Time for Favre, Packers to heal wounds

ARLINGTON, Texas -- It was more like an olive twig than a branch, but at least -- and at last -- Brett Favre, the Green Bay Packers and Cheesehead Nation are on speaking terms again.

Maybe this is what it took -- a Packers Super Bowl appearance led not by Favre, but by general manager Ted Thompson's Chosen One, Aaron Rodgers. Maybe -- no, definitely -- it took every bit of three years for the anger and acrimony to subside for everyone involved. But most of all it took Favre to show some humility, graciousness and a certain degree of political savvy.

Divorce can be a painful and messy thing, and few football marriages came to a more spiteful end than the one between Favre and the Packers. But then two weeks ago came an e-mail response from Favre to ESPN's Ed Werder.

In a few short paragraphs, Favre finally applied a pressure bandage to his Packers' wound. He said the Pack was "by far" the best team in the playoffs, that Rodgers was the best quarterback and that the Green Bay receiving corps was perhaps the best ever. He lavished praise on the Packers' defense and defensive coordinator Dom Capers.

And then, without prompting, he wrote: "I think they will win it all! I hope they do, if you are wondering."

Actually, I was. And maybe so were the Packers.

I can't get Favre on the e-mail Bat Phone like Werder can. But if I could, I'd ask him if he's going to watch Sunday's Super Bowl XLV and if so, will he watch with mixed feelings?

"I think he's going to be excited for us," Packers tight end Donald Lee said. "Knowing the type of guy he is, he don't hold grudges. I think he'll be as excited as we will be."

"I would hope he could watch the game and really root us on," said offensive tackle Chad Clifton, who had Favre's blind side for years.

The anti-Favre cynics will say that his e-mailed comments were part of a clumsy effort to suck up to Packers management and fans. So? What hasn't been clumsy about the entire Favre-Packers divorce?

I'll forever believe Thompson forced Favre out prematurely and that the quarterback's departure was handled with 10 thumbs. And I'll forever believe that Favre miscalculated the animosity he created within Packers management and the Cheesehead fan base with his annual indecision.

But this isn't about who was right and who was wrong. Three seasons removed from Favre's departure, you can make a compelling case for each side being right. ... and wrong.

What matters is that Favre and the Packers appear to be in Stage 1 of the Kiss-And-Make-Up phase of their new relationship. Blowing a smooch toward Hattiesburg, Miss., was none other than Thompson himself.

"I think Brett is a very important part of the Packers' history,'' said Thompson, who deserves major props for stocking the Packers' roster like a trout farm. "And yes, he will be embraced by the Green Bay Packers and all those things. The other part, we've moved on from."

The "other part" was in response to being asked why, in retrospect, he made the switch from Favre to Rodgers in 2008. Thompson wasn't in the mood to provide a QB history lesson. Fair enough.

Thompson could have used the opportunity to gloat about the Rodgers decision, but he didn't. Consider it another olive branch, another move toward reconciliation.
Favre, after 16 seasons with the Packers, one season with the New York Jets and two with the Minnesota Vikings, filed his official retirement papers several weeks ago. He's 41 and, he said, there will be no change of heart this time.

Thompson often reminds his players that the NFL is "a tough business.'' Heartless, too. Just listen to Packers wide receiver Donald Driver, who caught about 500 passes from Favre and made dozens of Lambeau Leaps, thanks partly to Favre's arm.

"He played for this organization for a long time,'' Driver said. "You have to take your hat off to him. The guy's a true Hall of Famer. Has great character. I love him to death. But it's a new era. It changes. The old men are out, the young guys are in.''

Rodgers' success, the Packers' reaching this Super Bowl and the old man's NFL retirement makes all things possible, beginning with future bear hugs from the organization and Packers fans.

"He's done so much for the town and the town's done so much for him,'' Lee said. "We're all human and we all make mistakes. I hope at the end of the day everybody forgives everyone and moves on and just be happy. That's what it's all about."

Said safety Nick Collins, who played with Favre: "This organization is a first-class organization. I think once everything is settled and once he says he's done, then they'll embrace him with open arms, tell him to come back home, retire his jersey and the rest will be history.''

History with a happy ending. The kind the Packers and Favre deserve.

Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at gene.wojciechowski@espn.com. Hear Gene's podcasts and ESPN Radio appearances by clicking here. And don't forget to follow him on Twitter @GenoEspn.