No Favre era in Minnesota after all

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Another trip on the old Favre-go-round is now complete, and I'm dizzier than ever. This time Brett Favre is staying retired. At least according to Vikings head coach Brad Childress, who had as much reason as anyone to follow this always unpredictable story.

The shame of it all is that Favre still had almost two whole days left until he absolutely had to tell the Vikings -- who report to training camp Thursday -- whether he was playing or not this season. But you know our guy, Brett. He didn't want to leave any one hanging. It's not his way.

So there will be no Favre era in Minnesota after all. No fascinating role reversal from ultimate Packers hero to ultimate Green Bay villain in the span of about a year. No long-awaited chance for Favre to exact the revenge he's been dying to get ever since Packers general manager Ted Thompson told him thanks, but no thanks, last summer.

In the end, we were all Favred. Again. Though he had months to contemplate a move that seemed all the world like a fait accompli for some time now, Favre, according to Childress via the Minneapolis Star Tribune, cited the daily grind, both mentally and physically, as part of the reason he opted to stay retired.

Whatever. Favre could wake up tomorrow and feel differently. We all know that. He might even act on that impulse and try to get back into the Vikings' 2009 plans. All I know is that after 18 NFL seasons, Favre had to be familiar with the daily grind of a football season by now, so what took so long? Did he really need to wait until just two short days before camp opened to remember just how demanding the long, five-month grind of the preseason and regular season can be?

What a strange and unexpected trip Favre has inspired these past 15 months or so, but this latest (dare we say last?) turnabout might just take the cake. Last year's one-season tenure with the Jets was one thing. But the Favre-to-the-Vikings story was at a whole new level. This was Minnesota. This was potential betrayal to all things Packers. This was way beyond a mere border war between rivals.

And then, after months of seeing No. 4 flirt with the idea of donning purple, we're left with one more Favre flip-flop. In essence, he got his shoulder surgically repaired in May for his golf swing. He did all those workouts with his local high school football team because he liked being one of the guys again. And he kept a small army of reporters hanging on his every word and text message for weeks on end because he just can't seem to say goodbye.

I don't know if there ever would have been a more dramatic hero-to-villain transformation than the one Favre would have experienced this year in the upper Midwest if he had become a Viking. It makes me almost sorry now that we won't get to witness the emotional crescendo that would have accompanied the ultimate moment of truth: When Favre took the field at Lambeau for the first time in Vikings horns, in Week 8. What would that spectacle have looked and sounded like?

Favre and his waffling ways have become an automatic punchline these days, and even he's making money off his penchant for indecision with a series of commercials he shot last week for Sears. But the real losers in this story could be the Vikings, who did the dance with Favre right up until the end, but now won't get to take him home.

It was the risk they took from Day 1 of the Favre fishing expedition. The failure to land No. 4 means Childress and the rest of the Vikings have to cast their eyes back on quarterbacks Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels and try to convince them that the staff had faith in them all along. I don't care what anyone in Vikings camp says for publication in the coming few days, it's going to be a tough sell. If your boss spent months very publicly trying to replace you, but then couldn't pull it off, job security would not come flooding back to you the day after.

Were the Vikings a team going nowhere this season, swinging for the fences with Favre would have carried little downside. But such is not the case. Minnesota won the NFC North last season, has a quality defense in place, and fields the most explosive running back talent in the game in Adrian Peterson. This is a Vikings team that has plenty to play for, and plenty to still accomplish. And by not coaxing Favre into the fold, Childress may have inadvertently upped the pressure he'll face this season to get Minnesota to the next level and into the NFL's elite class.

Of course, Childress has to say for the record that he still feels good about his team. But actions speak louder than words, and the Vikings coach obviously thought his team could still use an upgrade at quarterback. That's an upgrade they will have to live without now that Favre has gotten away. If there are no ramifications at all from that reality in Minnesota this season, I'll be surprised.

As for Favre and his never-ending saga, maybe it's really over, and maybe it's not. He has proven assumptions wrong at almost every turn the past two years, so why hazard a guess, even now? If this is the one last ride he took us all on, we'll remember that it was every bit as improvised and serpentine as one of his trademark playground scrambles. With Favre, today as always, the trick is you just hang on and watch what unfolds.

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