Three-time MVP Favre to return for 17th season

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- With subzero temperatures descending and a hated division rival playing in the Super Bowl, Green Bay Packers fans received an unexpected jolt of good news Friday.

Brett Favre is back.

Packers general manager Ted Thompson said the three-time MVP called him to say he was "going to give it another shot" and return for his 17th NFL season -- thus bringing his now-annual flirtation with retirement to an end far earlier than he had in the previous two offseasons.

"I am so excited about coming back," the 37-year-old quarterback said Friday on the Web site of the Sun Herald in Biloxi, Miss. "We have a good nucleus of young players. We were 8-8 last year, and that's encouraging."

Thompson said Favre knew it was better for the team to make a decision earlier than later.

"There were fewer uncertainties going into this offseason," Thompson said. "Last year there was a coaching change and other things that I think they had to work through, but you'll have to ask him specifically about that. But all along, I mean, he's a football guy, he's a coach's son, so he understands a football team."

Thompson said Favre didn't give him a specific reason why he was returning, but Thompson figured it was a sign that he is happy with the direction the team is headed.

"In our conversations prior to the end of the season, I knew he was having a good time and he liked the team," Thompson said.

Favre seemed to echo those comments to the Biloxi newspaper.

"My offensive line looks good, the defense played good down the stretch," Favre said. "I'm excited about playing for a talented young football team."

Thompson said he was in a meeting Friday morning when Favre called. Thompson said Favre did not give him a commitment beyond 2007, and might still have the offseason ankle surgery he skipped out on the day after the season ended.

It had been shaping up as a rough offseason for Packers fans. Favre led many to believe he intended to retire when he became emotional during a television interview after the Packers beat the Chicago Bears in the regular-season finale -- and then the rival Bears marched through the playoffs to earn a spot in Sunday's Super Bowl.

Packers chairman and CEO Bob Harlan said he already is receiving faxes from "delighted" Packers fans around the country.

"I think this helps our fans a great deal," Harlan said. "They could see the direction the team was going in last year, and with Brett coming back it's even better."

Messages left with Favre's agent, Bus Cook, were not immediately returned. Packers coach Mike McCarthy was on vacation and would not be available for comment, the team said.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said the news was great for the league.

"He's obviously been an incredible performer for the NFL," said Goodell, in Miami for the Super Bowl.

Favre has started 257 consecutive games including the playoffs, an NFL record for quarterbacks. Favre broke Dan Marino's record for career completions (4,967) in 2006 and is closing in on Marino's marks for career touchdown passes (420) and yards passing (61,361).

As he has done in the past several offseasons, Favre returned to his home in Mississippi after the season to deliberate about his future. Last year, Favre waited until late April to tell the team he was returning.

Favre complained about nagging injuries and the drudgery of practice toward the end of last season, then choked back tears as he talked about missing the game and missing his teammates in a television interview immediately after the regular-season finale in Chicago -- leading many to believe his retirement was imminent.

Apparently, he couldn't resist one more chance to try to lead the Packers back to the playoffs after they won their final four games and were in playoff contention until the final weekend of the regular season.

Favre's accomplishments include three league MVP awards -- he shared 1997 honors with Detroit Lions running back Barry Sanders -- and throwing two touchdown passes in a 35-21 victory over New England in the 1997 Super Bowl to give the Packers their first championship in 29 years. Earlier in that championship season, Favre spent time in the Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kan., battling
an addiction to painkillers.

Favre led the Packers back to the Super Bowl the following season, but they lost to John Elway's Denver Broncos 31-24.-