The League

Leonard Shapiro

Leonard Shapiro

Washington Post sports reporter, editor and columnist who has served on the NFL HOF Selection Committee.

He'll play, if he can


Back in the spring of 2008, when Brett Favre held a teary-eyed press conference to announce his so-called retirement from the Green Bay Packers, I happened to be teaching a course in sports journalism at my alma mater, the University of Wisconsin.

I had invited a prominent Wisconsin sports columnist to speak to the class that week, and of course, Favre's decision was Topic A in class that day. The columnist, a man who had covered Favre and the Packers for many years, had attended the quarterback's retirement session up in Green Bay a few days earlier, and was absolutely convinced this was it, the real deal. He had seen Favre weep, and for him, that was the clincher, proof positive that he was done. Career over.

Not long after my guest had walked out the door, I offered a far different prediction for my students. Favre would be back on the playing field by the time the 2008 season began, I told them. Forget the tears. Players play. The only way this player wasn't going to perform was if someone ripped the uniform off his back and burned it.

After nearly 40 years in the business, you learn that rare is the athlete who gives up that charmed life voluntarily. If they think they still have just enough left in the tank to compete, eventually they will play. Giving it all up is so hard to do -- the thrill of victory, the roar of the crowd, the camaraderie in the locker room, the hefty paycheck in the bank account.

Think Sugar Ray Leonard, Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, Michael Jordan, Junior Seau, Johnny Unitas, Joe Namath, Emmitt Smith among so many others.

And so, Professor Shapiro actually got it right that day. Favre did not retire, and signed on with the N.Y Jets instead.

And now, it says here that despite initial reports to the contrary, Favre will suit up again for the Vikings this season.

It's not about the money. It's almost certainly all about the ankle he had surgically repaired in the offseason. Sounds like it hasn't totally healed, in my opinion the only reason Favre, at the moment, is not ready to commit to playing again in 2010.

"At the moment" is the operative phrase. He's now going to consult James Andrews, the Birmingham orthopedic surgeon about a course of action to get the ankle back to where it needs to be in order to play professional football. Favre surely will do whatever he's told in terms of continuing rehab.

If his ankle heals properly, Brett Favre will play for the Vikings again this season. Minnesota head coach Brad Childress will make contingency plans either way. He's not going to pressure Favre into anything, because he surely knows the quarterback wants to play this season, but only if he's physically able to perform. If not, he'll retire, spend the season in a network broadcast booth or studio, and go directly into the Hall of Fame the first year he's eligible.

But definitely, stay tuned.

By Leonard Shapiro  |  August 5, 2010; 2:58 PM ET  | Category:  Brett Favre , Minnesota Vikings Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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