Ask any professional athlete in any sport about the toughest thing to do, and the answer is simple: Walk away from the game. No more cheers, no more perks, just a new career if you are a lineman, or daily golf and family time if you are a quarterback.
But a funny thing happens around July of the first year you are out of the game in the NFL. Your body and mind begins to think about training camp, the locker room with your teammates, the feeling of being in the huddle again.
Such a scenario is playing through the mind of Brett Favre as he thinks about life after football. His will-he or won’t-he story is familiar to anyone who follows the league, so we’ll cut to the chase. What happens next?
Simply put, Favre can make Green Bay GM Ted Thompson the villain. If Favre asks to be reinstated, the Packers can reinstate him to the roster, attempt to trade him or release him from the two years left on the contract.
Remember, the Packers came one Favre interception short of the Super Bowl. The fans in Green Bay and Favre’s teammates know how close they came to playing the Patriots instead of the Giants. The team reportedly tried to get him to come back in March, but Brett convinced them he was through. So, the Packers moved on with Aaron Rodgers as the new man in charge in the huddle.
Thompson is in a tough spot. If the Packers are truly committed to moving on and Favre is committed to play in 2008, then it’s trade or release the superstar QB. In either case, I wouldn’t put too many personal items in my office or put a long mortgage on a house in Green Bay, if I am Thompson. There is some trade value for Favre, especially for a team that might need a rental quarterback for a year.
If not Green Bay, then where for #4? Thompson would be strung up by the Packers faithful if he trades him to a division opponent — say Chicago or Minnesota. A team in need of a quarterback for one or two seasons before a younger man takes over could be a logical trade partner. Do you know of such a franchise? Atlanta, with Chris Redman as the starter, where Favre began his career and where owner Arthur Blank needs to fill seats in the post-Michael Vick era could be a possibility. Rookie Matt Ryan is probably a year away from being ready, and the Falcons will have problems winning six games.
How about Favre in purple and black? Thompson, to appease the Packers fans, would have to think about not putting him with a team that is in competition with Green Bay to return to the NFC Championship Game. Favre, either by trade or release if he really wanted to play this year, would probably want to go to a team that needed a veteran quarterback to get over the hump and make a playoff run.
The Ravens feel they have a playoff run left with a team full of veterans, but questions about who is the best fit at quarterback in 2008. Joe Flacco, like Ryan, is probably a year away from starting full-time. Would the Ravens roll the dice to start the John Harbaugh era in Baltimore if the opportunity presented itself? What would that move do to a competitive AFC North? Both are intriguing questions, but very, very hypothetical.
This soap opera will play itself out quickly over the next two weeks. Favre texted “It’s all rumor” to his hometown newspaper in southern Mississippi on Thursday night. Notice he didn’t say, “I’m not playing this year — I’m retired.” It’s a non-denial denial. He wants to play again and the natural conclusion is that either he will remain retired because the Packers make it clear to Favre and his agent that they have moved on, and Favre does not want to play outside of Green Bay, or the Packers blow up their future plans and return Favre to his starting spot.
If Favre is in shape mentally and physically to play in 2008, and the Packers are not interested in his services and prepared for the fans’ wrath, then the next move could be what Steve McNair did in Tennessee — force a release to finish his career in another uniform. But which one?