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The only thing Brett Favre likes more than playing football is being begged to play football. The public begging started earlier this month when a group of fans paid to have a please-come-back message placed on a digital billboard near Favre's home in Hattiesburg, Miss.
This served to enrich the Lamar Advertising Co., provide millions of Internet strikes and further massage a Favre ego already the size of the Louisiana Territory, but it will do nothing to hasten the announcement that the quarterback plans to return for a 20th NFL season.
Certainly, when Favre holds the news conference to confirm that he will play again, there will be a moment in which he chokes up just a bit and says how "blown away'' he was that fans would do such a thing. This will allow the billboard renters to swell with pride, even though the emotional moment will be as contrived as every off-field reaction from the craftiest Gulf Coaster since Huey (The Kingfish) Long.
We are still months from that news conference, although Favre's decision to return will be official earlier than the middle of August in 2009.
The problem a year ago was that Favre and Vikings coach Brad Childress were struggling for the excuse that would allow the quarterback to miss all off-season work and the Mankato portion of training camp.
The excuse could have been Favre's minor shoulder surgery -- except, he was not yet signed with the Vikings. Even if he wasn't throwing at full bore, there would have been a public clamor for Favre to be in attendance for events such as minicamp, in order to familiarize himself with teammates and any nuances in the Vikings' version of the West Coast offense.
Nope ... neither the quarterback nor the coach wanted Favre to walk into a situation that held any serious controversy. He was coming to Minnesota as a scruffy White Knight, but with no interest in spending two weeks in the largest city in Blue Earth County.
So, it was arranged that Childress would say that he made a call to beg Favre one last time, and Brett was immediately convinced by the smooth talking, and presto, he was at Winter Park, as aw-shucks and scruffy as a White Knight can get.
But now what?
He's under contract with the Vikings for the 2010 season. He could make his return official immediately, and use the black-and-blue ankle (photos sent to media by his agent) to skip compulsory minicamps and the like.
Childress could explain Favre's absence by looking into the cameras to say: "It takes a long time for an ankle injury like ... uuhhhhh, Napoleon had one similar at Waterloo and still was limping around St. Helena weeks later ... uuhhhh, like Brett's to heal, so we told him, 'Stay home and rehab.'"
The issue becomes finding the strategy that allows Favre to avoid Mankato again. Childress could say, "We've excused Brett from early training camp,'' but then what does he say to Pat Williams and Bernard Berrian if they want to skip Mankato?
Whatever yarn the Vikings choose, it's a waste of angst -- as well as billboard rent that could be better used for Haitian relief -- to dwell on Favre's presence in the Vikings' 2010 lineup.
A quick visit to officialbrettfavre.com provides the required hints. The centerpiece is Favre's thank you to fans that gained attention last week. He tried to maintain the mystery with a punch line reading:
"Regardless of what the future holds, I want everyone to know that I will cherish the memories of the past year for the rest of my life.''
Nearby, there was a posting of stories, including a blog item that carried the headline: "Another Favre season could put all-time records out of Peyton Manning's reach.''
Favre isn't posting this stuff, obviously, but if you don't think that item is a clear look at what's under that sweaty hat, you have ignored his need for acclaim -- today, next season and for the ages.
Keep on begging if you wish, as long as you know it's already a cinch that Favre is coming back, to pad all those numbers, and his bank account with a $13 million salary and a late-burgeoning career as a product pitchman.
The modern-day Kingfish plays again. The only question is how the coach will decide to finesse the quarterback's absence from Mankato this time.
Patrick Reusse can be heard noon-4 weekdays on AM-1500 KSTP. • firstname.lastname@example.org