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Mentally drained (cont.)

Posted: Tuesday March 4, 2008 12:49PM; Updated: Friday March 7, 2008 3:19PM
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That, I believe, was at the heart of this decision. Favre still loves the game and knows he can play at a top-NFL level. But at the end of the day, he also knows if he had signed up for another year, he would have signed up to be the titular head of the Packers from late July 'til the bitter winter, with all eyes on him during every practice and every walkthrough, and his words in all press conferences being closely analyzed. I think he'd rather edge his 465 acres in Hattiesburg, Miss., and worry about how to contain the runaway beaver population than to have the bright lights on him, even in a small town like Green Bay, for five months a year.

Favre loved being just a guy. But it was next to impossible for the all-time touchdown leader and passing-yardage leader to be that. Putting the records far out of reach for the next generation of great passers -- led by Peyton Manning -- held no interest for him. Taking another shot at a Super Bowl held some interest for him, and that's why I believe he agonized over the decision in recent weeks. But another five-month grind to get to January, in his opinion, obviously wasn't worth what he'd have to go through along the way.

That didn't make it any easier to swallow for Packer Nation, even for those halfway around the world.

"My God,'' said Air Force Airman First Class Lyle Tonnon Jr., of Chicago, an avowed Packer fan despite his home zip code. "My legs are weak.''

"Dude, I'm shaking,'' countered Air Force Sgt. Brian Caliba.

"I want to cry,'' Tonnon said. "I just heard, and when I did, I put my head down on the pool table. I'm saying, 'No! No!' It's a shock. But I do know this: Wherever I'm stationed, when he goes in the Hall of Fame, I promise you I'll take leave and be there for his induction. He was the toughest SOB at the quarterback position, ever.''

When Harris, who sacked him twice playing in the spirited Bear-Packer rivalry over the years, was done singing, he said he wasn't surprised. "I thought he might come back, but I'm not surprised,'' he said. "I respect him even more as a person right now than I ever have, because he made a decision that's good for him and for his family.''

I asked Harris what he'd remember about competing against Favre.

"As a competitor?'' he said. "There was no one like Brett Favre. I remember playing him once and seeing him jump in his offensive linemen's faces. He just wanted everyone always to be their best. He's the competitor I always want to be, the kind of competitor I want to show my teammates every game.''

Want more on Brett Favre? Click here to get Sports Illustrated's new book, Brett Favre: The Tribute

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