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Mentally drained

Another season probably wasn't worth grind for Favre

Posted: Tuesday March 4, 2008 12:49PM; Updated: Friday March 7, 2008 3:19PM
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BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan -- When the news of Brett Favre's retirement broke halfway around the world, NFL defensive linemen Mike Rucker and Luis Castillo -- on a USO/NFL Tour to pump up the troops here and in Afghanistan -- stood huddled around a computer in the back of a pub on an U.S. Air Force Base. It was Karaoke Night, but they weren't interested in music. They had their eyes fixed to a Biloxi Sun Herald story reporting legendary Packers quarterback Brett Favre would retire after his storied 17-year career.

"Wow! I love the dude,'' said Rucker, the veteran Carolina Panther end, when he had digested the story. "Over the last few years, it's obviously been on his mind. It must be that he's tired, mentally and physically, and the game has worn on him. What I'll always love and appreciate about him is that he was a gunslinger who didn't change his game to appease his critics. I just got his autograph on a jersey last year, and that thing will go in a frame in my house and I'll treasure it forever. You talk about security -- that jersey will have security like the Mona Lisa has around it.''

Said San Diego's Castillo: "It's sad, but I will always cherish the one chance I had to play him this year at Lambeau Field. As crushed as we were to lose it, it's a thrill to have played in a game that he won in the last minute. I remember preparing for the game thinking what an honor and privilege it was to be playing him. And then it turned out to be a great game, all the way down to the end. What a competitor. It's as good as competition gets.''

This was as surreal a scene as it gets, 12 time zones away from Green Bay, with an airman warbling Raspberry Beret by Prince in the background, and Chicago Bears defensive tackle Tommie Harris, the third player on the USO tour, waiting to imitate Johnny Gill. But the moment the news broke, the players and some Packer fans stationed here gathered around the computer and looked stunned.

At this moment, Bishkek was Ashwaubenon and Oshkosh and Wausau, only not quite as teary, presumably. But just as eye-poppingly surprised. Everyone knew the 38-year-old Favre would retire soon, but after how well he played last season, most of those I talked to here thought he'd delay it at least one more year.

As a Favrophile over the years, I'll relate one story from late last season that I think says much about why Favre made the choice he made this week. Two nights before the Packers played Seattle in a playoff game, I was in Favre's home and the doorbell rang. News had broken that day that Favre had decided to come back for the 2008 season, but he denied that to me, and told everyone that all he said was that he was enjoying the game and his team this year. He hadn't determined his fate for 2008 and wouldn't until sometime after the season.

But now, a Green Bay TV station was at the door asking for comment on the story, and Favre's wife, Deanna, politely shooed them away. The look on Favre's face said: Does it never end? Take me at my word -- I will decide my future in the future, not now.

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