EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — The lure of playing in another Super Bowl brought Brett Favre back to the NFL — again.
Favre joined his Minnesota Vikings teammates at practice Wednesday. The three-time MVP wore a helmet, shoulder pads and red quarterback’s jersey as he worked out with Minnesota for the first time since getting battered by New Orleans as the Vikings lost the NFC championship game in January.
“As we were driving on that last drive it seemed like it was destiny — for us,” said Favre, whose interception in the final minute ended that march and the Vikings never got the ball in overtime. “I was so close, so close to getting these guys to the Super Bowl.
“I owe it to this organization to give it one more try.”
Not that coming back for a 20th season was a simple decision.
“I could make a case for both playing, not playing,” Favre said. “This is a very good football team, the chances here are much greater than other places. From that standpoint, it was always going to be easier (to return).
“Part of me said it was such a great year, it would be easy to say, ‘Hey can’t play any better, why even try?’ Then the other part is, ‘Guys are playing on a high level. Why don’t I go back out?’ The expectations are high here, as they should be.”
The expectations always are high for Favre, even at 40. He’s the NFL’s leader in nearly every significant passing category and the winningest regular-season quarterback ever.
After staying away from training camp, as he’s done for much of the past two summers, Favre was practising less than 24 hours after the team sent Steve Hutchinson, Jared Allen and Ryan Longwell — three of his closest friends — to Mississippi to bring him back. Favre underwent left ankle surgery on May 21 and just a few weeks ago texted several teammates and Vikings officials that he would not return because the recovery was slower than he expected.
He’s back now.
“There is nothing on me that’s 100 per cent, there wasn’t anything that was 100 per cent last year or the year before,” Favre said. “The surgery made me a little better.
“I have played 309 straight games, I can’t complain.”
Favre’s return to the field came on the one-year anniversary of the day he signed a two-year, $25 million contract with the Vikings.
In a scene nearly identical to his arrival last August, Favre took a private plane from Hattiesburg on Tuesday, was followed by news helicopters from a suburban airport to the team headquarters and was greeted by dozens of fans and media members upon his arrival.
“Helicopters acting like they are following O.J.,” tight end Visanthe Shiancoe tweeted. “Where is the bronco.”
The big difference between this year and last year? His signing with the Vikings — Green Bay’s bitter NFC North rival — was a stunner after he tormented Minnesota for so long as a member of the Packers.
This time around, virtually everyone expected the quarterback who flirts with quitting every summer to return. Favre’s latest dalliance centered on the ankle that was injured in New Orleans and needed surgery. This is the third straight year the Vikings have dealt with questions about Favre, so they weren’t convinced he was done.
Now it’s time to see if the old man can do it all again.
The grey-haired Favre turned in one of the best seasons in a terrific career last year, throwing 33 touchdowns and only seven interceptions to lead the Vikings to the NFC North title. He passed for 310 yards and a touchdown against the Saints in the Superdome, but also threw an interception at the end of regulation that cost them a chance at a winning field goal that would have put Minnesota in the Super Bowl for the first time in 33 years.
Now after being cajoled by Allen, Hutchinson and Longwell, Favre will have one more shot at redemption and a second Lombardi Trophy.
Even though it was expected that he would be back, the same excitement as last year surrounded his return on Tuesday. Fans clogged Viking Drive, and police tried to control traffic and keep youngsters and television cameras from spilling onto the street.
Last year, Childress picked up Favre from the airport. This year, Longwell was the chauffeur, and fans tried to mob his black BMW SUV as he pulled into the driveway at Winter Park.
“Brett Favre for President!!” receiver Bernard Berrian tweeted.
He’ll have to settle for quarterback for now.
Even though he will turn 41 in October, Favre doesn’t figure to need much time to get warmed up and ready for another season. He skipped all of training camp last year before unretiring and joining the Vikings. The three-time MVP then delivered a season even he didn’t expect.
He set career bests in completion percentage (68.4), quarterback rating (107.2) and fewest interceptions, while throwing for 4,202 yards. The Vikings (12-4) earned a first-round bye in the NFC playoffs, and Favre became the first 40-year-old QB to win a playoff game with a four-touchdown performance against the Dallas Cowboys.
One good omen for the Vikings in 2010: Favre ran — slowly — without a limp on Wednesday.