You can almost hear the dragnet assignment. The mission, which three Vikings players chose to accept, was to fly to Hattiesburg, Miss., and return with a waffling wayward quarterback.
Throughout the 24-hour process, there were peaks and valleys, just as there should be with any good drama. And Brett Favre knows drama.
Ryan Longwell, Steve Hutchinson and Jared Allen played the marshals. Favre, per usual, played the villain, one who needed to be transported across state lines.
"The way it was described to me when those guys came back and sat in my office, it was good cop, bad cop, funny cop," said head coach/precinct chief Brad Childress. "I'll let you put on who those guys were. Voice of reason, voice of hammer, and some levity in the group. Those guys may have a future down the road as a team."
The three cops were incredibly efficient given that they had an open-ended timeline for their mission and were dealing with a suspect that has escaped Green Bay and New York with some sly moves. This time, they killed him kindness.
"He was just saying where his mind was and what he was thinking. Ultimately it came down to the guys in the locker room. That was what he really, really missed and we missed him in the locker room, too," Longwell said. "That's what we conveyed. It wasn't about the touchdown passes or interceptions or wins or losses. Probably the last couple of hours we spent talking, the four of us, was really about just the team and the guys and the locker room. Ultimately that's what it came down to."
The three teammates surprised Favre on Monday evening, although Favre's family knew they were coming and was apparently on board with the operation. It should come as no surprise that maybe the least resolute of the bunch was Favre, despite being the guy who is making split-second decisions under the glare of the NFL spotlight.
Down on his ranch, however, he isn't quite so decisive (you might have noticed that before).
"He was back and forth. He sounded like he was in and he was out. It kind of just depended on what points he was talking about," Hutchinson said.
Incredibly, for such a wide-impacting and big-buck decision, it was never a sure thing he was coming back, even shortly before takeoff on Vikings owner Zygi Wilf's jet.
"Quite honestly, about 30 minutes before we left, we all kind of felt that (uncertainty). He had given us, speaking from the heart, kind of a legit, ‘This is why I'm where I'm at,' and we all felt that it was sound reasoning," Longwell said. "Finally in that last half hour we all kind of spilled our guts about, ‘It's not about the touchdown passes and the wins and losses and stuff, but would you do it just for the guys? It elevates the whole locker room, elevates the whole community, the whole state, just you being there. Not even throwing passes, not even getting under center, just you being there. Would you do it for the guys?'"
When all else fails, go with the guilt trip. But even after Favre and his wife Deanna were on the plane, there were still doubts about whether the mission could be completed. Allen said he wasn't sure it would happen until Wilf's private plane touched down in Eden Prairie.
Once on the plane was in the air, however, it sounds like Favre reverted right back into quarterback grinder mode. The good cop (Longwell) is a kicker and doesn't know the intricacies of the offense. The funny cop (Allen) probably didn't care about the offense. But the bad cop (the often-gruff Hutchinson) was the recipient of Favre's questioning about changes to the offense.
"Brett will tell you he was back and forth in his own mind and obviously with the team over the last few weeks," Hutchinson said. "We kind of felt as an organization it's getting closer to the start of the regular season that we would need to know one way or the other. I think guys that have a personal relationship with him went down there and sat with him and talked to him a little bit and saw what he was thinking and expressed our feelings toward the matter as well."
Although the trip was hastily arranged – the players found out about it and agreed to it only a few hours before they left on Monday – they quickly settled into their roles.
"Actually, the three of us kind of worked well together because we had Hutch, who was like the drill sergeant, we had Jared, which was comic relief, and I kind of was the voice of reason," Longwell said. "It worked out pretty well. His whole family was down there and they were all supportive and wanted to play so that was a big factor."
Childress stayed behind because he realized that players relate better to players, not coaches. Longwell said they wanted to talk as friends and "ultimately that's why it worked and that's why he's on board and excited about it."
And now the focus is on the future.
"Brett, the kind of player that he is, the kind of leadership that he brings to this team, it elevates the entire building. It really does," Hutchinson said. "You can see it every day. Look at all the camera people that are here today. He excites everybody that has anything to do with football. … He's a teammate of ours. He's back. Let's go to work. Let's try to win a championship."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
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