If it happens Monday, revenge might be sweet for Favre

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 4, 2009

Monday night is the reason Brett Favre is still playing in the NFL.

Monday night is when his Minnesota Vikings play his former team, the Green Bay Packers. This is why he is back. And how do I know? It’s as good a guess as any.

Sean P. Murphy is Web editor. He can be reached at smurphy@vicksburgpost.com.

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Consider, though, that Favre gave his best years to the Packers. He was not a first-round, can’t-miss player when he left Southern Miss after the 1990 season. He was a guy with a cannon for an arm, but where his passes went sometimes was a mystery.

He had a less-than-stellar reputation off the field. He had a wild side, the stories of which are still legend in Hattiesburg.

Drafted by the Atlanta Falcons, he was destined not to fit in. His name on his jersey was misspelled FARVE, for goodness sake. He had a short tenuous career in Atlanta before being traded to Green Bay — a move that looked smart in 1992 as Favre was simply the wild kid playing backyard football in front of thousands.

The Packers were far from contenders when the Mississippi kid showed up. They had a quarterback, Don Majikowski, who, after being benched in the second game of the 1992 season, became the NFL version of Wally Pipp with the Mississippi kid playing Lou Gehrig. Gehrig replaced Pipp in the New York Yankees’ lineup in 1923 starting a string of 2,130 consecutive games as the Yankees’ first baseman.

Favre led a comeback after replacing Majikowski, beating the Cincinnati Bengals some 17 years ago on a last-second touchdown pass.

The Packers had a newfound star, one who would win three Most Valuable Player trophies, a Super Bowl and the undying love of a nationwide fan base. Football fans loved the way he played the game. He played loose and free, would go face-to-face with defensive lineman and played hurt.

By the time the 2007 football season ended, he had virtually every quarterback record in NFL history, but age began to take its toll. The aches and pains from a season’s worth of beatings didn’t heal as fast. All athletes reach a certain point and they know it’s time to go and those feelings likely started for Favre.

By April 2008 he hadn’t healed fully, but the Packers were making plans for the next season. They forced his hand when he didn’t want to make a decision. He retired in a tear-filled news conference. Deep down, though, he didn’t want to go and his feelings were hurt that the team he led to so much glory was pushing him for a decision. The NFL is a 365-day-a-year business and the team needed to make plans for a season less than five months away.

Verbal spats between the team and the QB ensued. Both acted like children. By June, Favre was ready to play and wanted to play in Minnesota — to give him a chance to take the football and stick it to those who hurt his feelings. He  still loved Green Bay, but not those involved with the team.

A trade to one of the Packers’ division rivals became impossible. He wanted to play. The New York Jets called and he started every game, but any common fan could see him break down physically at the end of the season.

He retired — again.

Weeks before the season started, he was content with sitting on the sidelines throwing passes to local high school players outside of Hattiesburg. Talks and rumors of his return filled the summer airwaves as it had the past several years. He had shoulder surgery.

Then Minnesota called and made an offer — the $25 million over two years surely had something to do with it. He wanted to play again. He wanted one more chance to take the football in his rocket right arm and stick it to the team that hurt his feelings two years ago. Sometimes grudges stick around way too long.

Monday night at 7:30 on ESPN, the Mississippi kid who now has gray hair but still plays the game like a child, will get his chance — 19 months after his feelings were hurt.