Favre, Packers mend wounds for one more comeback
GREEN BAY — Preseason football kicks into high gear for the Green Bay Packers this week, with the first game action coming Saturday night on the road against the Tennessee Titans.
However, as the team returned to the practice field Monday night following a day off a little more than a week into training camp, the thoughts of many turned to next year.
“It is time to come back,” a humbled Brett Favre said Monday afternoon.
Six years removed from his acrimonious divorce from the franchise he helped bring back from oblivion, the retired quarterback stole some attention from what is unfolding with this year’s group of Packers.
The team and the Packers Hall of Fame held a joint news conference at Lambeau Field to announce big plans were made to honor one of Green Bay’s all-time greats next summer.
Favre — and Favre alone — will be inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame on July 18, 2015, during the annual Hall of Fame Induction Banquet at Lambeau Field. Also that night, the Packers will retire Favre’s No. 4.
“We decided that the Hall of Fame banquet was the perfect venue (to welcome the previously estranged Favre) back in the Packers family,” said Bob Harlan, the team’s former longtime president who still serves the club as chairman emeritus and also is on the Packers Hall of Fame executive committee.
“What makes this so very, very special is the fact that Brett becomes the first player in the history of the Green Bay Packers to have both his number retired and to be inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame at the same time,” Harlan said.
Favre will be the 154th person inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame since its inaugural class was honored in 1970. It is only the sixth time just one person will be enshrined, putting Favre in select company with some of his contemporaries, including general manager Ron Wolf (2000), Harlan (2004), defensive end Reggie White (2006) and head coach Mike Holmgren in (2012).
The other standalone ceremony was in 1995 for William Brault, founder of the Packers Hall of Fame.
Favre didn’t attend the news conference Monday but had plenty to say via conference call.
“I’m honored, and I mean that from the bottom of my heart,” Favre said. “To add my name, enshrined with — the list is so long, from Don Hutson and Curly Lambeau to Vince Lombardi on down to Reggie White and myself — is just an amazing honor, one that I never dreamed of. I’d always dreamed of playing pro football as a kid, but I never dreamed of hall of fames and jerseys being retired and things of that nature. I just thought about playing and how much fun that would be.
“To be able to play one game in Green Bay is enough. To be able to play 16 wonderful years in Green Bay is just an amazing honor. There’s no place like it. It’s rich in tradition. And, to just be associated with that organization and the names that have been placed in the ring of honor, the names that have been placed in the Hall of Fame, it’s more than a dream come true. So, I’m truly honored.
“It is time to come back. I think this will be a great event.”
Favre’s last appearance at Lambeau Field came Oct. 24, 2010, when his surreal second trip into Green Bay as a visiting player with the rival Minnesota Vikings resulted in a 28-24 Packers win. Favre outdueled his successor, Aaron Rodgers, and the Packers 38-26 at Lambeau in 2009, his first year with Minnesota after he played one season with the New York Jets on the heels of his infamous post-retirement trade from Green Bay on Aug. 7, 2008.
“You can’t take the 16 years away that I played there,” Favre said Monday. “Those memories are cherished forever. And, it was an amazing run with just tremendous coaches and players. You can imagine 16 years, the number of players that I was fortunate to play with and the coaches, to experience that with the fans ... it’s priceless.”
The bitter split between the storied franchise with the most NFL titles (13) and the field general who was a league MVP three times and led the Packers to the Super Bowl XXXI title in the 1996 season divided Packer Nation. Many Green Bay fans turned on Favre after he orchestrated his way out of U.S. major sports’ smallest market to play elsewhere, especially during the two-season stint with the Vikings.
“Obviously a roller coaster, if you will, but I was always a Packer,” Favre said. “It was like borrowed time playing elsewhere. I played my heart out each and every year I played, and I’m proud of that. I was proud to say that I am a Packer, will always be a Packer and am honored that I ever got the opportunity to do that.”
Favre’s decorated 20-year NFL playing career, which started as a second-round draft pick by the Atlanta Falcons in 1991 before he was jettisoned to Green Bay the next year, ended after the 2010 season.
Favre will be eligible for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2016 and no doubt will go in on the first ballot.
Hence, next summer’s double honor by the Packers made the most sense, starting a yearlong run-up to Favre’s big day in Canton, Ohio.
“With respect to the Packers’ great tradition, we’re really now in a moment in our history when we have the opportunity to recognize one of our greatest players — Brett Favre — and the great impact that he had not only on the Packers and local community but also on the NFL,” Packers president Mark Murphy said. “There are fans who became fans of football and Packer fans because they love Brett so much. I think that’s a testament to just what a great and special player he was.”
Murphy announced the team plans to formally honor the retirement of Favre’s jersey number during the 2015 season. A ceremony will take place at halftime of a game to be determined at Lambeau Field. Favre will become only the sixth player in team history to have his number retired.
“Along with (wife) Deanna and (daughters) Brittany and Breleigh alongside me, I would love to have Ron Wolf walk out with me and I’d love to have Mike Holmgren (there, too),” Favre said of that in-game ceremony. “If they can work that out at that time, that would be such a special moment, which it will be anyway, but to have them come out there with me and celebrate that moment with me would be an amazing moment, which it already will be.”
In the meantime, Favre said he talked with Murphy about coming back to Lambeau for a game this season.
“Wouldn’t it be nice to flip a coin with Bart Starr prior to a game?” Favre said about Green Bay’s original Hall of Fame quarterback. “I get chill bumps right now just thinking about it. It would be another honor. If we could get that done, it would be an amazing moment.”
Packers Hall of Fame organizers said information on ticket sales — and how many tickets will be available — for Favre’s induction ceremony won’t be disclosed until early next year.