A 'big favor' from Brett Favre
August, 18, 2010
By Kevin Seifert | ESPN.com
Brace Hemmelgarn/US PresswireBrett Favre doesn't feel like he has anything else to prove -- he returned to help his teammates.EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The mission was clear, Jared Allen said of his trip to Mississippi this week with teammates Steve Hutchinson and Ryan Longwell.
"We needed a 'yes' or a 'no,'" Allen said. "One way or the other. We were starting to get along in this preseason and that was it."
The group carried a "message from the locker room," according to Hutchinson.
"It was clear-cut," Hutchinson said. "It was cut-and-dried: 'We're down here to find out what you want to do. The guys on this team want you here. Everybody wants you here.' Basically that's what we told him."
Ultimately, Longwell said, "we asked him to do it for the guys."
And here, based on what he said Wednesday, is what quarterback Brett Favre heard:
"[They] were like, 'Hey, if you could do us one favor. And that's a pretty big favor.'"
Just beautiful, really.
I mean this in all sincerity, with no malice and (almost no) sarcasm: Only Favre could manipulate that recruiting mission into a no-lose situation for himself. That's essentially the message Favre conveyed Wednesday during his return-to-Minnesota news conference. He will play not because of his reported $16.5 million salary, not for a chance to enhance his NFL records or to prove he can play at age 41.
This season is a "favor" for the players with whom he spent five months of his 20-year NFL career, an attempt to give it "one more try" to help them win a Super Bowl. Favre, in fact, used the word "favor" six times in 33 minutes. And if it doesn't work out? It was just a favor, anyway.
"I'm not here to set any records," Favre said. "People say, 'You can do this. And you can do this.' I say, 'I've done it all. There's nothing left for me to prove.' I'm here to have fun and help these guys win."
How charitable. We all know Favre is a Super Bowl quarterback and a future Hall of Famer. Who knew he was a world-class philanthropist as well?
Kidding aside, I consider Favre's interpretation of his mission to be precious insight into his psyche and a fascinating explanation for why he returned. The player on whom the Vikings are resting their Super Bowl hopes needed to convince himself that no result to this season would be a personal failure.
If that wasn't obvious from his comments Wednesday, consider the way Longwell described the final 30 minutes of the Mississippi visit. Prior to that point, Longwell said, all three teammates thought Favre's final decision would be to retire.
"He had given us, speaking from the heart, kind of a legit, 'This is why I'm where I'm at,' and we all felt that it was sound reasoning," Longwell said. "Finally in that last half hour we all kind of spilled our guts about, 'It's not about the touchdown passes and the wins and losses and stuff but would you do it just for the guys?
"'It elevates the whole locker room, elevates the whole community, the whole state, just you being there. Not even throwing passes, not even getting under center, just you being there. Would you do it for the guys?' He had said over the night and the day that the one thing he missed was the guys. That was the one thing, the common theme through everything and so we spilled our guts, we were sitting there in his jeep and he said, 'All right let's go do this.'"
I don't doubt that Favre enjoyed his time with the Vikings last season, and you could do a lot worse than teaming up with men like Longwell, Hutchinson and Allen. But with all due respect to them, what finally swayed Favre was an appeal to help by simply showing up. Anything he accomplished beyond that would be gravy.
The reality, as we all know, is that Favre represents the difference between the Vikings contending for the playoffs and for the Super Bowl. But what Favre himself needed to hear is that he would be an accessory, not the foundation. I found it a fascinating combination of bravado and insecurity, all rolled into one. You wouldn't have Brett Favre without both.