With the national media swarming Green Bay to cover the Brett Favre saga with the start of training camp on Monday, coach Mike McCarthy and general manager Ted Thompson didn’t rule out the possibility of Favre returning to the Packers.
Favre is expected to apply to the NFL for reinstatement sometime this week. At that point, the Packers would have 24 hours to add him to the active roster, trade him or release him. Since Thompson reiterated Monday that releasing Favre is not an option and because trade talks have been less than fruitful, there’s a decent chance Favre will return to the Packers — if even for a short period — if a trade isn’t worked out in the next 24 or 48 hours.
Asked how Favre’s arrival would play out in the locker room, McCarthy said: “I don’t foresee Brett Favre coming in here as a problem. Brett Favre is a big part of the Green Bay Packers’ history and he may be part of the future.”
A couple of hours later, at a separate news conference, Thompson said, “There are scenarios where he could come back, and we would be fine.”
While Favre has sometimes voiced bitterness toward Thompson and the Packers, there also are signs the relationship isn’t irreparably broken. Favre could have arrived in camp and turned the first day of practice into a circus but decided to put that decision on hold for a couple of days.
“(Favre) asked me to present to you guys at some point, and I think now is an appropriate time, his reasoning behind (not arriving in camp on Monday),” said Thompson, who said he had a pair of 45-minute phone calls with Favre on Saturday. “His reasoning behind that is he cares very much about this team, cares about these players, his former teammates, so he doesn't want to do anything to disrupt from that. He felt strongly that he wanted to get that out, so I wanted to make sure that I told you guys that at the onset.”
Still, neither Thompson nor McCarthy seem the least bit open to bringing back Favre to have him challenge new starter Aaron Rodgers.
“We started down this path, and it doesn’t make sense for us to go back,” Thompson said, noting he explained the Packers’ direction to Favre on Saturday. “We believe this is the path that we should be on. We believe this in the best interest of this team for the long term and the short term.”
Not surprisingly, the players — especially the veterans — were hit with a deluge of questions surrounding the retired-for-now quarterback.
Receiver Donald Driver said he had a preference on who quarterbacks the Packers this season. While he wouldn’t give that opinion to reporters, he provided a strong hint.
“I love the guy,” Driver said of Favre. “If he walked in here and starting tomorrow, it would be great. And if he doesn’t, then we move on.”
Driver said it would be impossible to replace Favre.
“You don’t replace him. You can’t replace him,” Driver said. “Did anybody ever replace John Elway? Dan Marino? No. The only person they ever replaced was Joe Montana, and that was just a great man in Steve Young. That’s it.
“This guy is going to be hard to replace.”
Driver was both feisty and funny while surrounded by reporters. He said seeing Favre in a Vikings uniform would be “pretty ugly.”
“That’s what I told (former Packers Darren) Sharper and Ryan Longwell. They look ugly in that uniform. All of them do.”
“My prayer is that it will be a win-win situation for both parties,” defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila said, adding, “If anybody can do it, God can do it.”
Asked how such a win-win can take place when Favre and the Packers are so widely divided, Gbaja-Biamila said, “I don’t know how, that’s why I pray. If I knew, I would say, ‘Here’s what you do.’”
Fellow receiver Greg Jennings echoed the sentiments of many of his teammates when he said, “I think everybody would welcome Brett back.” But, in the same breath, Jennings said the team would be fine with Rodgers running the show.
Locker room harmony is neither a concern of McCarthy nor Driver, whatever happens with a player whose locker nameplate simply reads “Packers.”
“Everyone’s trying to say we’ll separate, we’ll split up. No one’s going to split up,” Driver said. “It’s a team thing. We know that we’ve got to play football. Plain and simple. We can’t let one person dictate what we’re going to do. We can’t do that. It’s not going to happen. Not at all.”
“We’re a football team, and football players play football,” said McCarthy, noting 21 players on his 80-man roster never have met Favre. “Football players play football, and they’ve handled it better than anyone. It’s time for coaches to coach and players to play, and at the end of the day, that’s what our players are excited about.”
So, one training camp practice is in the books. Favre isn’t here, but he’s on everybody’s minds. And he will be until there’s a final resolution. Thompson said he’s working toward that solution, but he and Favre “agree to disagree” on the best course of action.
Thompson characterized trade talks as “kicking the tires,” and said he would not trade Favre to an NFC North team nor offer Favre the outright release he desires.
“The club has certain rights in this, too,” Thompson said when asked about releasing Favre. “We’ve told Brett that we would work with him and, obviously, it would have to be an in-tandem thing to work out any sort of trade or whatever. But to just offer a blanket release just relinquishing all of the club’s rights to me doesn’t make good business sense.”