Favre is returning

Published 1:28 am Sunday, February 4, 2007

Maybe he was having too much fun with a young team on the rebound, or couldn’t resist going after a few more of Dan Marino’s records.

Or perhaps, in keeping with Groundhog Day tradition, he poked his head out the front door of his ranch in Mississippi and saw his shadow.

Whatever the reasons, Brett Favre will be back for another season with the Green Bay Packers.

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“He didn’t tell me exactly why he wanted to come back,” Packers general manager Ted Thompson said. “Other than in our conversations prior to the end of the season, I knew he was having a good time and he liked the team.”

Thompson was in a meeting on Friday morning when he saw a familiar number pop up on his cell phone and promptly excused himself. A few minutes later, the so-called “Favre watch” was over — bringing the three-time MVP’s annual flirtation with retirement to an end far earlier than he had in the previous two offseasons.

Thompson said Favre knew it was better for the team and his teammates that he make his decision more quickly than he did last year, when he waited until late April to tell the team he was returning.

“We’ve been through this merry-go-round a couple times,” Thompson said. “But like I said before — and he was the first one to admit it in our conversations toward the end of the year — that he knew that a decision needed to be made fast. Like I say, he’s a football guy and he cares about this team and the image of the Green Bay Packers and I’m sure that had something to do with it.”

Favre, who will play his 17th NFL season, said he was excited about returning.

“We have a good nucleus of young players,” the 37-year-old quarterback said Friday on the Web site of the Sun Herald in Biloxi, Miss. “We were 8-8 last year, and that’s encouraging.”

Thompson said he intentionally didn’t bother Favre for a decision in recent weeks, choosing to “let the dust settle.” But Thompson said Packers coach Mike McCarthy had spoken to him once or twice in the past week.

“I think like most people that like the game of football, they like the fact that Brett Favre’s playing,” Thompson said. “I think it’s good, certainly good for the Packers and good for this team, and it’s good for the NFL. I think as long as he’s healthy and happy and playing, I think it’s a good thing for all of us.”

Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy agreed.

“It’s great to see Brett come back,” Dungy said. “You always want to see competitors stay in the game when they are able to play. That’s good news.”

Thompson figures Favre’s return is a sign that he is happy with the direction of the team. Favre seemed to echo those comments to the Biloxi newspaper.

“My offensive line looks good, the defense played good down the stretch,” Favre said. “I’m excited about playing for a talented young football team.”

Thompson said Favre did not give him a commitment beyond 2007, and might still have the offseason ankle surgery he skipped out on the day after the season ended.

“It’s (an injury) that he’s played with,” Thompson said. “But I think it’s something that he might do. But if he does, I’m sure you’ll know about it.”

Favre’s decision likely means that backup quarterback Aaron Rodgers will spend a third NFL season sitting on the bench. Rodgers is rehabilitating from a broken foot but will likely be ready for the Packers’ quarterback school in March.

“Mike talked to him today, because obviously this affects him and his immediate future,” Thompson said. “So we just wanted him to know that he’s a Packer and we’re very happy to have both those guys.”

That wasn’t so clear at the end of the season. Favre led many to believe he intended to retire when he became emotional during a television interview after the Packers beat the Chicago Bears in the regular season finale.

Packers chairman and CEO Bob Harlan said he was receiving faxes from “delighted” Packers fans around the country.

“I think this helps our fans a great deal,” Harlan said. “They could see the direction the team was going in last year, and with Brett coming back it’s even better.”

Favre has started 257 consecutive games including the playoffs, an NFL record for quarterbacks. Favre broke Marino’s record for career completions (4,967) in 2006 and is closing in on Marino’s marks for career touchdown passes (420) and yards passing (61,361).

Favre has won three league MVP awards — he shared 1997 honors with Detroit Lions running back Barry Sanders — and played in two Super Bowls. He and the Packers won Green Bay’s first championship in 29 years by beating New England in the 1997 Super Bowl.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said the news was great for the league.

“He’s obviously been an incredible performer for the NFL,” said Goodell, in Miami for Sunday’s Super Bowl.


AP Football Writer Dave Goldberg in Miami and Sports Writer Colin Fly in Milwaukee contributed to this report.