You'd never havethought that a little indecision could tarnish the legend of Brett Favre inGreen Bay. But with each day the 36-year-old quarterback spends on his family's465-acre spread in Hattiesburg, Miss., without deciding if he will return tothe Packers for one more season, the folks up north seem to love him less andless. "There's been a gradual erosion in the fawning over Brett Favre,"said veteran radio sports-talk-show host Steve True of WAUK in Milwaukee."It's definitely not a case with my callers of, 'Oh, you can't let Brettgo.' I'm guessing it was that way near the end in Baltimore with Unitas."More evidence: A recent Milwaukee Journal Sentinel online poll asked fans,"Do you think the Packers should trade Brett Favre?" More than 82% ofthe 11,856 respondents said yes. Unscientific, to be sure, but stunning in itsone-sidedness.
The Packers havelong claimed they won't trade Favre. "The fans would storm ouroffices," Packers president Bob Harlan said last fall. And Favre has saidrecently that he would never play for another team. For him, it's one finalseason with the Packers or a full-time life on the riding mower. But now thatthe Packers have pushed the deadline for him to decide (and claim a $3 millionroster bonus) to the opening of training camp in late July, it's clear that thedrama will probably play out for at least a few more weeks.
Favre has beenwaiting for the Pack to get active in the free-agent market. Coming off adisastrous 4-12 season, the club cleared $23 million in salary-cap space. ButG.M. Ted Thompson isn't a big-splash guy; he's made it clear he's building ateam for the next five years, not just for a Favre swan song in 2006. So whilesome teams have thrown cash at bottom-of-the-roster players (Dallas gavepart-time offensive tackle Kyle Kosier a $5 million signing bonus), Thompson'sbiggest signing has been a re-signing--of solid defensive end Aaron Kampman.And he has let his starting interior line (guards Mike Wahle and Marco Riveraand center Mike Flanagan) leave as free agents in the past 14 months. Thatmeans that if Favre returns, he'll be protected by the woeful trio of guardsJunius Coston and Will Whitticker and center Scott Wells.
"I think hereally wants to play," said retired insurance agent Bill Mueller, who'sbeen attending Green Bay games for 43 years. "It sounds to me like he'slooking for a reason to come back." If Favre does come back, it had betterbe for the love of the game, because the Packers don't look a lot better todaythan they did last September.