Brett Favre provided the media and fans with many a wacky day in his roughly two years as a Minnesota Viking, but few were wackier than August 4th, 2010. That morning began with reports that Favre had sent messages to several Viking teammates indicating he was set to retire from the NFL rather than return for a second season as Minnesota’s quarterback. “This is it,” Favre reportedly texted Ryan Longwell, Visanthe Shiancoe and others. By lunchtime ESPN had begun the wall-to-wall Brett Favre retirement coverage, comprised of endless tape loops, stat graphics and emotionally-overcome talking heads. Finally, after weeks of speculation, it appeared the 2010 edition of The Yearly Favre Retirement Drama had reached its resolution, and the Vikings would have to go ahead with Tarvaris Jackson or Sage Rosenfels as their starting QB.
And if you were one of those who truly believed Favre was done that day, just because of a few texts and some ESPN eulogizing…I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you.
January 24th, 2010. Brett Favre leads the Minnesota Vikings to the brink of the Super Bowl, only to see the dream evaporate with one ill-advised across-the-body pass in the general direction of Sidney Rice. Instead of heading to their first Super Bowl since the glory days of the 1970s, the Vikings are going back home, also-rans once again. Instead of finishing a stellar season with a miraculous second Lombardi Trophy, Favre limps off the field and into an uncertain future.
Despite having played well through much of the second half, Favre receives a good deal of the blame for the latest in a seemingly endless string of big game failures by the Purple. Fans ask why he didn’t take advantage of a seemingly open field to scramble for yardage on the interception play, setting up Ryan Longwell for a potential game-winning field goal. In response to the criticism Favre releases a photo of his bruised thigh and ankle, illustrating just how hobbled he was after taking a number of big (and some would argue dirty) hits during the game. The ankle will remain at the center of the Favre drama throughout the summer and into the preseason.
Though the Vikings flourished offensively during the 2009 season, questions cropped up throughout the year about the true nature of Favre’s relationship with head coach Brad Childress. It was widely believed that Favre did not respect Childress, and openly questioned his approach to running the West Coast offense. This came to a head during a late-season game against the Carolina Panthers when the Vikings came out stagnant on offense and Favre and Chilly were seen clearly arguing on the sideline. Afterward it emerged that Childress had attempted to bench Favre, a move Favre vehemently resisted. It then came out that Favre and Chilly had clashed previously over some of Favre’s audibles, leading to wide speculation that the entire team was about to fall apart.
Childress and Favre overcame their differences well enough for the team to advance to the NFC Title game, putting questions about their relationship to bed. These questions naturally crop up again during the off-season however. Some wonder if Favre’s disdain for Childress might finally convince him to say goodbye to the Vikings. Childress, for his part, doesn’t seem that concerned. Though other options become available, including established West Coast quarterback Donovan McNabb, Childress goes ahead with the 2009 approach: Keep Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels both in the fold, and stay in touch with Brett.
The most electrifying moment of the 2009 Vikings regular season was certainly the touchdown pass Brett Favre threw to Greg Lewis to defeat the 49ers. On July 14th, Favre travels to L.A. to receive an ESPY award for this memorable moment, but all anyone at the ceremony wants to talk about is his plan for 2010. In typical Favre fashion, the quarterback is non-committal, saying only that his ankle needs to get a lot better before he can even consider returning.
The ankle is, at this point, still recovering from surgery. On May 22, Favre underwent a procedure to remove scar tissue and bone spurs. Recovery time is estimated at 4-6 weeks. This gives him enough time to be ready for Vikings camp, if he even intends showing up.
A bizarre day needs a bizarre capper of an image. August 4th, the Day Favre Retired But Didn’t, gets its summing-up weirdo moment when ESPN’s Ed Werder is seen interviewing the quarterback as he sits in his pick-up attempting to drive away from the high school where he has been working out. Despite wide media reports about retirement text messages, Favre assures Werder that he has made no definitive statement to teammates about his intentions for 2010. When Werder brings up Visanthe Shiancoe’s direct mention of a Favre “this is it” text, Favre replies with a shrug, “That’s Shank.”
Favre in a pick-up calling his own teammate a liar. Favre sending out photos of his battle wounds. Daily videos of Favre tossing the pigskin around at a high school field. Was there any other way for this to end?
Of course not. In the end nothing else mattered: Not the ankle, not the Chilly hatred, not the wear-and-tear of hundreds of games, thousands of plays, countless shots from defensive players both famous and obscure. Finally, all that counted was Favre’s desire to play. But of course, this being Brett Favre, there would have to be one last ridiculous episode before the curtain could close.
This episode involves a plane, three Vikings players and a bucket of protein powder. The plane belongs to Zygi Wilf, the three players are Steve Hutchinson, Jared Allen and Ryan Longwell, and the bucket of protein powder…well, it’s a mystery at first.
Brad Childress appears in this episode too, and his performance is a controversial one. On the morning of August 17th, Childress is asked by the media why three of his stars, Hutchinson, Allen and Longwell, are absent from camp. Childress flat-out claims that the three men are not absent – an apparent attempt at quashing rumors that the three have traveled to Hattiesburg to help Brett Favre make up his mind about returning.
It’s too late for Childress though, because the media genie is out of the bottle. Reports run rampant that three of Favre’s teammates are indeed at his house begging him to return. Fans and bloggers wait breathlessly for online updates about the location of Zygi Wilf’s jet. Cameras are positioned at the Minneapolis airport and outside Winter Park, to catch footage of Favre’s apparently imminent arrival.
It finally comes across the Twitter wire: Favre is on the plane with Hutch, Allen and Longwell, and they are flying back to Minnesota. When Favre disembarks, he is seen carrying a bucket. Speculation abounds as to the contents of the mystery container. The snide suggest it might be filled with a substance excreted by a bull out its back-end. How approriate that Brett Favre would carry a bucket of this particular material around with him. Perhaps that’s why he always has so much to hand out whenever he meets the media.
Later the true contents of the bucket are revealed: It’s protein powder, Brett explains with a smile.
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