wednesday that a source close to Favre said that the Mississippi gunslinger had the "itch" to return to the Packers, or at least to someone in the NFL.

In fact, the Green Bay Press-Gazette reported that Favre himself called head coach Mike McCarthy a couple of weeks ago to express his desire to return, but was rebuffed by McCarthy. It was also McCarthy that tried to talk Favre out of retiring in early March of this year. It also has been reported that someone from the Favre camp requested his release from the Packers.

The Packers certainly are in a quandary. The heir to Favre, Aaron Rodgers, was Ted Thompson's first-ever draft pick as GM of the Packers. After Favre's retirement announcement, the team wrapped itself around Rodgers, and McCarthy changed the offense in certain areas to help utilize some of Rodgers' strengths. Thompson also drafted two quarterbacks in the 2008 draft, Brian Brohm and Matt Flynn.

The team also sniffed around a little in the QB free agency market as the Packers worked out Quinn Gray and Gus Frerotte, but did not sign them to contracts. Then a week or so before the draft, the team worked out Daunte Culpepper and offered him a contract which Culpepper himself has confirmed recently.

The Packers obviously had turned the page on Favre coming back. But like a windy day in which you read a book outside, sometimes the pages do get turned back. And it appears the wind is coming from the Gulf Coast of Mississippi.

At his retirement announcement, Favre said he could still play, but the commitment needed to come back was not there. Favre said, "I've given everything I possibly can give to this organization, to the game of football, and I don't think I've got anything left to give, and that's it. I know I can play, but I don't think I want to."

Certainly 2007 was one of Favre's best seasons ever. Favre's completion percentage of 66.5 was the best of his career. His seven 300-yard passing games tied a career high, and his 4,155 passing yards (third-best of his career), 95.7 passer rating (third), 15 interceptions (tied for third) and 356 completions (fourth) were among the best marks of his 17-year career.

No wonder McCarthy tried to talk Favre out of retirement. The Packers as a team also had a wonderful year. The team was 13-3 and won the NFC North title. The team just missed the Super Bowl as the Packers were defeated by the New York Giants 23-20 in overtime at Lambeau Field in the NFC Championship game. The field goal that won that game was set up by a Favre interception.

Favre did not have his best day that game, but he did bring back the Packers three times to overcome deficits. And now he may perhaps trying a comeback of a different kind.

There is also the speculation from people close to Favre, that Thompson does not want him back, according to reports.

Also, Favre reportedly was wishy-washy about retiring in the weeks following the Packers' loss to the New York Giants in the NFC championship game. Like the previous two offseasons, Favre told coach Mike McCarthy and General Manager Ted Thompson that he was thinking about quitting. The two previous years, McCarthy or Thompson — and sometimes both — made strong attempts to talk Favre out of it.

This year, things were different, according to sources. Thompson hardly communicated with Favre in the off-season, which upset Favre, but McCarthy maintained regular contact with him. In March, when Favre told the Packers he was planning to quit, they made little or no effort to talk him out of it. So on March 4, he announced his retirement and two days later held a tearful farewell news conference at Lambeau Field.

However, doubt about his decision persisted. Thompson visited Favre at his Hattiesburg, Miss., home in May and, according to sources, Favre would have un-retired at that point had Thompson asked him to come back. But Thompson never broached the subject with him.

McCarthy did try to talk Favre into returning however. But once the decision was made, McCarthy turned all of his attention to Rodgers and making sure the offense would emphasize Rodgers' strengths. Rodgers has certainly justified McCarthy's thinking in 2007.

Rodgers showed he had excellent comprehension of Mike McCarthy's offense in the preseason of 2007 and in a regular-season game at Dallas, where Rodgers almost led the Packers to a win after a Favre injury.

In the Dallas game, Rodgers threw 20 completions in 28 attempts (71.4 percent) for 218 yards, with one touchdown and a passer rating of 106. McCarthy would take those stats every week.

So now the Packers have this bull in the china shop situation with Favre apparently interested in coming back. The team has done all the right things up to now in terms of moving on. The organization has committed itself to Rodgers and also has treated Favre with respect. They are honoring Favre on September 8 by having his No. 4 jersey retired on Monday Night Football on ESPN against the Minnesota Vikings.

The team also plans to ship Favre's locker from Lambeau Field to his home in Mississippi. But that locker may not be unoccupied after all.

I wrote an article right after word about Favre's retirement had gained national attention before the retirement press conference. I said then that it wasn't too late for Favre to change his mind in my story. But I think the time that has passed since then, puts everyone in a very uncomfortable situation. The Packer organization. Rodgers. The fans. Favre himself.

We shall see what shall happen as the coming days and weeks unfold. All I can say, is that I will be at Packer training camp on July 28 with a curious interest. If Favre indeed shows up, you can bet that ESPN, the NFL Network, all the other national media will be there along with those who cover the Packers locally. It won't just be covering training camp, but it will be like going to a Hollywood premiere or the circus, depending on your point of view.


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