Staying is no passing fancy
Favre hopes to add several more seasons to his career at Green Bay
By BOB McGINN
bmcginn@journalsentinel.com
Posted: March 10, 2005

Green Bay - The Green Bay Packers might never know how close Brett Favre came to calling it quits. They're just ecstatic that he didn't.

Favre didn't make himself available for comment but wanted the announcement made Thursday so his decision wouldn't be the main topic of conversation during his appearance at the inaugural Fan Fest that opens later Friday at Lambeau Field.

"I don't know that he ever left," general manager Ted Thompson said. "He's been coming to play up here for 14 years now. I think he needed some time to reflect. I think that was honest and genuine."

Wide receiver Donald Driver wasn't the only one who thought Favre would call it a career. Some members of the national press corps wrote much the same thing after listening to Favre's tortured soliloquy Jan. 9 after a 31-17 loss to the Minnesota Vikings in a wild-card playoff game.

But in the end, Favre didn't let his four-interception performance overshadow his undying love for the sport. He finished the year healthy, posted a 17-game passer rating of 89.7, and the Packers were good enough to win the NFC North championship for the third straight season.

His hesitation, according to agent James "Bus" Cook and others, revolved around the health of his wife, Deanna, who in the last six months has undergone chemotherapy and radiation treatment for breast cancer.

"I think the best news of today is Deanna is through with all of her treatment and they think everything is going to be just fine," Thompson said. "I think his concern for Deanna going through the treatments was something he had to consider."

Both Thompson and Sherman spoke at length with Favre earlier in the week. He told them that he had no intention of labeling '05 as his final season.

"He mentioned to both of us that he's not looking at this as just a one-year thing," Thompson said. "He may play two, three or four more years. I think, quite frankly, he doesn't want to be bothered by that question all the time."

By returning, the 35-year-old Favre will make $9.5 million in '05, including $6.5 million in base salary and $3 million in roster bonus. However, an adjustment negotiated in his contract during the week will alter the payment schedule.

The Packers picked up $1.6 million of room beneath their adjusted salary cap of $86.2 million by guaranteeing $2 million of the $3 million roster bonus that he earned Sunday. Thus, the Packers will have to count just one-fifth of the $2 million, or $400,000, against their '05 cap and be able to push the remaining prorated amount of $1.6 million into the next four years.

There was little downside because the Packers are almost halfway through the 10-year, $101.5 million contract that Favre signed in March 2001. If Favre were to retire after the '05 season, the Packers actually would gain about $7.5 million against their cap in '06.

Last March, the Packers picked up $1 million of cap room with a similar adjustment.

Helping his team with the salary cap is the least of Favre's contributions. If they were dancing at 1265 Lombardi Ave., just imagine the reaction of league and television network officials.

With Favre officially in uniform, the schedule-makers now can line up the Packers for multiple Monday night and other doubleheader games, almost guaranteeing big ratings largely because of him.

"I know the teams we play aren't happy but overall the league is happy," Sherman said. "Obviously, when you talk about the Green Bay Packers, I think anybody in this country will think of Brett Favre.

"It means a lot to our football team because of who he is as a player, the aura that he has and the legend of Brett Favre. And it means a lot to the National Football League."

The Packers hope to re-sign restricted free agents Craig Nall and J.T. O'Sullivan to back up Favre. Sherman said he hadn't called Doug Pederson to discuss his future.

They also might draft a quarterback with one of their four draft choices in the first three rounds, but with Favre in the fold, the club will be putting aside even the faintest notion of rebuilding.

The free-agent departures last week of Mike Wahle and Marco Rivera robbed Favre of two premier guards who made up 40% of an elite offensive line. If Favre is concerned, he didn't mention it to Sherman.

"He's a big boy," Thompson said. "He's sorry to lose his two guards. They were good friends of his and excellent players in front of him, but he also understands that sometimes that happens and he's very happy they got the contracts they got."

Now armed with about $7.5 million in cap room, Thompson said the club would build the front through trades, free agency, the draft and from within.

"We'll be able to more than get by," Thompson said. "I told him it's my job to get the best players we can and make it all fit and work. That's what I'm about. We're not going to go out there with two holes at the guard position. We'll be fine."

The last 18 months have been a time of personal anguish for Favre. Besides his wife's health, he had to deal with the sudden death of his father in December 2003 and the death of his brother-in-law in an all-terrain vehicle accident in October 2004.

By late July, Favre will have moved back from the shadows of his low-key family life in Hattiesburg, Miss., and into the NFL fishbowl.

"He made a pretty good point to me," Sherman said. "He said, 'With all the things I've been dealing with off the field, I'm just looking forward to just having fun and playing.'

"He was very, very optimistic about the future. He was as enthused about the season as I can recall this time of year."