Ex-teammates, memories rule at banquet

Packer Report correspondent Tyler Dunne provides his observations of the Packers Hall of Fame ceremony on Saturday night in the Lambeau Field Atrium.

At any moment, you expected the elephant in the room to stomp around and spoil the party. The controversy's been spinning out of control too fast for something bizarre not to happen.

Maybe Brett Favre would jab a subliminal undercut comment at Ted Thompson.

Maybe the egocentric duo – sitting two tables apart – would lock in on a cold-blooded, Tyson/Lennox stare down, ripe with a verbal shot or two.

Maybe – get this – maybe, the 1,300 Packer fans would actually boo Favre when his name was announced. That's how far we've come, anyways. Polls have shown that half the fan base is disgusted with No. 4. A couple tables worth of jeers was inevitable, right?

Wrong. When Favre was introduced over the PA system for winning the Miller Brewing Company team MVP Award, and then when he was beckoned to the stage to present Frank Winters, not one boo sliced through the Lambeau Field Atrium. Fans didn't hesitate to jolt out of their sits for a standing ovation. The retro "Golden Girls" Packers cheerleaders shook their pom-poms in salute. Favre himself appeared a bit teary-eyed, obviously moved by the generosity.

So it came and went just like that. Three days prior, Favre was ripping Thompson on Fox News. He questioned the G.M.'s judgment. He questioned the G.M.'s honesty. Two days prior, the Packers filed tampering charges against the Minnesota Vikings for allegedly talking to Favre behind the scenes. But on Saturday, Favre and the team ensured that the night belonged to Gilbert Brown, Frank Winters and Al Treml who were all inducted into the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame, and who knows, maybe No. 4 learned something along the way.

Sticking to the script, Favre didn't field questions from reporters during the pre-dinner press conference. He shared a couple stories about his good friend and split after a 2 minute, 53-second cameo. But this wasn't a Will Ferrell screaming at his mom for meatloaf type of cameo. After all, you think you're going to hear soundbytes from the real Brett Favre in a sport coat? Not a chance.

The banquet was much the same. Emcee Larry McCarren attempted to nip the drama in the bud with a disclaimer before the festivities began, saying, "There are bigger problems in the world than the one Packer Nation is wrestling with right now."

But through it all, one couldn't help but wonder if Favre was hit in the gut with a shot of perspective Saturday night. He mingled with old friends like longtime long-snapper Rob Davis and tight end Mark Chmura. Favre and Chmura engulfed in a big bear hug at the end of the ceremony, almost seeming like an embrace of reconciliation (Chmura's been very critical of Favre in recent years on his radio show).

At one point, Favre, Winters, Chmura and Marco Rivera conglomerated for a photo opp. Maybe, just maybe, Favre realized the damage the last few weeks have caused Packer nation as he locked arms with former teammates.

Not that he's wrong. But that the organization itself is special.

During his three-part interview with Greta Van Susteren, Favre barely even mentioned ‘team.' He didn't laud the Super Bowl potential of his current club as the reason for his comeback. Such me-first, Ted-last rhetoric turned off the cheesiest of cheeseheads, as right as No. 4 may be through this impasse.

This isn't a bandwagon fan base. They own the team and track its radar with a fine-toothed comb. Fans genuinely appreciate team-first players and just as genuinely can turn on players who aren't ... even Brett Favre.

Saturday night, Favre attempted to watershed that aspect of the saga – apologizing for not crediting teammates at Wednesday's ESPY Awards, where Favre won best record-breaking performance.

"I thought about all these things I wanted to say, but the most important I wanted to say I didn't say at all," Favre said. "I was reminded of that as soon as I sat down next to (wife) Deanna.

"Record-breaking performance means team, not individual performance. ... One thing I wanted to do was thank the teammates that I played with. It was great that I was honored with this award so that it gives me a chance to thank William, Marco, Chewy, Gilbert, Santana, Frank. ... It's all about the team. I hope I never lost sight of that, although I did the other night. Hopefully, I'm redeeming myself tonight."

Nobody around the Favre-Thompson eye of the storm added fuel to the fire – you know, that intrepidly re-runned eight-second clip bound to regurgitate through ESPN for a week. Gilbert Brown was asked whether the Favre feud may dim the spotlight on his special night, and his baby face hardened into an irritated glare.

"All I know is tonight is about Gilbert Brown, Frank Winters and Al Treml," said Brown at the presser. "That's all I care about."

The man who brought Favre to Wisconsin in the first place, Ron Wolf, mingled with attendees at the cocktail party on the fourth floor before the main event. Arguably no outsider in this entire situation holds more legitimacy than Wolf.

Still, Wolf politely deferred, saying, "I don't know enough about the comment at this time." The Packers G.M. for nine years said he just got back from a trip to Scotland with his wife and hasn't been tuning into this summer's Shaq/Kobe-sized in-house meltdown.

So no added gossip, no food fights and no heckles – exactly the way it should be on a classy night dedicated to three team legends. Sure, the $100 per plate dinner may have blocked much of the diehard, nosebleed fans unafraid to unload a deep-throated boo. But for now, it's all quiet on the northern front.

Amidst rumored conversations with Vikings offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, a rumored trip to Tampa Bay and the growing likelihood of a trade maybe the quick homecoming helped put the summer drama in perspective for Favre.

"That's the thing about Green Bay," Favre said. "It's a special place. There's a lot of tradition. You think of the Packers, you think of all these great names, and to be a part of that — and I know Frank feels honored — is a special thing. I'm thankful that he asked me to be here."

To stay here? That's an issue still left unresolved.


Packer Report Top Stories