Almost from the moment Brett Favre delivered his tearful farewell to the game earlier this year, there have been people, especially dyed-in-the-wool Packer fans – who have refused to accept it. So imagine their glee when a story broke Wednesday that Favre might be looking to return to the NFL for this season.
Favre has denied the claims, saying it is all rumor, but there is a lot more to this story than might meet the eye. For months, the Packers didn't place Favre on the retired list. As a result, his salary still counted against the Green Bay salary cap. Once they reported him as retired to the league, they were able to recapture his salary cap number, most of which has been spent on other players.
ESPN broke the story yesterday afternoon, claiming Favre has "the itch" to play again – a sentiment repeated almost word for word by defensive back Al Harris, appearing on the network's "NFL Live" program. Harris stated that Favre has spoken with him about coming back, but the general feeling is that the story is being blown out of proportion.
This is really a no-win situation for the Packers. After years of playing the cat-and-mouse game with Favre – is he or is he not retired? – it seemed a bit strange that, following his team's deepest playoff run in years, he would hang up his cleats. At the time, his rationale made sense. He said that, at his age, his job was a 12-month-a-year deal. He had to work harder in the offseason to stay in shape and the preparation part of football was what was driving him out – not the physical inability to still play at a high level.
While the Packers still own Favre's rights, if he was to decide to "un-retire" and come back to Green Bay, he would do so with the salary due on the 2008 portion of his contract. Unfortunately for him, the Packers have spent much of the offseason moving on. Aaron Rodgers has been given the starting job and has spent the offseason ramping up his workouts to be prepared for the full-time workload as an NFL starter. Not only that, but the Packers used their second-round pick on Brian Brohm and a seventh-round pick on LSU's Matt Flynn. With the value most franchises place on draft picks, using two of them – much less a second-rounder – on a QB would seem a clear indication that the Packers are moving on.
The bigger question would become, if the Packers have moved on and Favre is serious, will the team be forced to release him if he does want to return. If that is the case, where would Favre go? It would seem he would want to play for a team that has a chance to win a Super Bowl, which he stated for the last couple of years was his goal. Of the NFL's 32 teams, the only teams that would seem to be a lock to make the playoffs this year would be the Patriots, Colts, Chargers, Cowboys and Seahawks – and all of them have quarterbacks they like a lot.
It has made for interesting water-cooler chatter that Favre may be coming back, but without working in the off-season and teams (including his own) solidifying their rosters in the draft and free agency, it still doesn't seem likely that Favre will return to the NFL. Maybe we should just take Favre at his word when he said he wouldn't be coming back and dismiss Wednesday's reports as merely rumors.
But Packers fans can dream, can't they?