Commentary: Ankle provides Favre with excuse

Brett Favre doesn't need to justify his delay to team officials, but his surgically repaired ankle may help him validate his training camp absence to himself. In the end, all that matters is that he's back to 100 percent by the regular-season opener.

Ankles are good for a number of tasks – flexing the foot among them – but for Brett Favre the ankle is providing the aging Vikings quarterback with a good disability claim.

Unfortunately for Favre, the NFL is a no-play, no-pay league … at least when it comes to deciding between retirement and putting the body through another season of collisions. Favre has 13 million reasons to rejoin the Vikings, and a couple of other reasons to stay on the sidelines – more time with family and his long-term health.

But when it comes to an ultra-competitive professional athlete weighing his options, competition wins, retirement at home on the ranch loses. Favre's surgically repaired ankle just provides him with an opportunity to delay what almost everyone expects is inevitable – a 20th season of NFL crashes and cashes.

On Tuesday, Favre told USA Today that his ankle isn't responding the way he would like after having surgery to remove scar tissue and bone spurs in late May. That's one of the reasons he says he's not ready to make a decision on his playing future with the Vikings.

"After almost nine weeks, it's not where I would like it to be, but I'm working at it," he said. "Maybe it never gets to where I want it to be. Forty years old … three surgeries … that's all you need to know."

Favre has had three surgeries on his ankle and doesn't mind going against the grain in the ultra-secretive NFL and discussing injuries. He has talked numerous times about his aversion to going under the knife, no matter how minor the procedure might be. But that is precisely where fans need to read between the coverage – if he was seriously considering hanging up the helmet and ending the butt-slapping, would he really subject himself to yet another surgery?

He went through the same scenario last year. After he was requested his release by the Jets, which was eventually granted, he decided – in late May, no less – to have surgery to complete the tear on a partially torn biceps tendon. He talked about it slowly getting better, but wasn't sure when, if ever, it would be ready for NFL action. He even declined the Vikings' "final offer" right before training camp and the team proceeded as if it was forging forward without him … until the two quarterbacks competing for the starting job – Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels – didn't look too much like starters late in training camp, which prompted another Hattiesburg phone call to be placed.

Notice a pattern? Indecision on surgery. A late May appointment with the scalpel. A summer of lowering expectations about his availability. More pre-training camp audibles and indecision.

Eventually, Favre will have to make a decision. But eventually in Favre's NFL world is not in July and the Vikings know it.

Head coach Brad Childress made at least his third visit to see the wizard behind the Mississippi curtain this week, but no deadline ultimatum was offered. Shocking, isn't it, since this is the way the Vikings have said they would approach it all along?

"The deadline? I don't know," Favre told USA Today. "There obviously comes a point where you've probably gone too far, where you just have to move on. He (Childress) hopes I make the right decision for myself – one way or the other.

"Our visit was great. I think the world of him (and) his patience. He and I joked about how there were some rocky times (between them) last year. All of a sudden, we weren't sittin' on the front porch anymore BS-ing. But any good team has that. We're both competitors, that happens."

The Vikings start training camp on July 30. Favre won't be there and the Vikings have said since February that they are fine with that scenario. They are treating him like the Hall of Fame quarterback in the red practice jersey that he is – no pressure and a hands-off approach. It's a tactic that worked, eventually, last year. He hemmed. He hawed. But all that mattered was that he signed before the regular season started.

Last year, free agency started in March, but the Vikings' biggest free-agent signing – likely in team history – didn't happen until Aug. 18. All he did was have what he considers to be the best season of his Hall of Fame career – 4,202 yards, 33 touchdowns, seven interceptions and the first 100-plus passer rating of his career (107.2).

Following one of his throwing sessions with high school players at Oak Grove High School in Hattiesburg, the only head coach in attendance, Oak Grove's Nevil Barr, told the Star Tribune that Favre's ankle didn't appear to be an issue.

It appears that surgically repaired ankle is just an excuse for Favre to delay another Minnesota delivery when no excuse is needed, at least for team officials. But if you are a Hall of Fame competitor looking to justify an absence in your own mind, then the ankle provides a reason to delay.

On the field, it's all so easy for Favre. Off the field, he seems to audible more than necessary, but here's betting this football junkie just can't stay away from the game that he loves and that loves to talk about him.

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

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