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Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Favre's left Green Bay behind, for good

By Gene Wojciechowski
ESPN.com

Monday night. Oct. 5. A date that will live in football infamy.

That's the night the Green Bay Packers play the Minnesota Vikings at the hearing-loss capital of the world -- the Metrodome. That's the night Brett Favre commits cheesehead treason.

Favre
Well, that was quick. Favre was already practicing with the Vikings by Tuesday afternoon.

Favre got what he wanted Tuesday. He got the team he craved, the salary he could live with and the NFC North Division he knows by heart. But the nanosecond he signed that two-year, $25 million contract with the Vikings was the nanosecond he burned the last few remaining wooden bridges between him and Packers fans. He became Fredo Corleone in "The Godfather: Part II" -- the one who betrays the family. Packers fans became Michael Corleone, who tells his older brother, "Fredo, you're nothing to me now."

Fredo got popped on a fishing boat in the middle of Lake Tahoe. Favre could get his on national television in the middle of the Metrodome. Or he could lead the team with the league's best running back and one of the league's best defensive lines to Super Bowl XLIV.

Anyway, he's a Viking now, which is what Favre wanted all along. Actually, that's not true. He wanted to be a Packer, but remember all that Packers management stuff about crossing the Rubicon River and protecting Favre's legacy? It was as sincere as Favre's first retirement announcement.

Bottom line: The Packers didn't want Favre as their quarterback, and equally as important, they didn't want Favre as the Vikings' quarterback. That's why they poisoned any deals with NFC North teams. And that's why Favre ended up in another conference with the New York Jets last season.

I've got zero problems with Favre unretiring again. It's his career, his body, his legacy. No matter what happens when he wears purple, Favre is still going to end up in Canton.

I love it when the Michael Irvins of the world say Favre should stay put, as if Irvin wouldn't have played longer if he could have. Favre can, and will. And he'll do it with a throwing arm that works this time, as opposed to the torn biceps tendon he played with during the latter part of the '08 season.

I've also got zero problems with Favre signing with the Vikings. Maybe it is personal -- I'm sure he'd love to stick it to Packers management -- but it's also business. If you're Favre, wouldn't you want to play for this team, in that West Coast offense, for that coach, in that division, for that kind of money? He isn't going there to be a ceremonial clipboard holder. He'll start for a team that was favored to go long and far, even before he signed.

Favre is 39 years old. He turns 40 five days after that Monday night game against the Packers. There are going to be times when he looks every bit of those 39/40 years. But Vikings coach Brad Childress, who's no dummy, must think Favre at 40 is better than Sage Rosenfels and Tarvaris Jackson at any age. If it doesn't work, all it will cost the Vikings is money. They'll still have Plan Sage or Plan Tarvaris to fall back on. And the franchise will pocket whatever percentage it made from all the Favre jersey sales.

This is a win-win-lose situation. It's a win for the Vikings: They get an experienced, Hall of Fame quarterback who is familiar with the division and intimately familiar with his former franchise, which just so happens to play in that same division. It's a win for Favre: He gets a playoff-caliber team, a potential Hall of Fame running back (Adrian Peterson), a killer offensive line, an offensive system he knows by memory, a speedy X factor in Percy Harvin, a domed stadium in the dead of winter and another chance to play. It's a loss for the Packers, who were hoping Favre would simply go back to Mississippi and stay there.

Of course, none of this guarantees that the marriage between Favre and the Vikings will live happily ever after. Some Vikings players can't be thrilled that Favre stiffed the team three weeks ago, but is now showing up halfway through training camp. And what happens if he struggles early, or a quarterback controversy unfolds, or if Favre decides he made a mistake? And what happens if he can't beat the Packers? Or the Chicago Bears? Or even the lowly Detroit Lions?

Favre's career has been a long series of risks. That's how he played the game. That's why he retired, unretired, retired and unretired again. Give him this much: He's never been afraid of success or failure, of praise or rip jobs.

Vikings fans are going to love him. Or love the idea of him. For them, it's the best of both worlds. They get an upgrade at quarterback (admittedly, one with some bald spots on the football tires) and they get the possibility of watching Favre beat the archrival Packers on Oct. 5 and maybe again at Lambeau on Nov. 1.

So think of this as the third and final act of Favre's playing career. There was the glorious Packers phase, the inglorious Jets phase and the still-to-be-determined Vikings phase. Whatever goodwill currency he had left with the Packers faithful is spent. There won't be many mixed feelings when he returns to Lambeau; they'll want to see him spend the day on his back.

Favre knows this. He knows there are green-and-gold die-hards who will never forgive him for wearing a Vikings uni. The only thing worse would be seeing him wear the Bears' navy blue. And if Minnesota somehow sweeps the season series against the Pack, or costs Green Bay a playoff spot -- well, then he can probably forget about attending a jersey retirement ceremony anytime soon.

Favre got what he wanted. There could be a reward, but there will definitely be a cost. It's the price you pay for being Fredo.

Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at gene.wojciechowski@espn3.com. Hear Gene's podcasts and ESPN Radio appearances by clicking here.