FavreWatch: Ask players to clean up mess?

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- There was a time, not too long ago, when we assumed the Minnesota Vikings had some sort of handshake agreement with quarterback Brett Favre to return for a 20th season. There just seemed no way they would stand pat at the game's most important position if they didn't have some kind of assurance that Favre ultimately would play.

We started wondering about that premise when Vikings coach Brad Childress made a pre-training camp stop in Hattiesburg, Miss. Childress spent the night at Favre's mansion to gauge his state of mind and emerged saying he "wouldn't be surprised" if Favre retired. At that point, I still wondered if Childress was covering for Favre's desire to skip training camp.

Now, after Tuesday's news that three prominent players were sent to Hattiesburg to recruit Favre in person, I think we can say the Vikings have pulled the emergency brake. They are panicked and clearly have serious concerns about Favre's once-presumed intent to play this season.

Make no mistake: This is an unprecedented move in modern-day team building. Of course, missing one training camp practice isn't a big deal. But to involve three of Favre's closest confidants in what amounts to first-person begging blurs the lines between players, coaches and front offices. It's one thing for players to recruit each other via phone during free agency, but it's quite another to ask them to clean up a mess their organizational leaders have created.

Because that's what this has become. Childress has spearheaded the Favre movement for three years in Minnesota, but it's clear he has run into a personal dead end. Favre hasn't said yes, and Childress must be concerned the answer will eventually be no. To avoid that disaster, Childress has asked three players to rescue the franchise's hope for building a Super Bowl contender this season.

If they come back empty-handed, the Vikings are a wild-card contender at best with Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels. You can argue that if you want, but if the Vikings disagreed, I doubt they would have reached for this measure of last resort.

In gambling terms, the Vikings went all in on Favre. As of Tuesday morning, they were hoping to avoid going broke.

I'm headed out to practice now and will update the blog throughout the day. Never a dull moment, huh?