EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Brett Favre unretired again and will be wearing purple this time.
Chew on that, cheeseheads.
Pulling an about-face on his playing status for the second straight summer, the three-time MVP quarterback will suit up for his old rival Minnesota starting with Friday’s preseason game at the Metrodome. The goal: help the Vikings win that elusive first Super Bowl.
“You need to cross over that line. You need to take that chance,” Favre said at his introductory news conference Tuesday, recalling the advice Minnesota coach Brad Childress gave him. “At 39 years old, your arm may not feel like it did at 21, but the pieces are in place here where you don’t have to do as much.”
He added: “If they were willing to take that chance, I was, too.”
The wait for Favre’s decision dragged through May, June and July — at which point he said he would stay retired. But that was three weeks ago. On Tuesday, it all was resolved in a matter of hours.
Team owner Zygi Wilf and president Mark Wilf met Favre in Mississippi with their private plane, Childress himself picked him up at the St. Paul airport, and a news helicopter hovered over their route to the team’s suburban practice facility in Eden Prairie.
Once the vehicles arrived, hundreds of fans roared when Favre waved as he got out. No less than 90 minutes later, he was on the field in his familiar No. 4 jersey with purple shorts and a purple helmet, a vision that has had Packers fans cringing about for months.
He shook hands with a few of his new teammates and quickly began throwing, as people peeked through the security fence to catch a glimpse of the stubble-faced superstar.
“I think it’s great for football,” Favre said. “I can’t see how you think it wouldn’t be.”
On July 28, the man who holds every major NFL career passing record told Childress he wasn’t ready to play, citing a lack of confidence in his beat-up body to hold up over an entire season. Favre revealed Tuesday that he was told by Dr. James Andrews, who performed the arthroscopic surgery on his throwing shoulder in May, that he’s been playing with a torn rotator cuff for a few years.
Neither Favre nor the Vikings expressed any concern about his health, though, on this whirlwind day. Favre was defiant, actually, when asked about widespread criticism of his flip-flopping.
“Don’t watch, you know?” he said, adding: “My legacy, it’s mine. It’s what I think of it.”
Wearing a ratty red baseball cap and a T-shirt, Favre’s eyes reddened when he talk about letting his daughter down last month with his decision to stay retired.
Favre also brushed off suggestions he’s driven by revenge on the Packers, who wouldn’t let him have his old job back last summer when he reconsidered. Green Bay visits Minnesota on Oct. 5, and the Packers host the Vikings on Nov. 1.
“The bottom line is it’s football,” Favre said. “Once you step into the huddle, I don’t look at the helmets. I look at the faces.”
The Vikings did not release terms of the deal. ESPN, citing anonymous sources, said Favre would receive $12 million this season and $13 million next season.
Last month, Favre explained his decision by saying he had to be “careful not to commit for the wrong reasons.”
“I’m 39 with a lot of sacks to my name,” he said.
He has a lot of interceptions to his name, too, more than any other quarterback in NFL history. The last time Favre appeared in the playoffs — a bitter loss at Lambeau Field by the Packers to the Giants in the NFC championship game following the 2007 season — he put up one of his worst performances in recent memory.
Now the question becomes how Favre will fit in with a team that’s already done with the grind of training camp, not to mention how his health will hold up so soon after he questioned it.
The Vikings got an encouraging performance in their preseason opener last week from quarterback Sage Rosenfels, who has been competing with Tarvaris Jackson for the starting job. But neither of them have been consistently sharp in practice this month.
And neither can compete with Favre’s ability or resume. His zinger of an arm and toughness in the pocket are a combination few possess. With an offense he claimed this summer he could operate in his sleep, Favre seems to fit well with Minnesota — especially given the Vikings’ problems finding a reliable quarterback since Childress took over in 2006.
“This is a fluid business, and we were moving ahead but you always go back and reassess,” Childress said, explaining his own reverse in direction.
The coach added: “The guys will learn him. He’ll learn them, and we’ve got a whole month to put this thing together.”
The Vikings have Pro Bowl players all over their roster, with reigning NFL rushing leader Adrian Peterson in the backfield and a dominant defensive line. No matter who’s behind center, they ought to be in position to defend their NFC North title.
To win the conference, and perhaps — finally — a Super Bowl, they’ll need stability at the sport’s most critical position.
Favre has wrestled with retirement for most of this decade and the will-he-or-won’t-he saga became an annual offseason drama for the Packers, his longtime home. In Green Bay, the latest news elicited a few shrugs, little more.
A few months after Favre’s tearful goodbye news conference in March 2008, Green Bay traded him to the Jets after he tried to come back only to learn the Packers were committed to Aaron Rodgers. Favre started strong in New York, but faded down the stretch amid problems with his throwing arm and, with another “I’m done” announcement, headed for his second retirement.
The Jets released him from his contract right after the draft and soon after, the Vikings were openly expressing interest. Favre spent the summer working out in Mississippi and led everyone to believe he was on his way back to the NFL until last month.
Now, he is back.
“I don’t have any problem rooting for one of the greatest quarterbacks ever,” said Phil Setala, a 23-year-old from Minneapolis who was at practice proudly wearing a purple No. 4 jersey.
Even the governor chimed in.
“It’s going to be good for the team,” a giddy Gov. Tim Pawlenty said after a speech. “It’s going to be good for the state. It’s going to be exciting.”