Answers in April? Forget it -- Favre will know in August he's going to play
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Brett Favre will have ankle surgery by Memorial Day. He'll start throwing at Oak Grove High School by the end of June.
He'll hem and haw and express uncertainty -- plenty of it real, genuine uncertainty -- as the calendar flips to August. And by the time the Minnesota Vikings reconvene here at Winter Park after two weeks in the dorms of Mankato, their legendary quarterback will know damn well he's playing a 20th NFL season.
Actually, forget gut instinct. What makes this clear is it's happened before.
Doesn't matter if Favre's left ankle remains swollen and sore three months after the NFC championship game.
Ankles heal, even for guys on the wrong side of age 40, and Favre says he's dealt with worse.
Doesn't matter if Favre recently became a grandfather and has spoken for years about wanting to spend more time with his family.
The Favre clan -- wife Deanna in particular -- has been pushing him to press on for years.
Doesn't matter if Favre might not make a final decision until the Vikings have completed a grueling fortnight under the hot August sun.
"I don't have a lot of illusions about the timing of the thing," Childress told reporters during the Vikings' rookie minicamp. "... There was no manual (last year) and he played at a high level. How much (camp) does he need? He knows. I've got a ballpark idea of how much he needs, and obviously, what he got last year was plenty."
That undercuts the notion all this ankle angst is a carefully orchestrated ploy to buy Favre a Get Out Of Camp Free card. In essence, Childress has placed one firmly in the palm of Favre's 10 5/8-inch right hand and said, "This one's on me."
Favre got one last summer, too, when he put off shoulder surgery until late May -- months after telling reporters his refusal to have the procedure was proof his second retirement was for real.
His first retirement ended on another hot August day in 2008, when two days of meetings between Favre and Green Bay Packers officials ended with both sides in agreement it was time to move on.
In Packers coach Mike McCarthy's office, Favre's cell phone rang repeatedly, with Deanna on the other end asking for updates. And even then -- days before his Hall of Fame career resumed improbably with the New York Jets -- Favre wouldn't say he was 100 percent committed to playing and wondered aloud how it would look if he took the Packers' multimillion-dollar marketing offer instead.
Think what you will about Favre, but the indecision isn't an act -- at least not entirely. I believed Favre when he announced his first retirement. I didn't believe Favre when he said he was done the second time, but I do believe he believed himself.
It's been a long time since Brett Favre wanted to play football in February. Or March. Or April.
He's never wanted to participate in offseason camps. And he's never wanted to go under the knife -- but that hasn't stopped him, time and again, from doing what it took to be ready by September.
The Vikings don't need a wink-wink agreement to feel confident proceeding as though Favre will return.
Surgery, Oak Grove, hedging, comeback -- that's replaced the slant as Favre's go-to in the playbook.
Even if, right now, the battle between Favre's gut, his ankle and his head hasn't convinced him of anything.