From the Sidelines: Green Bay too cold to Favre

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 11, 2008

Will he or won&8217;t he? That question has been at the forefront of most football fans&8217; minds since ESPN&8217;s Chris Mortensen first broke the news that indefinitely retired Brett Favre still had that &8220;itch&8221; to play. The Favre Watch has dominated nearly all NFL rhetoric as fans, media members and casual observers alike have sought to divide whether or not the capricious quarterback will return to the game.

The sub-points to such discussions have been equally as intriguing as seemingly everyone has had an opinion on what the finicky Favre will eventually decide and whether or not the Green Bay Packers would gleefully accept his services.

With Mortensen&8217;s Friday report that Favre officially requested his unconditional release in a letter to the Packers, the situation just got much dicier and far more intriguing than most imagined it would.

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Favre and the Packers were involved in a not-so-subtle game of chicken that could ultimately damage the popular perception of both. But this story goes well beyond Favre&8217;s recent declaration of itchiness. In fact, Favre&8217;s letter is just the most recent manifestation of his long-standing frustration with the Green Bay front office.

See, No. 4 asked on multiple occasions for general manager Ted Thompson to make free agent additions or trades that might return the team to the ranks of the NFL&8217;s elite. Favre, who shares agents with the resurgent Randy Moss, pushed for Thompson to trade for oft-disgruntled receiver when Oakland was shopping him in the spring of 2007. Instead, Thompson opted to cling to his fourth round draft selection and allowed Favre to stew a little more. For those interested, the draft pick that would have landed Moss was instead spent on the services of Missouri Southern offensive tackle Allen Barbre.

As history now shows, the opportunistic Patriots landed Moss with their fourth-round choice, reaping a tremendous award as the rejuvenated receiver hauled in record after record on his way to a career year.

So Favre offered Thompson a reprieve before announcing his retirement this spring, again petitioning the general manager to pursue Moss. After Moss had seemingly reached an impasse in contract talks with notoriously thrifty New England, Favre reportedly again reached out and beckoned Thompson to add the game-breaker to the Green Bay roster. Thompson&8217;s inaction again served as a discreet declination, allowing Moss to return to New England and sending yet another signal to the temperamental Favre that his vision of the organization&8217;s direction conflicts with the general manager&8217;s.

So Favre announced his retirement, likely prompted more by frustration with his circumstances than by general physical wear and tear. And conspicuously absent from the Lambeau Legend&8217;s press conference were representatives of the Packers&8217; brass. Thompson&8217;s absence served to symbolically hold the door open for Favre as he tearfully exited the game.

So Thompson breathed a little easier. He didn&8217;t have to formally push Favre out the door. Instead, his years of passive-aggressive behavior forced the final remains of yesteryear out the door, allowing the franchise to move forward with former first-round pick Aaron Rodgers and its core of young wide receivers.

Then reality set in. Word got out that Favre sought to return, sending Green Bay fans into an uproar over the possibilities. So Thompson, true to form, did nothing. Then reports began to surface that Favre sent the G.M. a text message about his desire to play again. And Thompson responded by informing the iconic signal-caller that the discussion would have to wait until the conclusion of his vacation. So Favre, tired of repeatedly being stonewalled by Thompson officially requested his unconditional release.

Now it&8217;s Thompson&8217;s move. Does he blink? Does he take the high road and, out of respect to Favre, grant him the ability to sign with another club even if it is an NFC North team?

The safe bet is he doesn&8217;t. Thompson can&8217;t risk Favre landing with a team like the Chicago Bears or Minnesota Vikings. He can&8217;t face the potential embarrassment of losing twice to Favre in one season en route to losing a division that was supposed to be Green Bay&8217;s for the taking. He could attempt to trade Favre. That deal would most likely be to an AFC team and would probably draw little more than a fourth-round pick. But, since Favre isn&8217;t likely to go the way of Joe Montana in finishing his career in Kansas City and no other American Conference team is a quarterback away from contention, those efforts are likely to prove more frustrating than fruitful.

So the safe money is that Thompson handles this situation the way he has so many others. He holds and hopes it goes away.

But what if he doesn&8217;t? What if he does take the aforementioned high road, show Favre some appreciation and grant him his unconditional release? Will Brett then opt to sign with another team? If so, will it be a division rival? Is Favre really so disenchanted with the Thompson regime that he would deface his own legacy to gain some measure of retribution? Perhaps.

There really are only two definite answers at this point. A motivated Favre is a dangerous Favre. And, retired or otherwise, Favre will not be doing his damage from the Green Bay backfield in 2008 as the NFL&8217;s most public game of chicken has irreparably damaged its most storied player-team relationship.

Jeremy D. Smith is the sports editor of The Times. You can reach him at 334-289-4017 or