Brett Favre's waiting game

Brett Favre has sent all the usual signals that he has retired, but that just means he's still dying to get back to the NFL. Brace Hemmelgarn/US Presswire

Brett Favre and I are standing in his long dirt driveway in Hattiesburg, Miss.

The sun is roasting my forehead like a rotisserie chicken.

"Yep, they'll be comin' purdy soon," Favre says.

The hot winds whip up the grit. It paints the back of my throat.

"How much longer, do you think?" I ask.

"Soon," Favre says, his neck craning down the long empty rural road that runs in front of his house. "They always come and get me 'bout this time of the year."

A tumbleweed stumbles by. Birds are so exhausted by the heat that they're walking.

"You think maybe they thought you meant it this time?" I say. "I mean -- about retiring?"

"Aw, hell, no," he says, spitting tobacco. "I say somethin' like that every year. I been sayin' that crap since '03. Nobody ever really believes it. Hell, one year I even held a press conference. Cried and everythin'. But my boys know the truth. My boys'll be along. They need me."

A single drop of sweat falls off my nose. I try to catch it on my tongue.

"Who, exactly, are we talking about?"

"My boys! My Viking teammates! Jared and Hutch and Longs! They'll probably do somethin' hilarious. Like come in a Hooters bus or somethin'. They'll beg me to come back and I'll finally laugh and give in. Then we'll chug a few brewskis on the way to the jet. It just waits there for us. Zygi don't mind. He wants me back."

I look back at the house. His dog is under the porch. His wife, Deanna, stands at the upstairs window. I look at her. She just shrugs.

"Um, Brett? Zygi just traded for Donovan McNabb."

"Sure, as my backup."

"Well, uh, actually, I don't think so, Brett. It's just that you're 41 now. I mean, you're a legend, for sure, but last season you looked a little slow. And you had eight more picks than touchdowns."

Favre looks at me for the first time since sunrise.

"Hey, I got every dang quarterbackin' record in NFL history. Most touchdowns, most completions, most straight starts--"

"Most interceptions, most sacks, most fumblesÂ…" I add under my breath.

"--most yards, most wins. Nah, they'll be along."

Another hour goes by. The last helpless cloud gives up and vaporizes.

Finally, in the distance. We see something. It's a purple-and-gold van. After another couple of minutes, we can see that it's flying huge Vikings flags.

"I'll be damned," I say.

Brett grabs his bags and walks toward the road, but the van just honks as it speeds by, while the passengers flip us off. One hollers, "Thanks for nothin', Favre!" They leave us in a brown cloud.

I wipe my mouth and eyes on my sleeve. Brett is undaunted.

"It's gonna be great to see the boys," he says, spitting dirt.

Two more hours. A cow falls over sideways.

"Brett, I don't wanna be a buzzkill here, but the Vikings don't need a quarterback."

Favre takes his red bandanna out of the back pocket of his Wrangler jeans and dabs at his brow. "Then it'll be my boys from Green Bay. They'd send the damn Marines to get me back!"

"Well, actually, the Packers have Aaron Rodgers now. They just won the Super Bowl with him. And you may not be quite as popular in Green Bay as you once were."


"Jets, then."

"Brett, you can't go anywhere near the Jets. Remember Jenn Sterger?"

"OK -- Philly."

"Philly's got Michael Vick!"

Favre gives me a hard stare."Somebody's comin'. It just takes 'em awhile to figure out that even though I say I don't wanna come back, I really just want people to want me back. I don't wanna have to ask, you know?"

We wait another hour. I look back at the upstairs window. The curtains are closed. The dog is gone. I pray for sunstroke. The first crease of doubt crosses Brett's face.

"I don't get this," Favre says. "I did everything like I do every year. I announced my retirement. I worked out with the local high school team. I told Ed Werder I was done. How many signs do I gotta give?"

Just then, in the distance, we see the wavy images of a car approaching. As it gets closer, we can see it's black. Finally, we see that it's a long black limo.

It pulls into the driveway. Brett grabs his bags. The driver hops out and gets the back door. Tiki Barber steps out.

"Mind if I wait around with you guys?" Barber asks.

He stands next to Favre and cranes his neck up that long road.

"When's L.A. gettin' a team again?" Favre asks.

"Two years, tops," Barber says.

I look at my watch.

The minute hand clicks backward.

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Rick Reilly is the 11-time National Sportswriter of the Year. He contributes essays and commentary to "SportsCenter" and ESPN/ABC golf and tennis coverage. He's also the host of "Homecoming," ESPN's unique, one-hour interview show set in the hometowns of legendary athletes. For more Rick, check out the archive.

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