Brett Favre news met with shrugs
Latest episode in retirement saga barely causes ripple in Bears camp
Keeping a brisk pace out of the dining hall as reporters quizzed him about Favre's rumored retirement, Briggs didn't break stride as he found out the news of the day: Favre is most likely, probably going to retire again.
The news came out early Tuesday afternoon that Favre was contacting teammates that he was "retiring," though nothing was definite as of this writing.
Then again, by the time I write my last paragraph, Favre might have changed his mind a dozen times. It's a fluid story, Vikings coach Brad Childress said sagely.
Briggs certainly wasn't in the mood to wax poetic on Favre's career, his longtime rivalry against the Bears or his importance to the NFL. Not even after a nice lunch.
"When is the cutoff date when he can't play anymore?" Briggs said flatly.
One reporter didn't get the joke and said the first game is on Sept. 9.
"The first game, if he's not there, he can't play at all this season?" Briggs asked, disbelieving.
"I think it's Week 15," I joked.
"Week 15. All right," Briggs said, now laughing a bit. "Let's ask this question again in Week 15."
See, NFL players are just like us. They think Favre is "The Old Dude Who Plays Like a Boy Who Cried Retirement," too.
"I won't believe it until I see Tarvaris Jackson starting against us," Briggs said. "It'll be Tarvaris Jackson. If he's starting, we'll go from there."
I'm sure scenes like this one were replayed all over the NFL as reporters tried to interrupt the early training camp malaise with an easy story. At Olivet Nazarene University, the Bears' collective reaction ranged between indifference and disgust that their post-lunch meditation was interrupted.
Players respect Favre, and he still gets his proper reverence in NFL circles. How can you not pay homage to a guy who played 19 seasons, has a 285-start streak going and is 23-7 against the Bears? Yes, they respect him, but they don't really care to talk about him, or publicly revere him.
"No, that's the fans' job," Charles Tillman said. "That's your job to hype this [stuff] up."
Aside from Vikings fans, the reaction of the average sports fan right now, from the plugged-in, 24-hour junkie to the casual follower, is pretty much the same as that of Briggs and the rest of the Bears, though a little more caustic.
Favre, no stranger to the effect he has on the sports world, even mocked his lack of resolve in a TV commercial, hemming and hawing over a TV at Sears.
But there's no denying that Favre's game of cat and mouse with Father Time, the NFL schedule, media, fantasy football addicts and now the fine fans of Minnesota has only added to his lore, no matter how much we try to deny it.
Along with his consecutive games streak, his unwillingness to quit has given him an interminable quality, that he's never going to leave his sport, kind of like a more rugged Bud Selig.
"I'll believe it when he doesn't show up for the regular season," said the always effusive Brian Urlacher, who was typically excited to meet with the media.
"I'm pretty sure they're looking forward to him coming back," said running back Chester Taylor, who played with Favre last season in Minnesota. "But if not, they just have to move on and go with whoever they have."
"I still think he has to be back," Tommie Harris said. "I know him. That's it, I know him. If he would've had a bad year last year, he would retire. He won't end on that note."
And on that note, the media horde broke up around Harris. No questions about him, or the Bears.
"Wow," he said, unimpressed. "All of that for Brett."
While Favre is a national story, he's also local. While he hasn't dominated the Bears in the Lovie Smith era, the quarterback is someone you worry about in the week leading up to the game, and certainly on Sunday. Favre torched the Bears for 392 yards and three touchdowns in a 36-10 win in Minnesota last year, and he threw for another 321 and three scores in a 36-30 overtime loss in Chicago.
"I think when Brett was around this past season, he gave them a spark," Tillman said. "They were definitely more confident about themselves. Is that spark still there? I'm sure it is, even if Brett's not coming back."
Will the Vikings still be a threat to the rejiggered Bears without the Stubbled One?
"That's disrespectful to the whole team to say Minnesota's nothing without Brett Favre," Tillman said to a breathless reporter. "That's what you're saying. We've got to see what they do, only time will tell. It's up to them to prove it. They've still got playmakers on that team without Brett Favre, so we've got to see what happens."
As usual, Harris had the perfectly pithy response to the whole situation.
"Life has to go on," Harris said. "Everyone has to move on."
Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com.