Did the Packers offer Favre a bribe to stay at home?
GREEN BAY -- If a broadcast report turns out to be true, the Green Bay Packers' desperation over the Brett Favre situation will have hit an all-time high. Or low, depending on your perspective.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell chose not to rule on soon-to-be unretired Favre's reinstatement application Wednesday, in hopes that Favre and his current -- or possibly former -- team could reach some sort of accord in their continuing standoff.
After flying to Hattiesburg, Miss., late Tuesday night, Packers president and CEO Mark Murphy spent almost nine hours meeting Wednesday with Favre's agent, James "Bus" Cook, and several news outlets reported that part of the negotiations included the idea of paying Favre to stay home.
Citing sources familiar with the talks between Murphy and Cook, WTMJ-TV in Milwaukee reported that Murphy offered Favre a financial package -- $20 million over the next 10 years -- to stay retired. The Green Bay Press-Gazette later reported on its Web site that a source close to Favre said the team "raised the possibility" of paying Favre a substantial salary to stay retired. If the WTMJ-TV report proves true, "the PR hit would be disastrous," a league source said Wednesday night.
Talk of the financial settlement offer spread along the sideline at practice Wednesday night, prompting coach Mike McCarthy to open his post-practice sideline briefing shortly after 9 p.m. by by saying, "Breaking news from practice, huh? I don't have any information, I'll just be up front about it. I haven't talked to Mark Murphy, so (the public-relations staff) just told me about the story that's out there. I don't have anything for you. I wish I did."
Murphy, who did not speak to reporters gathered at Austin Straubel airport awaiting his arrival, then released the following statement about 20 minutes later: "I was in Hattiesburg today and had a nice visit with Brett Favre. We discussed a number of topics not related to football, including Brett's long-term relationship with the Packers. I consider our conversation to be confidential and am going to be respectful of Brett and his family and keep the details private. (General manager) Ted (Thompson) and Mike are going to continue to work on the football side of this issue. They have my full support."
Thompson did not return a message left with him Wednesday afternoon.
After emerging from his office around 6 p.m., Cook called the discussions "amicable," but Cook also said "it's a very good possibility" that Favre will report to camp on Friday. Today is one of McCarthy's designated "recovery" days on which the players have meetings and walk-throughs but no on-field practice time. The team returns to public practice Friday with workouts at 8:45 a.m. and 6:30 p.m.
"We're going to do whatever Brett wants to do," Cook said.. "And right now his intention is to go back to Green Bay and play football."
Because the Packers are at the 80-man roster limit, they would have to make a corresponding move to make room for him. His $12 million base salary for 2008 would also come onto their books, although the Packers have plenty of cap space to accomodate him.
After Favre completed his regular morning workout with the Oak Grove High School football team and ran the stairs of the stadium with his wife, Deanna, Favre, Murphy and Cook met at Cook's office around 9:30 a.m. Favre then left the meeting without commenting around 12:30 p.m.. while Murphy and Cook continued to talk after the quarterback's departure..
"He would love to go back to Green Bay. That's why he started working out," Cook said. "But right now, it looks like he'll be the quarterback at Oak Grove High School."
Favre filed his reinstatement paperwork on Tuesday with the league office, and since Goodell has said in the past that he would grant Favre's reinstatement, it was a mild surprise that the commissioner held off on rubber-stamping Favre's return.
"The commissioner is taking no action today," NFL senior vice president of media relations Greg Aiello wrote in an e-mail. "He wants to give both the Packers and Brett an appropriate amount of time to make decisions, including decisions impacting the team's roster and salary cap. When Brett is reinstated by the commissioner, we will announce it."
Once the league officially reinstates Favre, who tearfully announced his retirement after 17 NFL seasons on March 6, the Packers will have 24 hours to release him, trade him or put him back on the roster.
After the Packers' morning practice, McCarthy said he "was not part of" any conversations before Murphy's Mississippi mission and that he was trying to focus solely on football despite what he acknowledged has become a distraction.
Asked whether Favre is still welcome at Lambeau Field regardless of the meeting, McCarthy replied,
"Absolutely. I can't control what the perception is, but in the locker room, no one dislikes Brett Favre. That's not the opinion at all and that's not the opinion that we want expressed. I've said it before and I'll just say it again: He was a big part of our history. And with him reinstating and coming here, he'll be a part of our future."
"(The distraction) is there. I'm not going to deny that. But our direction has been set. We have said it over and over again how we're moving forward, and that's our plan. If he's part of that locker room, we'll have plan for that. If he's not, we'll continue the way we've been going all week."
Youngsters could suffer: If Favre does in fact end up reporting to camp -- and actually ends up practicing -- the development of rookie quarterbacks Brian Brohm and Matt Flynn could be part of the collateral damage.
"If they get less reps, it's going to be harder, but that's a hypothetical situation. I'm not really sure what's happening," quarterbacks coach Tom Clements said between practices Wednesday. "I'm not prepared to say what we'll do at this point."
McCarthy has said several times in the past few days that the Packers will "have a practice plan" for Favre if and when he passes his physical and the conditioning test administered to all players before they are cleared to practice.
McCarthy has refused to divulge what that plan entails, however. Currently, the Packers use a 3-2-1 set-up for six-play increments: Rodgers, as the starter, gets three reps; Brohm, as the backup, gets two; Flynn, as the No. 3, gets one.
"During the course of the training camp, (Brohm and Flynn) are going to get X-number of reps, whatever that is," Clements said. "If we have different numbers in a period during practice, we'll adjust those."
Granted, if Favre returned and was installed as Rodgers' primary backup, or took over as the starter despite the club's insistence that it is "moving forward," one could reasonably argue that the position would be improved in the short-term with the 17-year NFL veteran in the mix.
However, the Packers are high on both Brohm, their second-round pick, and Flynn, their seventh-round pick, and Favre's return could stunt their growth long-term.
If Favre isn't traded or released and remains on the team when the regular season begins, the Packers surely won't keep four quarterbacks on the 53-man roster -- especially after making do with just two for most of last season -- and Flynn would be the odd man out.
It's possible the team could stash Flynn on the practice squad, but there'd be a significant risk that another club would see his potential and snap him up on waivers.
While unwilling to discuss hypotheticals, Clements did suggest a scenario where Rodgers and Brohm could get the requisite snaps while Favre's were limited because of his experience.
"The starter would always get the same number of reps," Clements said. "I'm not talking about what we'd do here, but other teams, depending on who the guys are, if they have a 15-year veteran on the squad (as the one backup) and a first-year guy (as the other), they might give the first-year guy a lot of reps even though the veteran's going to be No. 2. Because a veteran might not need a lot of reps to get ready. It's just going to depend on who you have and what their levels of experience are."
For their parts, both Brohm and Flynn said they can only focus on what they're doing and not concern themselves with the ramifications of Favre's impending return.
"I don't think about it. I really don't. If I worry about stuff like that, then I'm not going to be able to perform the best I can," Flynn said. "Right now, I'm a rookie. You have to start somewhere. And in order for me to achieve my goal of becoming a long-time quarterback in the NFL, I can't worry about things. I have to try to progress myself as a quarterback and try to get better each practice, because I believe my best football is in front of me.
"I have a hard head. I don't let things sink in and get to me. I just stay calm and do what I can do. When there's things that you can't control, why worry about it? Just worry about yourself."
Said Brohm: "I've never met Brett. Obviously if he comes back and that's what the Packers decide to do, I'm going to try to learn as much as possible from him. Anytime you can learn from a future Hall of Famer, I think it's always a plus."
Grant keeps working: Unsigned halfback Ryan Grant might be out of sight, but he's not out of mind -- and unlikely to be out of shape, too, whenever he does come to camp. Running backs coach Edgar Bennett said he talked on Tuesday to Grant, who is home in New York working out with his own training staff and waiting for the Packers to improve their contract offer.
"He's doing two-a-days, (too). He's probably doing four-a-days," said Bennett, who has been telling Grant various drills to do so he doesn't fall behind. "He has our schedule and for the most part, when we're out on the field, he's out on the field in New York working with his trainers. He's basically in our routine, our schedule."
On guard: McCarthy has been talking constantly about pad level being too high and footwork being off, and that's true at left guard, too, where Daryn Colledge and Allen Barbre are rotating and competing. The two are alternating padded practices, so Barber worked with the 1s in the morning practice while Colledge was back with the 1s at night. So far, neither has done anything to distinguish himself.
Campen mum on Favre talk: Offensive line coach James Campen was available to reporters for the first time since Favre talked about Campen's role in the team's efforts to prevent Favre's comeback bid, and he chose his words carefully when asked if he'd been put in a tough spot. "My personal conversations with Brett were personal and confidential, and will remain personal and confidential, even though (our recollections of them) may differ," said Campen, who twice went to Favre's home in Mississippi to talk to his friend. "At this point, it's an organizational issue, and I'm not going to comment on it."
Useful advice: There is no practice Thursday. The team will lift, have meetings, do a walkthrough in the gym and then listen to their guest speaker. "(Former White House press secretary) Ari Fleischer is coming. And he was booked a long time ago," McCarthy said with a laugh. "We're going to get our money's worth out of him, I guarantee you that."
For Favre, this isn't about money. This is about Favre not knowing what to do with his life without football. It's about feeding the monkey on his back addiction of his craving for the fame, the spotlights, and the fan worship. It's about Favre wanting to be "The Man," as opposed to Favre the retired football player who just sits at home watching television and waiting for that once a week lawn mowing session. I joke about it, but I do believe it's true. There is a real addiction that people like Favre, Michael Jordan, Ali and others succumb to that's a hard habit to kick.
Isn't calling this a bribe a bit strong Wilde? I could call it a severance package and that would be more correct than calling it a bribe. Several if not all large corporations will pay people (especially top performers/executives) in the corporation to leave when their services are no longer required. That's called severance pay. The Packers are certainly a large corporation and Favre is a top performer whose services are no longer required.
Lifetime Packer fan, but I've never felt worse about this organization. They should take Brett back but have him commit to 2 years. Pay Rodgers extra $$ to sit on the bench instead of paying Brett to sit at home (this is insane). If we lose Rodgers and only have Brohm and Flynn as back-ups to Brett, we're still better off than having Rodgers and the 2 rookie back-ups.
I actually wrote a ridiculously long post yesterday for JSOnline (except it wouldn't let me sign up to post it so I never did). The gist, in trying to figure out why the Packers are so dead-set against bringing Favre back, was that they have three years invested in Rodgers, plus two pretty decent rookies. Not a bad QB stable for the long haul. If Favre comes back, you most likely lose one rookie right away, plus Rodgers probably walks at the end of this year. So at the end of this season, they're down to Brohm. (And maybe Favre with yet another "will he or won't he retire" scenario). This article reinforces my theory. But why won't they just tell us that, for the love of Pete?
This is all so surreal. The whole thing pains me. Favre has placed the entire organization in a no win predicament which is totally at odds with his "team first" reputation. I can't believe I'm expressing this sentiment in public, but maybe it's time for the Packers to swindle some other team in a Herschel Walker/John Hadl style trade. Thanks for all of the memories up till you sent the plane back in March after you re-retired Brett.
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