Don't assume Favre has lost the itch

Brett Favre claims he's enjoying life on the farm. Should we believe him this time? Anthony J. Causi/Icon SMI

I'd really like to think Brett Favre is going to keep his word this time. I'd also like to believe his agent, Bus Cook, is telling the truth about Favre's desire to stay in retirement.

What I can't do, however, is assume anything that comes out of the Favre camp this offseason is an honest portrayal of what's really going through his head. For some reason, it's starting to feel like he'll return to the NFL one more time.

For those who missed the news, the New York Jets officially released Favre from the reserve/retired list Tuesday. This normally wouldn't be a big deal, but Favre twice asked the team to give up its contractual rights to him, according to the Newark Star-Ledger.

The thinking here is that Favre shouldn't care who holds his rights if he has no interest in playing football anymore. After he basically demanded his release after the Jets selected USC quarterback Mark Sanchez in last weekend's draft, it's clear that Favre wants to keep his options open.

Of course, Cook claims there is no fire behind the steadily building smoke surrounding this story. He told ESPN's Chris Mortensen that Favre "is retired and he doesn't have any desire to come back, and that's the way it is with Brett. He's mowing his grass. He's working on his farm. He enjoys that stuff." Cook added that the only reason Favre asked for his release was because "Brett wants to retire as a [Green Bay] Packer, and that's just part of it."

The funny thing about these comments is that it almost sounds as thoughCook expects people to take him seriously. When Favre retired from the Packers in March 2008, he declared that he was finished with football, and Cook spent the next few weeks denying rumors that Favre was planning a comeback. Then a few more months passed and Favre was claiming that the Packers had basically pushed him out the door in the first place. By early August, Favre's summer-long feud with Packers general manager Ted Thompson had ended with the team trading him to the Jets.

So you can believe that one thing is going on right now: Favre is thinking long and hard about his options. Even if he's milking cows or baling hay somewhere down in his offseason home in Mississippi, he's contemplating whether another comeback really is worth all the hassle that would follow it. If there's one thing we've learned about Favre over the years, it's that he loves all the glory that comes with being an NFL quarterback. It surely was one of the major factors behind his inability to leave the game last offseason.

That's why it wouldn't be shocking if the Minnesota Vikings already have contacted Favre about a possible return. That team was eager to nab him when his relationship in Green Bay soured, and he still has a good relationship with Vikings head coach Brad Childress and quarterbacks coach Darrell Bevell. The Vikings also have to be thinking Favre could help a team that won the NFC North last season. With a roster that includes quarterbacks such as Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels, the Vikings would be crazy not to consider Favre as a viable solution to their problems.

What Favre also has to be tempted by is the possibility of orchestrating a far more satisfying ending to his career than the one he had in New York. When we last saw Favre, he was realizing just how hard it was to be an icon outside Green Bay. The same fans that couldn't wait to have him in New York didn't view him as a charming, cavalier gunslinger when the Jets were falling apart and blowing a chance at an AFC East title. They only saw an over-the-hill quarterback with a penchant for throwing too many interceptions at the most critical juncture of the season.

By the time Favre left town, he was well aware of how bad a decision he had made. He had teammates ripping him anonymously in the media. He had a head coach in Eric Mangini (now in Cleveland) who was irritated by his carelessness with the football. This wasn't the way Favre saw his career concluding when he came back to the game. In some ways, it had to be the worst possible ending he could have envisioned.

What Favre has to decide now is whether he really wants to deal with everything that would come with a comeback. For one, he had a torn right biceps when last season ended, so he'd need to make sure his arm could handle another year. He'd also have to deal with the media circus that would follow his second return to the NFL in little more than a year. On top of all that, Favre -- who turns 40 in October -- would have to seriously think about the motivating forces that could carry him through a 19th season.

When Favre came back last season, it was clear ego drove him to that decision. He wanted to stick it to Thompson for tossing him out of the franchise that always had loved Favre. He wanted to show the world he could still play at a high level, regardless of where that was. What Favre eventually learned was that those weren't enough reasons to keep playing for the Jets. I also suspect his hatred of Thompson might not be enough to fuel a second return.

So now we'll see if Favre really does want to stay on the farm this fall. He certainly doesn't need to play for a championship (he already has a Super Bowl ring). He also doesn't need to play for records (he has just about every career mark a quarterback could ever want), or revenge.

But the question is whether Favre could resist some team still thinking he might be its savior. At the moment, it's hard to imagine that possibility is something he could pass up easily.

Senior writer Jeffri Chadiha covers the NFL for ESPN.com.