Favre has made it difficult for us to believe him

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert
Call me a cynic. I apologize in advance. But am I the only one who has trouble believing Wednesday morning that Brett Favre has absolutely, positively and without question retired from the NFL?

It seems to me that anyone who watched Favre's flip-flop in Green Bay last year has to be wary of his stated intention to leave the game for good. And I felt that way before reading the entire story produced by ESPN's Ed Werder and Chris Mortensen. The report contained this passage:

While Favre did not directly broach the subject of the team simply releasing him so that he might have the option of signing with another team such as the Minnesota Vikings, a source said that [agent Bus] Cook informally discussed the option with the Jets. The Jets respectfully declined that option, the source said.

There is only one reason to have even an informal discussion about a release: To ensure the option, however unlikely, that Favre can choose his next team should he change his mind. If Favre was 100 percent committed to retirement, such a safety net would be irrelevant. But even Favre -- or at least Cook -- knows there is no way to predict whether his winter defiance will melt into a summer desire.

If Favre tried to build a contingency plan into this departure, then there's no way I can rule out a repeat of last summer's return.

There are other reasons to question whether Favre will stick to his plan this time. If you recall, he has often stated he wasn't totally ready last year to make a decision about his career in Green Bay. The Packers asked him for an answer prior to the start of free agency, and he told them what he felt at the time: That he was ready to retire.

But, Favre pointed out, many veteran players don't want to think about the prospect of next year so early in the offseason. It wasn't until the late spring and early summer when he started experiencing the "itch" felt around the NFL.

A similar scenario played out this winter with the New York Jets. Team officials were hoping to get an indication prior to the annual scouting combine, which starts Feb. 18. So Favre told them how he feels at this moment. Who is to say he won't get the same itch again this summer?

And, even if he doesn't, you can't rule out a team that is dissatisfied with its quarterback situation -- or loses its starter to injury -- approaching the Jets about a trade. The poison pill that effectively prevents the Jets from trading him to an NFC North team remains in place, but that doesn't mean a fast-talking general manager or coach from another division couldn't convince Favre to give it another go.

Favre threw an NFL-high 22 interceptions in 2008. But if you're in mid-August and your other option is, say, Tim Rattay, don't you at least look into Favre's availability? And if you're the Vikings, how fast would you jump if the Jets reversed course and decided to release him?

I think it's more likely that Favre will remain retired than it is that he will seek a return. But that's as far as I'm willing to go.

Maybe I'm jaded. Perhaps I spent too much time last summer in Green Bay. But if I learned anything during that episode, it's never to underestimate Favre's willpower -- or his indecisiveness. They are competing attributes that combine to make him one of the least predictable professional athletes of modern times.