That asterisk has something to do with October.
In 2008, it took Brett Favre five months to change his mind and reverse his retirement. In 2009, it took Favre 20 days. This year? I haven't spoken to him, so I can't say for sure -- and even if I had, I've been fooled by him so many times that speaking to him wouldn't be the end of it. But as word continues to leak that Favre is through, one thing seems different than last year: his left ankle.
The ankle is killing him. Over the years, Favre's feet have taken an unusual beating, and he has had countless turf toes treated. But on a vicious hit late in the NFC Championship Game on the artificial turf in New Orleans, the left ankle got mangled, and he underwent surgery to clean it out May 22 in Florida by noted orthopedist James Andrews. Favre thought the ankle would come around. It hasn't. A friend told me today Favre still has significant pain when he runs.
Having said that ...
Uh-oh. Here goes the "but maybe."
Let's compare the current situation to last year's Favre Watch.
On July 28, 2009, he told Brad Childress he wouldn't be playing for the Vikings and would stay retired. He told me that night that a simple workout with the high school kids in southern Mississippi left him feeling like he felt he'd just played a game. "I thought I could make it through the season, though I wouldn't be 100 percent,'' he said that night. "But is that the way you want to enter a season? I don't think so. It was hard to keep telling myself, 'Brett, the second week of camp you'll feel better.' I don't know if that would have been true. So mentally, I don't think there's much to explain about it. I just didn't think my body would hold up the way it had in the past.''
This year, six days later but still at the dawn of Vikings training camp, he tells mates he won't be playing. As an acquaintance of Childress told me this afternoon: "The only strange thing about this is he's been talking to Brad all along, a lot. And now he tells other people but not Brad? I don't get that.''
My point: He left the door open a crack last year, and then gave in 20 days later. This year, he tells teammates, but not the coach who went to see him twice in Mississippi. There's just something odd about it. Is Favre, who notoriously hates confrontation, just avoiding telling Childress? Or is he having second thoughts?
Even if he does tell Childress it's over sometime today, let me raise the October possibility. Even if Favre absolutely, positively believes he's done, he's going to continue to be active. He'll work on the property. He might even throw the ball with the Oak Grove High team down the street. If his ankle starts to come around, think of this possibility: Favre returning to the Vikings after their very convenient Week 4 bye on the weekend of Oct. 3; riding in on his tractor and giving Minnesota the best chance to survive a hellish month that could determine whether the Vikings are contenders or pretenders.
The Vikings play at the Jets on Monday night, Oct. 11, Dallas at home six days later, with Armageddon games at Green Bay and New England to round out the month. That's four playoff teams. And no matter how well Tarvaris Jackson takes the helm over the next two months, I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if Childress doesn't say to Favre today or tomorrow: "Nothing is forever. Let's see how you feel four, five weeks down the road.''
One other thing to remember about Favre. He in influenced by his family, and for the good. His wife, Deanna, loves him playing. His young daughter, Breleigh, cried last year when he told her he was done, and he was really bothered last July when he talked to me about retiring for good. He felt he was letting Breleigh down. If they continue to say, hey, keep an open mind, you never know.
There's no question the 2009 season took a tremendous physical toll on Favre as he turned 40. In the 26 seasons I've covered the NFL, I've never seen such a broken player as Favre was in the locker room after the Vikings lost the NFC Championship Game -- in large part because he threw a terrible interception that allowed the Saints to win it in overtime. On a high-low Saints hit that should have been flagged for roughing-the-quarterback by ref Peter Morelli in the third quarter, Favre thought his left ankle had been broken. He had a big welt on his thigh, a chunk of skin missing from his wrist, and a throbbing foot that probably had some ligament damage. He was a defeated man that day.
But the logical thought that day was that he'd recover, he'd come back to give a team he'd grown to love one more year when his body got right. And clearly, that's a fact -- he'd have come back sometime this month if the ankle just felt OK. Which is why I say: It ain't over 'til it's over. Not until the Vikings play 16 games (or more) this season, and Favre hasn't quarterbacked one of them. Me, I'm waiting 'til the bye week in October. That's the magic week for the Favre Watch to me.
Now, it's time to check the e-mail ...
• MISLEADING CONTRACT NUMBERS OF THE YEAR. "Agreed that it is apples-oranges to compare the respective contract situations of Revis and Asomugha. However, I heard today that Revis was the seventh-highest-paid DB on the Jets roster. I'm all for holding guys to their contracts, but that factoid makes Revis' stance a little more understandable, no?''-- Kyle Karinen, Seattle
When Revis came out in the 2007 draft, he was drafted 14th overall in the first round by the Jets and signed a contract with a good signing bonus ($4.7 million) and a byzantine last couple of years that are far too complex to be summed up neatly in this space. Suffice it to say his base salary in 2010 is $550,000, which is obviously a fraction of the compensation he deserves. But every contract in the NFL, if taken only at face value of the salary alone, would be grossly unfair because it does not take into account the signing bonus. The fairest way, as the NFL does for cap value, is to pro-rate the signing bonus over the life of the contract, and add his $100,000 workout bonus, which would raise the total compensation to a little over $1.9 million. That's still not in Revis' ballpark, but always be conscious of discussing player salaries when you mention the salary alone.
• UH, OK TRIPS. "Did I miss your trip to Berea this year for the Browns? At least say something nice about Cleveland and the Browns. It makes us feel good, in light of all we have put up with in sports.''-- Trips, Cleveland
Well, let's see. I think they overpaid for Jake Delhomme. I like Colt McCoy in the third round. Joe Haden was a logical pick in the first. They've improved at running back. Eric Mangini has taken some bit pieces and parlayed them into a competitive defense. Josh Cribbs is one of my favorite players in the league. Joe Thomas is the best left tackle in football. Is that good enough?
I think the Browns have reason to be a little optimistic -- but the only way that optimism can be ratcheted up is if they get good play at quarterback, and I haven't seen that out of Delhomme for a couple of years. And I did not go to Cleveland camp this year after being there three or four years in a row. Gotta try to see as many as I can each year, and this year was a catchup year for a few I haven't seen in a while (Houston, Miami, San Diego, San Francisco, Arizona).
• DOLPHIN UPDATE. "Hello Peter! Last week you mentioned a few things you were going to be looking for in each of the training camps you visited. On Miami's camp you said you were going to look at Koa Misi and whether he's the real deal or not. Well? And, do you have any other observations on Miami's defense? How are the second-year corners doing? What's the safety position battle looking like? Do you think Randy Starks can handle the NT position? Curious fan south of the border would like to know.''-- Fernando Villarreal, Monterrey, Mexico
A couple of observations: There's no doubt in my mind that Miami wants Cameron Wake and Koa Misi to be the bookend rushers on nickel downs -- and, eventually, on every down. They played there throughout practice in 11-on-11 situations when I was watching Sunday. They both have the kind of irrepressible mentality you need to rush the quarterback, and now we'll see if that translates.
There's much confidence in Starks' ability to play the nose. He knows this is his chance to be a big factor in a good defense for the first time in his career. The corners, I think, are works in progress. Miami will be looking for improvement there, and I wouldn't be surprised if the Dolphins were in the market to upgrade there -- though, of course, there's a long line of teams that want to be better at corner. I like Miami, but there's a lot of what-ifs there to consider.
• WILL THE PACK START SLOW? "Even though you aren't going to Packers training camp (again), I'd like to get your opinion on something. Last year, the Packers came out and smoked everyone in the preseason, only to get to the regular season and limp to a 4-4 record through Week 8. Do you see that happening again this year? Will the Packers look like the real deal early but falter when the games count? Or do you see them walking the walk this time around?"-- Corey Livermore, Las Vegas
This is a better team than last year's, and certainly better than the 2008 team. My biggest worries: 1) How do they adapt without the big body of Johnny Jolly clogging interior lanes. 2) Will they be good enough at corner? 3) Will the old tackles hold up?
Slow starts for good teams are often the result of how the schedule falls. But this year, if the Pack starts, say, 2-3 in the first five weeks (at Philly, Buffalo, at Chicago, Detroit, at Washington), they're in big, big trouble. I don't expect that to happen. I think 4-1 is much more realistic.
• YOU'RE A FRAUD. "Last winter, you said you'd run an ultra-marathon if Terrell Owens signed with the Bengals. So he signs with the Bengals, and you've now said you're going to run a half-marathon. You've killed Chad Ochocinco over the last year for not keeping his word, and now you're not keeping words. You, sir, are a phony.''-- John Flanigan, Manhattan
I have no defense, because everything you say is true. What I said, obviously, was in jest, because I'm 53, overweight, and I might as well have said, If T.O. signs with the Bengals, I'll fly to the moon. But literally, yes, I did lie.
• AND NOW A NOTE FROM ME: I am going to run the New Hampshire Half-Marathon in Bristol, N.H., for charity, on Oct. 2. I've had a ton of suggestions for which charities to run for, and what I'm going to do is choose two from a list of five you will vote on in next week's column. Many of you have said I should run for a charity of Terrell Owens' or Chad Ochocinco's choice, or for a cancer charity after the recent death of Leah Siegel, or a heart-related charity after my brother's heart-attack death. You will decide. So feel free to send in your suggestions, either to me here or on http://twitter.com/si_peterking, and I'll have a 24-hour vote next week on Twitter. Thanks.