Following his retirement in early March, Brett Favre painstakingly contemplated returning to the NFL. Then after weighing all the pros and cons, he got out of bed one June morning and decided he was coming back for an 18th season.
"Finally, I don't know the day, but I woke up and said, 'Hell, yeah, it's worth it.'"
Favre, who sat down early last week with local beat reporters for an engaging 45-minute informal talk, informed the Green Bay Packers of his plans and discussed three options with general manager Ted Thompson.
"You welcome me back, give me my helmet and say hey we'd love to have you back," Favre said of option one. "You accept a trade for me. Or you release me."
None of those alternatives was particularly appealing to the Pack.
Favre can perform at an elite level as indicated by his 4,155 yards passing, 28 TDs and 66.5 completion percentage last season while leading the Packers to the NFC Championship Game. But after Favre was noncommittal in the spring when asked if he would play again, the Packers moved on to Aaron Rodgers as quarterback.
The release of Favre would have been dangerous. He could have signed with a team inside the Packers' division and come back to haunt the team he had tasted so much success with in an amazing 16-year run.
Thompson talked to Favre about legacy. After all, the three-time NFL MVP had set numerous NFL player and quarterback records in Green Bay, including 442 touchdown passes, 61,655 passing yards, 5,377 completions, 160 wins, 253 consecutive starts, 16 consecutive 3,000-yard passing seasons and eight seasons with 30-plus TDs.
"I said don't worry about that," Favre said. "Let me worry about my legacy."
Mr. T. Sells the Jets
So Favre would be sent packing and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Jets became the most talked about suitors. When Favre first spoke to Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum, he was instantly impressed with how Mr. T sold the organization to him.
"We're going to be in the country. You'll see deer, you can hunt — and you can hunt by the complex," Tannenbaum told Favre. "We picked up Alan Faneca, we've got J-Co, we've got Laveranues, we've got some other really good young receivers, we've got your guy Bubba Franks here, we made some acquisitions on defense which are really going to make us better, and you'll really like Eric. This complex is unbelievable. It's state-of-the-art, better than anything you've ever seen. And we're going to make it as comfortable for you as possible."
Tannenbaum was dogged and Favre liked what he heard. Once a deal was in place, Mr. T moved in for a commitment beyond '08.
"He would have liked to have a two-year commitment. I said, 'Mike, let me give you the best year I can possibly give you and let's go from there,' " Favre said. "I said I've been down this road."
The road Favre selected is not necessarily a safe one. The city, the conference and the team all are new. And there is no bigger challenge than attempting to master a new offensive system in a matter of weeks.
"I knew coming here would be difficult more than anything because of the system," he said. "I was not worried about New York or the fact that they were 4-12 last year — I was not worried about any of that. I was worried about how fast I can pick this up and play the way I want to play."
"God Blessed Me with a Great Arm"
But he's not the least bit concerned about that golden right arm. He has thrown some outrageous passes this summer, in practice and during games, that make you think you're witnessing something magical.
"I feel like my arm is in great shape right now," he said. "For 38 and never icing and never doing whatever, God surely blessed me with a great arm."
Viewed as too much of a riverboat gamble in some circles, Favre, a Mississippi native, said he doesn't like to spend money at the casinos. But he has an excellent football mind, and in the Jets' third preseason game against the Giants, he showcased all his talents on a 49-yard TD pass to Jerricho Cotchery that was nullified by a penalty.
"They're playing Cover-2, a perfect play to stop a seam route," Favre said of the Giants' third-and-11 defense. "Leaving the huddle, I told Jerricho, 'Whatever you do, just slip the guy and go right down the boundary. Just don't stop.' "
Cotchery didn't stop and, following a pump-fake to the left, Favre threw a gorgeous spiral to the streaking receiver down the right sideline.
"I trusted my arm enough that I can make the throw, that either he catches it or no one else catches it," Favre said. "Me kind of banking on them knowing their defense and thinking, 'OK, we're in Cover-2, he's not going to take a shot.' Most people wouldn't, so that's where I've gotten better over the years."
The Right Decision
At home on the field, Favre's received his fair share of criticism off of it for what transpired the past few months. While well aware of the perceptions, he always has maintained confidence in the way he has treated his teammates, his coaches and the game of football.
"I felt like wherever I went I would be accepted once guys got the chance to know me," he said. "I think they all knew what type of player I've been over the years, but what type of teammate, to me, is more important than anything — getting guys to buy into what I'm doing."
The headlines might read "Broadway Brett," but the man who was born in Gulfport, Miss., will always be more "Biloxi Brett" than anything else.
He's happy the Jets didn't draft him back in 1991 because he couldn't have handled the bright lights and would have burned out. Since then, he's gotten a little bit of exposure and is not intimidated at all by the media glare. He's complimentary of New York City, but the only time he's been there recently was when Mayor Bloomberg welcomed him to town three weeks ago.
And don't take that as insult, either, because the country boy's busy. He'll have a Jets logo on his helmet a week from today when the Green & White open the 2008 season in Miami.
"I'm having a blast," he said. "It's been hard, but I know I made the right decision."