NFL: Packers won’t grant Favre release
By Chris Jenkins
GREEN BAY, Wis. ó Green Bay Packers officials don’t plan to grant Brett Favre’s request for release and remain committed to Aaron Rodgers as their starter, even if Favre returns to the team.
But in late March, coach Mike McCarthy and general manager Ted Thompson told The Associated Press, they were set to bring Favre back when he reversed course for the first time weeks after announcing his retirement.
In their first public comments since Favre demanded his release this week, Thompson and McCarthy said Favre changed his mind again as they were about to fly to Mississippi to seal the deal.
Favre seemed unsure whether he was completely committed to football until several days ago, they said.
“We’ve communicated that to Brett, that we have since moved forward,” Thompson said. “At the same time, we’ve never said that there couldn’t be some role that he might play here. But I would understand his point that he would want to play.”
A message left by the AP with Favre’s agent, Bus Cook, was not immediately returned.
“Ted always wanted Brett back,” McCarthy said. “We always wanted Brett back.”
Favre, who led the Packers to a Super Bowl title after the 1996 season, held a tearful news conference to announce his retirement March 6. Through Packers offensive line coach James Campen, Thompson and McCarthy heard a few weeks later that Favre was having second thoughts. Campen is a friend of Favre’s who McCarthy said had been miscast as an official intermediary between Favre and the team in various media reports.
After several telephone discussions with Favre led them to believe he wanted to return, Thompson and McCarthy were preparing to board a private plane. Then Favre suddenly called McCarthy.
“He said he appreciated all the planning we were going to do,” McCarthy said. “But he felt that at this point, he had reached a point of closure, to use his words, and he was going to stick with his initial decision.”
Even after the March episode, McCarthy and Thompson said they regularly communicated with Favre.
But the tone changed dramatically in June, when Campen said he was getting worried about Favre. McCarthy said he had a phone conversation with Favre on June 20, and the coach said the quarterback sent a clear message: “Give me my helmet or give me my release.”
Even then, McCarthy said when he asked Favre if he was ready to make a 100 percent commitment to football ó an issue Favre had brought up in his retirement news conference ó the answer still was no.
Next came a now-infamous text message exchange between Thompson and Favre on July 4. At the time, Thompson didn’t think it was a big deal.
But then Thompson began getting texts from Cook. Sensing rising tension, Thompson and McCarthy agreed to a conference call with Favre and Cook on Tuesday.
Only then, McCarthy said, did Favre say he was 100 percent committed to playing. McCarthy said he doesn’t question Favre’s commitment to football, but said Favre often brought up the issue himself.
“The way he plays the game illustrates the guy is committed,” McCarthy said. “(But) those are his words. That was always his final hurdle that he said he had to get over.”
The hurdle was apparently cleared weeks before the start of training camp.
“Was it convincing? I’d say yes,” McCarthy said. “But that was the first time, July 8, that I’d ever heard him say (he was committed). And he continually, from (June) 21 to July 8, told James Campen that he was not going to play. So that’s a pretty important piece of the puzzle.”
Cook then sent the Packers a letter officially asking for Favre to be released, which would allow him to sign with any NFL team.
With Favre unlikely to accept a backup role with the Packers, and the Packers not wanting to release Favre so he could sign with a division rival, a trade may be the best resolution.
“Quite frankly, it’s a little gut-wrenching as an organization to go through it, and certainly for Mike and myself,” Thompson said. “This stuff hurts a lot of people. I mean, it hurts. I’m not talking about physically hurting, but the sensitivity. We understand where the fans are coming from. This is a hot-button issue that surpasses anything I’ve ever gone through.”