While cheeseheads and talking heads alike were fretting over whether Brett Favre would return for his 16th NFL season, Green Bay wide receiver Donald Driver and his teammates were just kind of chilling.
“I don't think it had an effect on the team,” Driver said of Favre’s protracted decision-making process earlier this year. “Some of these guys don't even know Brett that well. They probably would have been happy if he came back to visit. When he came back to play, I think it put smiles on a lot of veteran guys’ faces.”
Say what you will about the graying beard, the interceptions and the six wins in the last 22 games. There’s still something special about having No. 4 wearing your team’s colors.
And for the Arizona Cardinals, many of whom will face the future Hall of Famer for the first time this Sunday, there’s still something special about lining up opposite No. 4 at historic Lambeau Field.
“I never thought I’d have the opportunity. I thought he’d be retired by now,” second-year cornerback Eric Green said. “It’s going to be real exciting going against him. Hopefully, I can get an interception and maybe I’ll have him sign it after the game.”
Favre agonized over whether or not to return to the Packers following last year’s 4-12 campaign that ended a run of 13 consecutive nonlosing seasons and four-straight playoff appearances. He threw more interceptions (29) than touchdowns (20) and heard some call for backup Aaron Rodgers to get a chance.
At 2-4, the Pack may not be back this year. But Favre is, at least to a degree.
Though he’s surrounded by youth at receiver and on the offensive line, Favre is averaging 246.8 passing yards per game. With nine touchdowns and five interceptions so far, he’s on pace to throw more touchdowns (24) than he has since 2004 and fewer interceptions (13) than he has since 1996.
And he’s having fun.
“He's enjoying the game,” said Driver, who was actually picked up and carried by Favre at one point during Sunday’s road win over Miami. “And I think once he stops enjoying the game maybe that's when he'll hang it up.”
With Favre these days, the conversation always seems to turn to retirement.
Earlier this season, Favre agreed to a lengthy sit-down with HBO’s Bob Costas. During the interview, Favre admitted he would be open to joining another team after this season if he still wanted to play and the Packers no longer wanted him.
Questions about his future (and about the team’s losing) have become so prevalent that Favre decreased his media availability this season from one day a week to one day every other week.
He still submits to interviews after games, and he offered a glimpse into his mind-set following a 48-17 preseason loss to Cincinnati. When asked if the talent and potential he saw in the offseason may not bear fruit until next year, Favre snapped.
“What do you want me to do, quit?” he asked. “I can't help but wonder (how this season will go) sometimes. But, it's hard enough to play my position. I have enough people telling me I'm too old and can't do it.
“It's not easy. But I enjoy doing it. Do I enjoy losing? No. But I enjoy the challenge of competing every week.”