After nearly three months of what he described as intense and often emotional soul-searching, Brett Favre decided to remain retired from the NFL rather than become the Minnesota Vikings' starting quarterback.
Favre told ESPN's Ed Werder that the decision not to play for the Vikings was incredibly difficult, and in the process he indicated that he is unlikely to ever consider playing again in the NFL.
"It was the hardest decision I've ever made," Favre said. "I didn't feel like physically I could play at a level that was acceptable. I would like to thank everyone, including the Packers, Jets and Vikings -- but, most importantly, the fans."
Favre, who had shoulder surgery in May, experienced soreness in both ankles and his left knee during his private workouts in Mississippi. The pain would not subside and worsened as he continued to prepare for a potential 19th NFL season, which Favre considered proof that his health was too precarious to be trusted for a 16-game season.
"I had to be careful not to commit for the wrong reasons," Favre said. "They were telling me, 'You went through all this, you had the surgery and you've got to finish it off.' But I have legitimate reasons for my decision. I'm 39 with a lot of sacks to my name."
Favre, who is nearly 40, said his decision was made after consulting with former coaches Mike Holmgren and Andy Reid, and despite the lobbying efforts of Vikings players. Adrian Peterson, Jared Allen and Steve Hutchinson made phone calls or sent text messages in what one source described as Minnesota's "full-court press" to convince Favre to sign the previously negotiated one-year, $10 million contract.
But Favre rejected the Vikings on more than one occasion in the past week. Last Monday, Favre informed offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, a former Green Bay assistant coach and a close friend, he thought playing again was too risky and that he would remain retired. When Favre told Bevell he wasn't sure his body could endure a full season, Bevell pleaded with him to reconsider, and Favre consented but could "never get over the mental hump."
"It was a rare and unique opportunity to consider adding not only a future Hall of Fame quarterback but one that is very familiar with our system and division," Vikings head coach Brad Childress said in a statement. "That does not detract from the team that we have. As we have consistently communicated, we feel good about our team and they have put forth a tremendous effort this offseason preparing for the season ahead. With this behind us, we look forward to getting to Mankato and getting training camp underway."
Favre underwent arthroscopic surgery to release a partially torn biceps tendon in his passing shoulder, a painful injury that contributed to his tying for the NFL lead in interceptions last season. The surgery performed by Dr. James Andrews proved beneficial.
But, ultimately, Favre feared that the pain that emerged in his ankles and knee from previous injuries created too much uncertainty.
He was concerned that the pain might never subside and could continue to worsen, and he understood that signing and reporting to camp and then leaving prematurely would result in criticism over his decision to play again.
"The problem with playing in every game for 16 or 17 years is that people think there's nothing wrong with you and you can play forever," he said. "The things that bothered me, bothered me a little more. It takes longer to recover -- if you do recover."
Favre also said on Tuesday that he enjoys working out with the kids of Oak Grove High School -- where his nephew is going to be a senior -- and will continue to do so. But contrary to reports, he is not throwing with the intention of returning to the league.
The decision is a stunning blow for the Vikings, who openly courted Favre all summer. Adding Favre would have been viewed by many as the final piece for a team that already has star running back Peterson and a stingy veteran defense that returns nearly intact from last year's NFC North championship season.
"When I heard the news, I was probably as surprised and shocked as everybody else," linebacker Ben Leber told The Associated Press in a phone interview. "The writing on the wall was as long as his arm was healthy he was going to play. I thought it was just a contractual deal that was taking so long and I really expected him to be at camp. So I was really surprised."
Now Childress has some damage control to do with Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels, the two veterans who were expected to compete for the job before the Favre drama began for a second straight year.
Jackson and Rosenfels were peppered with questions about Favre during the team's minicamps this summer. It was a testy situation already for them to deal with, and now they will likely face a whole new set of inquiries with the job up for grabs all over again.
Jackson's agent, Joel Segal, said he spoke to his client shortly after the news broke.
"He was his usual cool, calm and collected self," Segal said. "He said, 'Great, let's get ready for camp.'"
Vikings players will begin arriving in Mankato for training camp on Wednesday, with a mandatory reporting day of Thursday and the first practice on Friday.
Ed Werder covers the NFL for ESPN. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.