(Favre in a game in Miami. Photo by Marc Serota, Getty Images)
Brett Favre announces his retirement from the NFL... for the second time. The longtime Packers quarterback had retired eleven months earlier, only to change his mind, un-retire, and negotiate his way onto the roster of the New York Jets. Favre was initially great with Jets and led the AFC in touchdowns and passing yards in the early part of the year. But he developed a bad shoulder late in the season and played poorly down the stretch; the team finished 9-7, losing four of their final five games, and missed the postseason in 2008.
There were questions as to whether or not Favre would return, as he still had a final year on his contract. In offseasons past, he had waffled back and forth between hanging it up and playing for another season, and in the year before, the drama between him and the Green Bay Packers escalated to the point of hysteria. But Favre insisted that this time it was for real, that this time his career had come to a close.
"Emotionally I'm okay with it," Favre said in a press conference. "I really felt like it was time. Obviously circumstances last year were a lot different. Physically, if I felt better, we might not be having this conversation. But I think that is, more than anything, the writing on the wall... It all comes down to physically how I feel. Once again, that could change based on arthroscopic surgery or whatever. But I'm not willing to do that and I'm not willing to take that chance. And that, more than anything, is why I'm retiring."
While Favre sounded genuine in his desire to wrap it up, many sports writers were doubtful that he was done for good. He had shaken off thoughts of retirement for so many years, and had even done an about-face on his tearful goodbye a year ago; as one of the most competitive athletes to ever play the sport, it was hard to rule out the possibility of another comeback.
Not long after that, ESPN reported that Favre was going to meet with Minnesota Vikings coach Brad Childress to discuss the possibility of playing with them. And although the meeting never took place, and although he reportedly told Childress that he planned on staying retired, the story had been blown wide open: Favre, it appeared, was coming back again.
Brett had wanted to go to the Vikings the year before, when the Packers made it clear that Aaron Rodgers would be their starting quarterback. But the Packers didn't want to move him within the division, especially not to a dangerous team like the Vikings. Now that Favre was a free agent, it was clear that Minnesota was his primary landing place. There, he could play behind one of the best offensive lines in football, play indoors at their home stadium, play under the same QB coach he had in Green Bay, and would be in the same division as Green Bay -- a final way to stab at Packers GM Ted Thompson for ditching him.
(New York mayor Michael Bloomberg giving Favre a Broadway street sign. Photo by Richard Drew, AP Photos)
Shortly thereafter, Childress and Vikings owner Mark Wilf revealed that they were negotiating with the soon-to-be-40-year-old quarterback. No one had believed that the interest wouldn't be mutual; although the Vikings were a playoff team, their one weakness was at the QB position, which had been filled in 2008 by perennial backup Gus Frerotte. Even if Favre was only half as good as he was in Green Bay, he was still more than comparable to the other quarterbacks on the Vikings roster: Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels.
But as the weeks began to pass, Favre was still unsure of his future. While it was clear that he wanted to play for the Vikings, he didn't want to return to the field only to fall apart like he did at the end of the '08 season. He underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair the partially-torn biceps in his throwing arm, beginning a long series of tests to see if he was healthy enough.
As the story continued to develop, with his presumptive signing bouncing from a done deal to going off the table seemingly every couple days, it was clear that sports writers were suffering from Favre fatigue. Last year's comeback story had led the headlines almost everyday; with comeback #2, the never-ending updates were pushed to the backside, as most just wanted the ordeal to resolve itself.
The story dragged on for more than two months, with the future Hall of Famer continuing to doubt the stability of his throwing arm. The Vikings prompted Favre to reach a decision before the start of training camp and Favre imposed a July 30 deadline to come to a conclusion one way or another. On July 28, after three months of will-he-or-won't-he, Brett Favre told the Minnesota Vikings that he would in fact... stay retired.
"It was the hardest decision I've ever made," Favre said. "I didn't feel like physically I could play at a level that was acceptable. I would like to thank everyone, including the Packers, Jets and Vikings -- but, most importantly, the fans."
Only Brett Favre could make headline news by announcing that he would stay retired. By this point, Favre had become the king of indecision, and not even 24 hours later, he told Peter King that he would continue to work out and added, "I truly, truly believe it's over. But if someone calls November 1st, who knows?" People were quick to note that the Vikings' game on November 1st was in Green Bay, against the Packers...
It wasn't over. Three weeks later, with the Vikings now beginning to play preseason football, Jay Glazer of FOX Sports reported that the Vikings players still expected Favre to sign with them. "After visiting the Vikings training camp for two days," Glazer wrote. "I am convinced -- positively convinced -- that Brett Favre will soon have talks with the Vikings to return to the team and could be joining them for this season after all. If my instincts are correct, all those purple Favre jerseys will have a home on Minnesota store shelves."
(Childress driving Favre after No. 4 arrived in Minnesota. Photo by Craig Lassig, AP Photos)
Just one day later, the Minnesota Vikings finally ended it by signing Brett Favre to a two-year, $25 million contract. At long last, the story that would not die had been silenced... at least for another year. Now it was up to Favre to live up to the hysteria and prove that the six months of drama had actually meant something. It was a tough task, but at least it wasn't uncharted territory for Favre. After all, he had done it just one year earlier with the New York Jets.