Saturday, July 12, 2008
Updated: July 13, 10:54 AM ET
Packers GM, coach say team won't release Favre despite request
ESPN.com news services
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Green Bay Packers aren't about to let Brett Favre become a free agent. And while he's free to return to Green Bay for another season, there's no guarantee he'll be the Packers' starting quarterback if he does.
In an interview with The Associated Press Saturday, Packers general manager Ted Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy said they don't plan to grant Favre the release he is seeking from his contract and are committed to Aaron Rodgers as their starter.
"We've communicated that to Brett, that we have since moved forward," Thompson told the AP on Saturday. "At the same time, we've never said that there couldn't be some role that he might play here. But I would understand his point that he would want to play."
When asked whether that role might be as a backup or coach, Thompson said: "not a coach."
Added McCarthy: "He did ask about that, though."
Speaking later to ESPN.com's John Clayton, Thompson said he is prepared to accept Favre's return and not necessarily as a backup.
"It's not accurate," Thompson said of the AP report that Favre would come back as a backup. "We don't know what role that would be. He can come back as an active member of the Green Bay Packers."
Thompson reaffirmed to ESPN that the Packers won't release Favre. He would not discuss trading the future Hall of Fame quarterback. Thompson said he had not received any inquiries from other teams as of Saturday morning.
"I don't want to deal in hypotheticals," Thompson said. "Brett is still retired. I know that there has been a lot of publicity about him being released, but if he applies for reinstatement, he will go back on the Green Bay Packers active roster and we will deal with it then."
Rodgers, who is playing in the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship in Lake Tahoe, Calif., is trying to block out the Favre talk.
"It's always difficult when your name is in the media all the time and there's a lot of speculation about different things," Rodgers said.
"I'm just trying to enjoy the weekend...I'm just focused on that, on working out and going back to Green Bay next week for training camp."
On Friday, ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported Favre had requested an amicable and unconditional release from the Packers via letter, attributing sources close to the player and team.
Neither Thompson nor McCarthy had expressed optimism Tuesday concerning a possible return during a conference call with Favre and his agent, James Cook, according to the sources.
Favre, who led the Packers to a Super Bowl title after the 1996 season, held a tearful news conference to announce his retirement March 6. The Packers planned to begin the season with Aaron Rodgers as the starting quarterback.
Thompson confirmed he and McCarthy were prepared to meet with Favre, who said he was interested in rescinding his retirement, in late March. Favre cancelled the meeting, telling Thompson and McCarthy that he had changed his mind and wanted to stay retired. Thompson said he and McCarthy were ready to accept Favre's return to the NFL at that time.
"Yes, we were going to leave the owners' meeting [in West Palm Bech, Fla.] a day early and fly to Hattiesburg with the idea of sitting down and talking to him about coming back to the team," Thompson said.
When Favre cancelled the meeting the Packers mentally moved on with Rodgers as quarterback. Then, the team drafted two quarterbacks -- Brian Brohm and Matt Flynn. Thompson said he still might have drafted a quarterback had Favre returned but he wouldn't have used two draft choices on quarterbacks.
But the tone changed dramatically in June, when Packers offensive line coach James Campen said he was getting worried about Favre. McCarthy said he had a phone conversation with Favre on June 20, and the coach said the quarterback sent a clear message: "Give me my helmet or give me my release."
Next came a now-infamous text message exchange between Thompson and Favre on July 4. At the time, Thompson didn't think it was a big deal that he wrote Favre back saying he was traveling and asked if they could talk Monday.
But then Thompson began getting texts from Cook. Sensing rising tension, Thompson and McCarthy agreed to a conference call with Favre and Cook on Tuesday.
Only then, McCarthy said, did Favre say he was 100 percent committed to playing. McCarthy said he doesn't question Favre's commitment to football, but said Favre often brought up the issue himself.
"The way he plays the game illustrates the guy is committed," McCarthy said. "(But) those are his words. That was always his final hurdle that he said he had to get over."
The hurdle was apparently cleared weeks before the start of training camp.
"Was it convincing? I'd say yes," McCarthy said. "But that was the first time, July 8, that I'd ever heard him say [he was committed]. And he continually, from [June] 21 to July 8, told James Campen that he was not going to play. So that's a pretty important piece of the puzzle."
Thompson admits this is a distraction.
"We don't know where everything is going to go," Thompson said. "It's been a distraction. It's been a distraction for our fans. I'm trying to stay steady and do the right things for the Packers and do the right thing for Brett Favre. I care about the legacy of Brett Favre. I care about the legacy of the Green Bay Packers."
From the Packers standpoint, it's a formality that Favre can apply for reinstatement and be granted the chance to return by commissioner Roger Goodell. That could happen as late as July 27 when the Packers are scheduled to report to training camp. The team's first practice is July 28.
Favre, who was placed on the reserve-retired list in late April, has three years and $39 million left on his contract with the Packers.
To be reinstated, Favre must apply through commissioner Roger Goodell. That would force the Packers to activate the 16-year veteran.
McCarthy said he and Thompson were in constant communication with Favre throughout the offseason.
"Quite frankly, it's a little gut-wrenching as an organization to go through it, and certainly for Mike and myself," Thompson said. "This stuff hurts a lot of people. I mean, it hurts. I'm not talking about physically hurting, but the sensitivity. We understand where the fans are coming from. This is a hot-button issue that surpasses anything I've ever gone through."
ESPN reporters John Clayton and Chris Mortensen and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Quite frankly, it's a little gut-wrenching as an organization to go through it.
-- Packers GM Ted Thompson, on Favre's offseason seesaw