Favre Returns to Vikings

In Sports on August 19, 2010 at 7:22 am

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Near the end of a rambling news conference to discuss his return to the Minnesota Vikings, Brett Favre

said something Wednesday that was easy to scoff at: this season will be his last in the N.F.L.

“Twenty years, and I’m done,” he said.

The announcement might have seemed, well, disingenuous coming from Favre, who had retired and unretired twice already, in 2008 and 2009, and appeared undecided this year until three teammates flew to Hattiesburg, Miss., on the owner Zygi Wilf’s jet this week to fetch him. Even Favre, when asked if anyone should believe him, conceded: “Probably not. I do believe it now. I’ve got to fall apart some time.”

But when?

Exactly one year after his surprise arrival in Vikings camp, Favre slipped on his familiar red No. 4 practice jersey and jumped in with the first team during midday drills at the team’s Winter Park complex. Moving with a slight limp on a surgically repaired left ankle, Favre zipped short- and medium-range passes with the kind of eye-popping velocity that turned heads on his first day last year. One ball appeared to knock the wind out of wideout Bernard Berrian.

“He looks comfortable, much more comfortable than last year, when he really didn’t know all the names and the faces and how we operated,” Coach Brad Childress said. “Now we have to play.” Although Favre asked to play in Sunday night’s preseason game at San Francisco, Childress would not commit to it Wednesday.

According to The Minneapolis Star Tribune, the Vikings bumped up Favre’s guaranteed salary this season to $16.5 million from $13 million, with incentives that could push the deal to $20 million. It is the final year of his two-year contract.

Although Favre told reporters after the Vikings’ loss to New Orleans in the N.F.C. championship game that he hoped to decide quickly about playing this season, it dragged out as long as it did last year.

Favre said his left ankle did not respond to surgery in May as well as his right shoulder did last year. He said X-rays taken last Thursday during an examination by Dr. James Andrews showed a new bone spur, and his range of motion is only slightly better than before the surgery.

And Favre acknowledged that he was unlikely to play as spectacularly as last year, when he threw 33 touchdown passes and only 7 interceptions as a 40-year-old while taking the Vikings within one victory of the Super Bowl.

So why come back at all? Favre said he felt he owed his teammates one more run at a championship.

“Those guys were like, ‘If you can do us one favor,’ ” Favre said. “That’s a pretty big favor.”

Last year, Favre reconsidered retirement when Childress called him after the first preseason game. This time, Childress figured it would take something more dramatic to roust Favre out of Hattiesburg. “When the terrain varies, you go with the terrain,” Childress said.

So after talking with Favre’s agent, Bus Cook, Childress asked three of Favre’s closest friends on the team — kicker Ryan Longwell, offensive guard Steve Hutchinson and defensive end Jared Allen, who were described by Childress as “good cop, bad cop, funny cop” — to fly down after practice on Monday and talk him into it. Longwell said Favre’s wife, Deanna, knew there were coming, but Favre did not.

The three players were told to stay until they got an answer. At first, Longwell said, they tried to pressure Favre into leaving immediately. That did not work, so they stayed up late with Favre’s family, telling stories. The next morning, they met Favre by themselves.

“We spent the last few hours talking, just the four of us,” Longwell said. “We kind of had a heart to heart and felt like the plane needed to leave with him on it.”

As they all sat in Favre’s Jeep, Favre made a reasoned, thoughtful case for quitting. How could he play as well as last year? What if he let everybody down? At one point, Longwell said he was convinced they would be flying back without him.

“Finally, in that last half an hour, we all spilled our guts about, it’s not about the touchdown passes and the wins and losses and stuff: ‘Could you do it just for the guys?’ ” Longwell said. “ ‘It elevates the whole locker room, the whole community, the whole state, you just being there. Would you do it for the guys?’

“He had said over the night and the day, the one thing he missed was the guys. It was quiet in there for about 30, 45 seconds, and he said, ‘All right, let’s go do this.’ We told Deanna, ‘Pack your bags; we’re going.’ ”

Childress was just glad the three-man intervention worked. “Those guys may have a future down the road as a team,” he said.

With Favre back, so do the Vikings.


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