EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — This is the way it is with Brett Favre: He announces he’s done, then has second thoughts.
Many of his new Minnesota teammates never believed he was truly staying retired. Vikings coach Brad Childress, just three weeks after Favre told him he wouldn’t be joining the team, was persistent enough to place another call.
Yes, Favre unretired again and, this time, he’ll be wearing purple.
Pulling an about-face on his playing status for the second straight summer, the holder of every major NFL career passing record will suit up for his old rival Minnesota starting with Friday’s preseason game at the Metrodome. The goal: help the Vikings win that elusive first Super Bowl.
“I think the guys will know that I’m in it for the right reasons, and that’s because I still love to play,” the 39-year-old Favre said Tuesday at his introductory news conference after participating in his first practice with the team.
“This is not about revenge or anything like that,” he continued. “Believe me. You can’t take away the 16 years I had in Green Bay. It was unbelievable. It was great, and that will be forever cherished by me and the guys I played with. They’ve moved on. I’ve moved on. I think it’s great for football.”
Team owner Zygi Wilf’s private plane picked up Favre in Mississippi in the morning, and Childress himself arrived at the St. Paul airport to take the three-time winner of the league’s MVP award to the team’s suburban practice facility in Eden Prairie. A news helicopter hovered over their route, and hundreds of fans roared when Favre waved as he got out.
No less than 90 minutes later, he was on the field in his familiar No. 4 jersey with purple shorts and a purple helmet, a vision Packers fans have been cringing about for months. Favre shook hands with a few of his new teammates and quickly began warming up that old arm of his, as people peeked through the security fence to catch a glimpse of the stubble-faced superstar who couldn’t bring himself to sit still through another season.
“Through this whole process after I said ‘no’ three weeks ago, at times I was OK with it,” Favre said. “Other times I said, ‘Boy, you know, I feel like I could help that team.’ I think that’s the competitive fire in me.”
Childress has some of that fire, too.
After both he and Wilf insisted at the beginning of training camp there was no chance of revisiting the possibility, Childress checked in with Favre on Monday. Having recently received reassurance from Dr. James Andrews – the surgeon who performed the arthroscopic surgery on his throwing arm in May – that the torn rotator cuff he’s been playing with for a few years shouldn’t cause any further problems, Favre was feeling better about his body and his ability to hold up over an entire season.
So he quickly realized he was in a now-or-never situation.
“You need to cross over that line. You need to take that chance,” Favre said, recalling the advice Childress gave him. “At 39 years old, your arm may not feel like it did at 21, but the pieces are in place here where you don’t have to do as much.”
Now, Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels will step aside instead of competing for the starting job.
“We knew all along that this was a possibility,” Jackson said. “You can’t always believe what you hear, especially on TV.”
The Vikings have Pro Bowl players all over their roster, with reigning NFL rushing leader Adrian Peterson in the backfield and a dominant defensive line. No matter who’s behind center, they ought to be in position to defend their NFC North title.
To win the conference, and perhaps – finally – a Super Bowl, they’ll need competence at the sport’s most critical position. That’s something they’ve consistently lacked since Childress took over in 2006.
They’ve also lacked a buzz from the fan base, but that’s clearly here now. The Vikings sold more than 2,500 season tickets on Tuesday, plus another 8,000 tickets to single games.
As for the fact that he essentially skipped training camp while everybody else was grinding it out during two-a-days?
“Brett Favre is a different player. He’s a Hall of Fame player,” tight end Visanthe Shiancoe said. “He can kind of stretch the limits a little bit. No hard feelings. He’s here. It is what it is.”
ESPN, citing anonymous sources, reported Favre would receive $12 million this season and $13 million next year if he’s on the roster for those season openers. For now, he’s focused on learning his new linemen and receivers and building up enough stamina so he can stay on the field.
The Packers await on Oct. 5, and his first trip back to Lambeau Field is on Nov. 1.
“The guys will learn him,” Childress said. “He’ll learn them, and we’ve got a whole month to put this thing together.”