Brett Favre has been informed he requires surgery on his left ankle to play the upcoming season for the Minnesota Vikings, and the quarterback is deliberating whether to have the procedure or simply to end his 19-year NFL career by retiring.
Favre, who would turn 41 during the 2010 season, told ESPN the ankle injury that he suffered three months ago in the NFC Championship Game against the New Orleans Saints continues to be swollen and painful.
That prompted tests to determine why healing had not occurred, and Favre sent the results of those scans to orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews, who told the quarterback his opinion that surgery is unavoidable.
"We have spoken,'' Favre said in an e-mail. "To play again, I would need the surgery, as I suspected. This decision would be easy if not for my teammates and the fans and the entire Vikings staff. One year truly felt like 10 -- much like Green Bay for many years. That's what I was missing in my heart I suppose, a sense of belonging.''
Favre said he must determine whether his affection for the Vikings and his belief they are capable of winning the Super Bowl overrides his disdain for surgery.
Favre would not reveal the exact diagnosis or the prognosis on how long it would take to recover from the surgery.
While it previously seemed Favre was almost certain to return to the Vikings, his comments Friday reveal a player who appears to be seriously conflicted.
Favre further addressed his ankle issues on his website, officialbrettfavre.com, after ESPN reported he would need surgery to play.
"While my ankle has been bothering me, the injury is not debilitating," the statement said. "For example, I'm able to work around my property without any problems. Sure -- certain exercises cause some ankle pain, but it's nothing that I haven't experienced [or played with] before. In fact, many people don't realize that I injured my ankle before the NFC Championship Game. I've had surgery on this ankle twice before, and I've played with the pain before. The hits I took throughout the 2009 season, including the Saints game, just added to the ankle pain and likely caused some bone spurs.
"I don't believe major surgery on the ankle would be required for me to return in 2010," Favre said in the statement. "I've consulted with Dr. Andrews on the phone, and a relatively minor procedure could be done to improve the dexterity of the ankle, and to relieve the pain. I've put up with pain worse than this in my career, and I didn't want anyone to assume that the possibility of surgery was the sole factor that would determine whether I return or not. Some people reacting to the ESPN story have made this assumption. I don't blame them for doing so, given that the term 'surgery' often covers a variety of procedures, some more complex than others."
"The ankle pain is a factor, but one of many factors that I'll need to consider in making my decision. Other factors include the input of my family, and the wonderful experience that I had last year with the Vikings."
Minnesota coach Brad Childress, speaking Friday at the Vikings' rookie minicamp, said he has talked several times with Favre about the ankle and considers it a minor injury.
Asked whether he thinks Favre will play in 2010, Childress said: "I'm the same. I still don't know. That's my story and I'm sticking to it, from the way back when."
Favre was in a similar position last offseason, when Andrews repaired a partially torn biceps tendon in his throwing shoulder.
Favre eventually decided to play, missing all of training camp before signing a two-year contract with the Vikings worth $25 million.
Favre had the best statistical season of his career and advanced the Vikings to the NFC Championship Game in the Superdome, where he was brutalized by the Saints' defense. His final pass of the season, with the Vikings in scoring position and seemingly poised to win the game, was intercepted.
Favre's pass, intended for Sidney Rice, was picked off, and the Vikings were defeated in overtime without Favre touching the football.
Favre appeared emotionally devastated after the loss and said it was highly unlikely he would play again. Now his future remains very much in doubt once more.
Ed Werder covers the NFL for ESPN. Information from ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert was used in this report.