SHEBOYGAN FALLS — It was supposed to be just a great afternoon of golf and camaraderie for Packers alumni. A day to honor Gilbert Brown, Frank Winters and Al Treml, the three newest inductees into the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame. A chance to share some laughs and tell a few stories from their days in Packer green and gold.
Instead, as the 35th annual Packers Hall of Fame Golf Classic unfolded Monday on a sunny afternoon, there was a storm cloud of sorts hovering overhead. It was the subject being whispered about all day, all over the gorgeous golf course that is The Bull at Pinehurst Farms.
What's next for Brett Favre? What's next for the Green Bay Packers? Will the two sides be able to peacefully settle their differences before the start training camp?
"You hoped that (the overshadowing Favre saga) wouldn't be the case because we're really here to celebrate those three (inductees)," former tight end Mark Chmura said. "We'll just see how this thing plays out. All of our fears are becoming reality, and I don't think anybody knows what's going to happen. I wish the two parties would come together and make a decision collectively instead of having both sides kind of bicker at one another."
To be sure, there was no shortage of opinions from these ex-Packers about whether Favre should stay retired, be allowed to come back and start for the Packers, or continue his career with some other team.
"I'm selfish and I'm looking at this as a coach," said former quarterback Zeke Bratkowski. "I've got to pair up his qualities sitting there with the quality of the team that they've generated and the opportunity to play and get to the Super Bowl. They've got all the ingredients to go to the Super Bowl and you've got a player of his caliber sitting there. I'd be very hard pressed to let him go as a coach. You can only play one year at a time, so go for it."
"I sympathize with Brett to a certain extent," said former center Ken Bowman. "That's probably not going to be a real popular stance in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Frankly, the guy gave 16 years of pretty loyal, dedicated and outstanding performances.
"I just remember when Jimmy Taylor in 1966 decided he wanted to go closer to home and finish his career in New Orleans. You didn't have all this acrimony and adverse publicity concerning the Packers or Jim Taylor. It was worked out between Coach Lombardi and the New Orleans Saints. We got a player and they got Jimmy Taylor. That was the end of it. I wish that would be the way that this thing is handled. I don't know who leaked the story initially, and I don't know who's responsible for saying that if Brett Favre comes back, he's going to have to sit on the bench behind Aaron Rodgers. To the extent that any of those statements were made, they were awful stupid statements."
"The quarterback position is so important to the success of the team," added former wide receiver Boyd Dowler. "He has been so important to the Packers' success forever. We had a term in scouting, ‘Does this guy make you win or does he help you win? Does this guy contribute? What is it that he does?' It always seemed as if Brett was the reason the Packers won — that much of a contribution. He didn't just contribute a little, he wasn't one of the reasons they won. It was like Brett Favre was the reason the Packers won. I really don't know what to expect if he doesn't play."
"I'm just like you and other fans of the Green Bay Packers," said ex-linebacker George Koonce. "We just want the best players that will give us the best opportunities to win on Sundays. I'm not really qualified to say who those individuals are, but I have trust in Ted Thompson, Mark Murphy and Mike McCarthy to make proper decisions and choices to give us the best players to win on Sundays. I know Brett's had a great run and you know where my loyalties lie, because I have a Super Bowl ring on my hand because of No. 4. But it's up to Ted."
Another former linebacker, Dave Robinson, believes that if Favre ends up leaving, the Packers may end up with a better team in the long run because they'll have to put even more emphasis on playing as a team.
"I think a lot of guys now say, in the fourth quarter when they're down 10-13 points, ‘Brett can get it for us.' When you point a finger at Brett Favre or anybody else, three fingers are pointing back to yourself. They're going to have to say, ‘Now I have to get those 10-13 points to make up the difference.' They won't have Brett Favre to depend on. I think that will make for a better overall team."
Despite all the buzz about Favre, this year's Packer Hall of Fame Golf Classic was another big success and a nostalgic reminder about the uniqueness of the franchise.
"It gets sweeter every year and it's a great fraternity to the history of the Packer team," said Bratkowski. "It's amazing how the Packers have really helped in generating this great Hall of Fame that we have at the stadium. The history's there and it's a great time to see all the guys, have fun and it's for a good cause. What else can you ask for?"
Tom Andrews is a contributor to Packer Report. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.