Favre could return for '08 season

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Remember when Brett Favre teared up on television at the end of last season, leading many to believe he was set on retiring? He came back to play anyway.

So you'll have to forgive Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy if he isn't convinced Favre's comments to his hometown newspaper on Thursday -- indicating that he was leaning toward coming back and playing another season -- amounted to an official decision on his future.

Instead, McCarthy seemed to brush it off as just the latest episode in the Favre retirement speculation saga, an annual rite that has become as much a part of winters in Wisconsin as snow shovels and ice scrapers.

And, by the way, McCarthy has a playoff game against the Seahawks to coach on Saturday.

"I'm trying not to laugh, but I have not been part of any conversation with Brett on that topic," McCarthy said. "And I think we need to just move on and focus on Seattle, because that's what we are focused on. I'm sure that's what he's focused on."

In a story posted on the Web site of the Biloxi (Miss.) Sun-Herald on Thursday, Favre said he isn't approaching Saturday's playoff game against Seattle as if it will be his final game in Green Bay. He seemed more optimistic than in years past about returning.

Still, he didn't say anything definitive.

"For the first time in three years, I haven't thought this could be my last game," Favre told the newspaper. "I would like to continue longer."

Favre has taken weeks and even months to make his decision after recent seasons, with Cheeseheads hanging on his every word as his football future hangs in the balance.

Favre's Thursday comments sent premature shock waves across the state -- all the way up to the governor's office, where the political version of a false start was committed.

"Like all Packer fans, I am thrilled that Brett Favre will return to action next year for the green and gold," Gov. Jim Doyle said in a statement. "Brett Favre's tremendous work ethic and willingness to go out and play hard every day represent the true spirit of Wisconsin. I am hopeful that with this announcement behind us, Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers can focus on the task at hand: defeating the Seattle Seahawks."

The governor's office later amended the statement to say Doyle was "excited to hear Brett Favre talking about returning to action next year."

While it has been widely assumed Favre would indeed come back to play next season after having one of the best seasons of his career in 2007, the quarterback and his coach have said they would wait until after the season to discuss the issue.

On Thursday, McCarthy said that timeline hadn't changed.

Favre's favorite receiver, Donald Driver, said that while he hasn't discussed the topic with Favre, he expected the three-time MVP to return.

"I think he's going to come back," Driver said. "I wouldn't be surprised if he comes back. He's having a great year, so it'd be great to see him come back if he decides to."

Given the emotion he showed in that interview with NBC immediately after the final game of last season, teammates cautioned that Favre's most recent pronouncement might not be his final answer.

"If the last two years have told us anything, after NBC last year, it's that we really don't know what he's going to do," backup quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. "It's really out of my control. I've learned the last three years that the only things I worry about are in my control. I can't control what he does. I can just control my preparation for Seattle. Until he says 'I'm coming back' or 'I'm retiring,' there's really nothing I can do."

Packers third-string quarterback Craig Nall, a hunting buddy of Favre's, doesn't think Favre has come to a conclusion.

"Honestly, I don't think he knows," Nall said. "You see how it happens every offseason. Is he going to, is he not? He's contemplating. The way he's playing right now, I could envision him
playing another two, three years."

McCarthy, meanwhile, didn't seem pleased the retirement issue popped up two days before the team's biggest game of the season. He also didn't seem to realize Favre himself had brought it up.

"I don't know anything about it, and I think it's someone just trying to distract my quarterback," McCarthy said.

Favre is not scheduled to speak to the media before Saturday's game. However, on a conference call with reporters who cover the Seahawks earlier this week, Favre said he still enjoys leading the team, but his injuries are starting to linger.

"I'm not getting any younger," said Favre, 38. "I wake up some days and think I can't even touch my toes. I think about that. I think, well, next year is not going to be like some refreshing, awakening season where all of a sudden you're going to feel great. That's not going to happen.

"I carry some of these things with me that maybe you wouldn't see," he said. "I tend to dwell on them, at least internally, more than I used to. I don't write them off as quickly as I used to."