Favre goes out a winner, but is he gone for good?
CHICAGO -- After shredding the Chicago Bears in an otherwise meaningless 26-7 victory for the Green Bay Packers on Sunday night, Brett Favre certainly sounded like a man who was ready to leave the game.
Sadly, judging by his tears and postgame actions, it sure looks and sounds like Brett Favre -- the most durable, most compelling, most watchable quarterback of our NFL generation -- is going to call it quits. And he wasn't the only one getting all misty-eyed on Sunday.
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Standing on the 20-yard line at Soldier Field after taking a photo with his offensive linemen, Favre got choked up during a TV interview, saying he would decide "soon" whether he would retire or return next season.
"If this is my last game, I want to remember it," Favre said, his voice cracking and tears streaming from his eyes. "It's tough. I love these guys. I love this game. What a great way to go out against a great football team. I couldn't ask for a better way to get out."
Still, Favre stopped short of saying he was retiring. Asked whether he had already made up his mind in a brief interview session after the game, Favre would not comment.
He is returning to Green Bay and will have arthroscopic surgery on his sore left ankle on Monday. A buildup of bone spurs has been bothering Favre since the beginning of training camp.
But will he walk away after the surgery?
"For us, that was our Super Bowl today," Favre said. "If it was the last game, I couldn't be more pleased with the outcome."
The emotion Favre showed after the game was in stark contrast to the prevailing sentiment going into Sunday night: That Favre would come back -- and why wouldn't he?
After a fairly successful season in which he helped the Packers rebound from last year's 4-12 fiasco -- their first losing season with Favre under center -- to win their final four games and finish 8-8, teammates, opponents and even Favre's own family have said that they see no reason why he should retire.
"I'd love to have him back," Packers tackle Mark Tauscher said. "I'm sure everybody else would, too."
Favre still has a milestone to pursue: After completing 21 of 42 passes for 285 yards and a touchdown Sunday, he is only seven touchdown passes shy of breaking Dan Marino's career mark of 420. With the Packers' victory, Favre tied Marino for No. 2 in career victories (147) and is only one away from tying John Elway for the record.
And unlike last offseason, Favre won't have to decide whether he wants to play for a new coach and learn a new offense.
But while Favre maintains that he still loves to play, he doesn't seem quite as convinced as everybody else that he should keep playing.
He exchanged handshakes and hugs with teammates before he was pulled in favor of backup quarterback Ingle Martin with less than two minutes remaining in the game. Wide receiver Donald Driver tried to carry him off the field.
"This is a young football team," Favre said. "Take me out of the mix, it's really young. But I tell you, I had a blast this year. I really have. I would love to be in the playoffs. We gave ourself a chance. And we had a lot of ups and down. But I had a blast with these guys."
Packers center Scott Wells said he appreciated the fact that Favre wanted to take a photo with his linemen after the game. Favre said the photo was at the offensive line's request.
"It was a great moment," Wells said. "Regardless of what happens, his decision, that's a great moment for us. Hopefully we'll get a copy of that photo and we'll be able to cherish that moment for a long time."
Favre has said that he isn't pleased with the way he played this season, and doesn't buy the idea that the Packers have made as much progress as their late-season success might indicate.
"I think it says a lot about the character of the team, because we won some of these games in an ugly fashion," Favre said. "But a win's a win."
Favre has said that he knows the team would like to have a decision as soon as possible, but maintains that he won't rush things. Favre waited until late April to inform the team that he was returning for this season.
Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Favre didn't tell him anything definitive.
"We'll talk about that postseason," McCarthy said. "It's an emotional football game, he's played more games than anybody in the National Football League as far as starting at quarterback. So I'm sure it is emotional. How many more games he has left, I do not know."
Favre started his quarterback-record 237th straight game on Sunday -- 257 including playoffs.
Under McCarthy, Favre played more conservatively, cutting his interception total from a career-worst 29 last season to only 18 this season.
Favre wasn't flashy but was extremely efficient on Sunday night, embarrassing the Bears despite not having No. 2 receiver Greg Jennings, who left to be with his wife, who had a baby. In Jennings' absence, wide receiver Ruvell Martin caught seven passes for 118 yards.
"If you talk to some of the players who've had the opportunity to walk away from the game on their own, you'd like to walk away with 'gas in your tank,' " McCarthy said. "And like I've told him already, his gas gauge is well over three-quarters. He's got a lot left in his tank. That's just where he's at. He's not your normal 37-year-old, that's for sure."
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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