Pelissero: Brett Favre is 'done,' but are NFL teams done with him?
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The certainty in Brett Favre's words is convincing. Those closest to him within the Minnesota Vikings organization say they believe he's really, truly finished this time.
"Intellectually, he was always ready to call it quits," said Vikings kicker Ryan Longwell, Favre's best friend on the team. "But emotionally, I think he always had the desire to go back. This year, emotionally, he's ready."
This is Favre in December, though. This is Favre, sick and tired, standing at the Winter Park podium and repeating "I'm done" as he and the Vikings limp down the stretch of a lost season in which his body and reputation have taken a beating.
This never has been the Favre that matters when it comes to deciding his future. The only Favre that matters is the one who gets the "itch" in May, starts throwing at Oak Grove High School in June and just wants to be wanted by August.
Coming off the most disappointing of his 20 NFL seasons, the primary question may not be whether Favre would consider playing a 21st, rather than going out like this. The right situation and the right compensation at minimum would give Favre pause.
The question is, would anyone want Favre enough to do what it takes to get him -- and be willing to take on all the baggage that's part of the quick-fix package?
"I bet someone would," a veteran NFC scout said recently. "Oh yeah. Buffalo's playing with Ryan Fitzpatrick. You don't want Favre for a season?"
Favre's contract expires in March, removing the Vikings from the headlines that are virtually certain to appear -- right or wrong -- sometime next summer. One of the first tasks of the new regime will be finding a quarterback of the future, so clinging to the 41-year-old at the center of the present letdown seems unlikely.
Still, Favre has plenty of admirers around the league who remember well how he played in 2009 with a healthy Sidney Rice, a static stable of receivers and fewer ailments exacerbated by an aging offensive line. His off-the-charts football smarts retain value, too, even when weighed against the fleeting nature of making him part of the solution.
State of decline
The scout, who has broken down most of the Vikings' games, said Favre simply has looked "like he's not always into it" this season -- at times doing "whatever he could to not get hit" during the spiral to 4-7.
"He can still throw," the scout said. "He obviously still gets excited when he makes a big play -- you know how he follows the play down the field and all that kind of stuff. I don't think he's finished. He's better than a lot of the quarterbacks still playing if he wants to play at that level."
However, just how badly Favre wants to play at that level has been an issue for years. Never a fan of offseason work, he hasn't completed a full training camp since 2007 -- a certain turnoff even for a team that runs the West Coast offense in which Favre has played the majority of his career.
No one's going to pay Favre the $1 million a game he's making this season. But an offer of even half that almost surely would come with stipulations to avoid a repeat of his 2010 tribulations.
"The offseason, the participation in training camp -- I'd venture to think a team would want him around for all those types of things," an AFC personnel director said. "You would have to ensure that the player would be willing to buy into all those concepts, because if you're coming into a new program, especially a quarterback -- you saw that with the guy throwing to the receivers (in Minnesota this season), trying to lather that up while the games are going on. You want all that done before the games begin."
But what if a lockout wipes out all that work in the spring and summer? Offseason grooming for young quarterbacks would be out the window, perhaps altering the plans of teams -- the Vikings included -- planning to push forward with new starters at the most important position.
All of which is without mentioning the possibility of an injury that could knock out a contending team's quarterback, whether in camp, the preseason or even after the regular season is underway.
In that situation, who do you want under center? A guy who was an MVP candidate twice in the past four seasons, or Tyler Thigpen, Trent Edwards, Seneca Wallace, Jake Delhomme, Charlie Batch, Todd Bouman, Rusty Smith, Rex Grossman, Todd Collins, Brian St. Pierre, Max Hall, Derek Anderson ...
"He's better than Shaun Hill and Jimmy Clausen," the NFC scout said. "Carson Palmer, he's better than him."
Said the personnel director, "I don't know if (Favre)'d want to be a hired gun, a guy to hold on until (another quarterback comes back). But until he says he's done, I'm sure a team would keep him alive as a one-year stopgap measure, if it got to that point."
Favre already has said he's done several times -- never stronger than on Wednesday, when he said that "as far as physically, into the future, I don't think I'd feel any different" if the Vikings weren't playing out the string.
But that proclamation came from a voice raspy from illness, a body riddled with ankle, foot, elbow, shoulder, neck and chin injuries that only felt worse as the losses mounted.
"I think he has a little bit more on his plate this year than he had last year as well," offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. "I don't know if you can say 'worn out' or not, but he is in here working the same. He is competing the same. He's practicing the same. I can't say other than that."
The bottom line with Favre is it's impossible to say for certain whether any decision can be considered final. Nothing short of full debilitation or a suspension from the long-running NFL investigation into allegations of sexually charged misconduct would be a given to keep him off the field.
After all, Favre's balky left ankle never fully healed from surgery this past spring, and he told teammates in August he really, truly finished for good -- only to reverse course when Longwell, Steve Hutchinson and Jared Allen traveled to Mississippi to talk him into one more go-round.
"I do believe it 100 percent," Longwell said. "I felt that way, and said so, when we came back from Hattiesburg -- I really felt that was it. And I just know the way he's approached this year has been, just enjoy the ride for one last time and I have no reason to believe that he's going to change his mind."
Neither does Favre, now. But as he's shown three years running, how he feels in December -- or March or May or July -- has no bearing on how he might end up feeling when someone makes him feel wanted in August.