The way I look at it, the Brett Favre story is a repeat of last year, when it appeared the great quarterback was going to retire and he not only played but maybe had the best season of his 19-year NFL career.

The reports last year at this time by most media outlets, including all of those great speculating websites, was that the 40-year-old quarterback had played his final season of his career with the Jets in 2008 because of a biceps muscle tear in his throwing arm.

But two people -- Vikings coach Brad Childress and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, who had been with Favre for six years in Green Bay -- knew different.

They were convinced that because Favre was such a great competitor, he was going to play unless he was physically unable to run or throw a football.

So Childress and Bevell kept talking to Favre. He finally said yes and nearly led the Vikings to the Super Bowl.

You want my opinion whether Favre will play this year? Well, it's 100 percent more optimistic than it was last year at this time.

A year ago Favre had no idea how well his family would be welcomed in Minnesota. Favre wasn't sure how good a football team he was joining, and he found out in a hurry. He didn't know how well he would get along with his new teammates and how happy he would be playing here.

No member of the media talked to Favre more than I did last season. We had a lot of conversations where he told me he was never more comfortable with a club and what a great decision he had made not to retire. So my conclusion is there is a lot better chance of him coming back this season than there was at this time last year because of the great experience he had.

I don't think money is going to be an issue. If it is, then rest assured the Wilf family will pay whatever is a reasonable price to bring him back, even more than the $13 million he agreed to last year.

As for all the rumors Tuesday that Favre was planning to retire, Childress talked to Favre on the phone Monday evening and said Favre gave no hint of having made a decision. Favre's closest friend on the team, kicker Ryan Longwell, also had talked to Favre on Monday, and if Favre was going to tell anybody he was retiring, it would be his longtime teammate with the Packers and now Vikings.

So my conclusion is this:

If Favre's surgically repaired ankle is in such bad shape, then he will retire. However, he has started 286 consecutive games (308 including playoffs), even when injured and in a lot of pain.

If he doesn't have a physical problem, then look for Favre to appear at Winter Park in a couple of weeks.

Rice skips surgery

One of the national websites reported that two doctors told Vikings wide receiver Sidney Rice he needed surgery on his bad hip if he was going to play this season. Rice said the report was not true.

"No, no, they didn't say I had to have surgery, they said I could if I wanted to, but I didn't have to," said Rice, who is confident he will be able to play this season. He is currently on the Vikings' physically unable to perform (PUP) list.

Rice was one of Favre's favorite receivers last season, catching 83 passes for 1,312 yards and eight touchdowns, so his absence would be a big blow to the team, no matter who the quarterback is.

"I'm working hard every day with our training staff and our strength coaches, a lot of strengthening stuff, mostly like the basics, just a lot of different things to help get back to 100 percent," Rice said in Mankato on Tuesday.

"We've got a little more time here. I'm going to continue to work hard every day in the weight room and the training room to get healthy and get 100 percent and get back out there on the field with my teammates."

Rice is not sure he will be ready to play in the first exhibition game at St. Louis on Aug. 14, but he says the plan is to be ready for the opening regular-season game at New Orleans on Sept. 9.


Rob Antony, assistant Twins general manager, said he is confident the club will sign first-round draft choice Alex Wimmers, the two-time Big Ten Pitcher of the Year. Wimmers has another year of competition remaining at Ohio State, and the Twins must sign him by Aug. 16 or he could go back to school.

Glen Perkins had a few good starts for Class AAA Rochester, but then on July 31 the former Twin allowed five runs (four earned) and nine hits in five innings to Charlotte. ... Nick Blackburn, also at Rochester after having a rough time in the Twins rotation, signed a four-year contract calling for a guaranteed $14 million in March, with the Twins having an $8 million option for the 2014 season.

Former Gophers linebacker Nate Triplett, now with the Vikings, spent some time at Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway's summer football camp in Hutchinson and reported he learned a lot from the super former Iowa football player. ... The 2011 Gophers football schedule might have to be changed because of Nebraska's entrance into the Big Ten, but Minnesota is slated to open the season at Southern Cal, then play three successive nonconference home games with New Mexico State, Miami (Ohio) and North Dakota State. Then the conference schedule begins, playing at Indiana, Wisconsin at home, at Ohio State, home with Michigan State, on the road at Michigan, home with Northwestern and Penn State and at Iowa.

Early betting odds have host Middle Tennessee State a 4 1/2-point favorite over the Gophers in the 2010 football opener.

The Sporting News' website ranks the Gophers football schedule as the fifth most difficult in the Big Ten. It ranks Michigan first, followed by Iowa, Ohio State and Wisconsin. ... The Gophers will have a free scrimmage open to the public at TCF Bank Stadium on Aug. 21, with gates opening at 10 a.m.

Fritz Rock, the former Wayzata receiver/defensive back who was out of football last year after helping the Trojans to a 13-0 record and the Class 5A title in 2008, has signed a 2010 tender to attend Illinois. Rock had to delay playing college football because of academic issues with the NCAA Clearinghouse.

Former Vikings receiver Randy Moss is entering the final year of his three-year, $27 million contract with the New England Patriots. After two ineffective seasons with the Oakland Raiders, Moss has been stellar in three years with the Patriots, averaging 83 catches, 1,255 yards and almost 16 touchdowns a season. ... Former Vikings defensive tackle Chris Hovan has signed with the St. Louis Rams after averaging 44 tackles per season in five years with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. •