As the Vikings begin to gather around Winter Park for their offseason workout program, it seemed inescapable that, even though he’s nowhere in sight, the specter of Brett Favre still hangs through the practice facility.
Working out under the recently hung 2009 Division Championship banner, some of the young Vikings players were asked about whether their veteran teammate and the recent grandfather would be coming back for another season.
For the most part, the players were pretty mum about the subject. Defensive end Mike Montgomery, a former teammate of Favre’s in Green Bay, said he hasn’t spoken with the veteran QB.
Linebacker Jasper Brinkley said he was impressed with Favre’s performance last year and how well he blended in with his teammates, but said that, regardless of whether he returns or not, the Vikings will still be a force to reckon with.
“We’ve got a great team here,” Brinkley said. “If he decides to come back, that would be great. If he doesn’t, then I guess we will have to look in a different direction.”
Brinkley said he didn’t have any inside information – either formally or internally – as to whether Favre will come back or retire for good this time.
“That’s not my call,” the linebacker said, adding when he was asked about his gut feeling, “My gut is telling me nothing.”
One player who would like to see Favre come back is a player who has yet to suit up with him. Running back James Johnson, played on Bengals practice squad last year, said he has always been a fan of Favre and would be thrilled if the old gunslinger came rolling into the Vikings facility again this year for another run.
“I’ve been watching Brett since I was a little kid and he was in Green Bay,” Johnson said. “It will be an honor just to step on the field with him. You dream of playing with a quarterback like that – a Hall of Famer. It can only make you better and elevate your game knowing you’re playing with someone who can make a play out of nothing. I hope he comes back, because I would love to get the chance to play on the same team with him.”
The Favre Watch will be an ongoing process throughout the next several months and punter Chris Kluwe joked that the media might have more information during the process than even his teammates have.
“You guys probably know just as much as we do,” Kluwe said. “I know a lot of guys are eager to have him back, just because he proved what he could do last year. Ultimately, that’s a decision Brett’s going to have to make. Whatever he decides is what he will decide.”
That doesn’t mean there isn’t chatter around the weight room or the practice field, however, as Favre remains a topic of conversation like a storm that has come and gone, but may well return again.
“There’s the occasional gossip: ‘Is he going to be here? Is he not going to be here?’” Kluwe said. “We’re all NFL players in here and we know it’s up to the guy who makes the decision. It’s going to be on him whether he wants to come back or not.”
However, for those looking for clues to the Favre puzzle, they might take heart in a surprise the quarterback had for his teammates for the start of the offseason workout program. Among Favre’s many endorsement deals is a contract to promote Wrangler jeans. In everybody’s locker on Monday was a new pair of Wranglers, no small feat considering a pair of jeans that would fit Pat Williams would fit Ryan Longwell in one leg and Kluwe in the other.
The players said they were pleasantly surprised with the gift, although many have yet to make use of them. Brinkley said he isn’t that accustomed to wearing tight-legged jeans, but said that, seeing as it was arranged by Favre, he will give it a shot.
“I’ll definitely try them on,” Brinkley said. “I’m hoping to try new things. I don’t where they came from, but it was a great gift.””
Like Favre when he arrived last summer, it will take time for the players to break in their gift and get the best out of them. How they do that while they wait for Favre to return to say thank you in person varies from player to player. Kluwe said he loves his pair, but will have to wait until he gets used to them.
“They’re very nice,” Kluwe said. “But I need to break them in a little bit. They’re kind of stiff. Maybe I’ll drag them behind my car a couple of miles.”
Favre wouldn’t have it any other way.
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John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for 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.