Brett Favre (Paul Sancya/AP)
Brett Favre said his farewells without actually saying he was retiring. The holder of nearly every NFL passing record of significance said he holds no regrets, thanked his teammates and fans, and looked like a guy ready for retirement, gray hair and all.
For most, it’s a new year. For Brett Favre, it sounds like the end of a career.
The Vikings quarterback understands there will be skeptics that this time his career is really done. He’s had retirement press conferences before. He’s shed the tears and said his goodbyes. Although he never said the word “retire” or a variation of it during his nine-minute press conference following the Vikings’ season finale, his third inactive game of the season, this time there is no streak left to defend and few records left to be broken.
“It’s time and I know it’s time. That’s OK. It is. I hold no regrets and I can’t think of too many players that can walk away and say that,” he said while wearing a baseball cap with his signature jersey number “4” stitched on it. “Individually and from a team standpoint, way more than I ever dreamed of. I played with some great, great teammates over the years and was honored to play with them. I just know it was time.”
Up until this this season, Favre had eluded the effects of time and his accomplishments were many.
He won Super Bowl XXXII with the Green Bay Packers and was named NFL MVP three times. His 297-game streak of consecutive starts ended on Dec. 12 after a strained sternoclavicular joint in his throwing shoulder kept him out of action for the first time since 1992.
He holds passing records for touchdowns (508), completions (6,300), attempts (10,169), yards (71,838), interceptions (336), sacks (525), games with a 100 passer rating (106), and victories (186) as a starting quarterback, along with 46 game-winning comebacks. He has thrown for 300 yards 62 times and played 18 consecutive seasons with at least 3,000 yards passing.
“It’s by the grace of God that I got a chance to play this game and play it at a high level,” he said. “I’m honored. I hope that people admired the way that I played, my passion for it, because I hold no regrets.”
Favre created quite a stir when he announced his retirement following the 2007 season in Green Bay and decided that summer that he wanted to come back. The Packers were ready to move on with Aaron Rodgers as their starting quarterback and the Vikings started their pursuit of him then. As training camp opened, the Packers traded him to the New York Jets. After one season with the Jets, he asked for his release and the Jets complied after drafting Mark Sanchez in the first round.
After 18 years in league, 16 of them with NFC North division rival Packers, Favre joined the Minnesota Vikings in 2009 and took them on a 12-4 odyssey that ended in overtime of the NFC Championship with badly swollen ankle and retirement on his mind once again.
After throwing 33 touchdowns and only seven interceptions in 2009, calling it the best season of his career, it took an August visit from Ryan Longwell, Steve Hutchinson and Jared Allen to bring Favre back for a 20th NFL season and it wasn’t one to remember fondly. Favre struggled, throwing 11 touchdowns and 19 interceptions, and consequently so did the Vikings, finishing with a 6-10 record that led to the in-season firing of Brad Childress as the head coach. It was only the second losing season Favre has experienced as a starter (the Packers were 4-12 in 2005).
“It’s been a wonderful ride for me. One game, one season does not define me,” Favre said. “There will be people that say, ‘It’s a shame he went out that way’ or this and that. I am truly grateful for the opportunity.”
Interim head coach Leslie Frazier has stood by Favre during his six weeks at the helm, saying he would be the team's starting quarterback when he's healthy, but even Frazier believes this is the end of the line for Favre.
“All indications and when I talk with him – and we’ve had many, many discussions – this is it. I don’t even think it will be an issue in the future," Frazier said. "I don’t see any situation that’s going to change his mind. You might say, ‘Well, we’ve been down that road before, but it’s different now. Things are different in his life, and in the organization’s life as well.”
Favre said he didn’t regret returning to the Vikings, but he suffered numerous injuries throughout the season, beginning with offseason ankle surgery that slowed him at the start of the season to fractures in his ankle and foot to a badly bruised calf to tendinitis in the elbow to chest, shoulder and head injuries. His consecutive starts streak ended on Dec. 12, but his final game played was Dec. 20 against the Chicago Bears, and he lasted only a few minutes into the second quarter before suffering a concussion when his head hit the frozen FieldTurf of TCF Bank Stadium.
He has missed three of the last four games with shoulder and head injuries.
“This year did not work out the way we would have hoped, but that’s football,” he said. “I don’t regret coming back. I enjoyed my experience here. “
He thanked his teammates, both in Minnesota and Green Bay, and thanked the fans.
“It was special. Wonderful experience. Wouldn’t change it for anything,” he said. “… To play 20 years in the National Football League for a kid who had dreamed of just always playing in the NFL – not a whole lot different than most kids – to have accomplished things that I was able to accomplish individually and from a team standpoint, way more than I would ever have dreamed of. God blessed me from the start and I hope that people appreciated the way I played, the way I appreciate the game.”
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.