EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Brett Favre is back in Minnesota, right on schedule.
For the second year in a row, the quarterback who spends his summers on the verge of retirement was driven to Vikings headquarters on the Tuesday after the team’s first preseason game. Just like last August, news helicopters followed his vehicle from a local airport. Dozens of fans and media gathered at the entrance to Winter Park to greet him.
“Circus in Winter Park,” tight end Visanthe Shiancoe tweeted.
The Vikings have seen all this before.
On Aug. 18, 2009, Favre boarded a private plane from Hattiesburg, Miss., and arrived in Minnesota. Coach Brad Childress picked him up and brought him to the team facility. The veteran quarterback practiced the same day and suited up for a preseason game three days later.
This time around, the Vikings sent three of Favre’s closest friends on the team — Jared Allen, Ryan Longwell and Steve Hutchinson — to Hattiesburg to bring him back for one more shot at a Super Bowl.
Longwell served as Favre’s chauffeur, and three local television stations broke into programming to show the kicker’s black BMW SUV rolling down the road.
“Helicopters acting like they are following O.J.,” Shiancoe tweeted. “Where is the bronco.”
Longwell pulled into the team complex as fans cheered and photographers snapped pictures, whisking him to a back entrance.
“Brett Favre for President!!” receiver Bernard Berrian tweeted.
Favre’s website posted a message earlier saying “stay tuned for breaking news from the Minnesota Vikings today on Brett Favre’s possible return.”
Presumably, Favre did not make the trip just to tell the Vikings he was retiring, but the team issued no formal confirmation that he was taking back his starting job. Favre is, however, under contract for the second season in a two-year, $25 million deal.
The Vikings instead issued a media schedule for today, announcing that Childress will have his regular news conference after practice. The team also said that a “media availability with QB Brett Favre is to be determined.”
Favre will turn 41 in October and has flirted with retirement for years while playing for the Green Bay Packers, the New York Jets and now the Vikings. He threw 33 touchdowns and seven interceptions last season to help Minnesota reach the NFC title game.
The three-time NFL Most Valuable Player had been thinking about retiring again this year after injuring his ankle in January’s NFC title game loss to New Orleans. He had surgery on his left ankle in June and told teammates and some team officials this month that it hadn’t healed enough for him to return for a 20th NFL season.
Yet no one in the organization fully bought into that — partly because they went through a similar saga in 2009.
Last year, Favre told the team on the eve of training camp that he was going to stay retired, only to return the Tuesday after their first preseason game.
The Vikings played their first exhibition game of the season Saturday, a 28-7 win over the Rams, and will play at San Francisco on Sunday.
Soon after Favre showed signs of waffling this year, his agent said he would play if he was healthy.
Tarvaris Jackson was in line to be the starting quarterback if Favre had not returned, and he said after practice that he wasn’t bothered by hearing that some of his higher-profile teammates flew to Mississippi to try to woo Favre.
“I feel like if my number’s called I’m going to be ready,” Jackson said. “And I’m going to continue to try to work hard and get better. That’s all I can do.”
If Favre proved anything last year, it’s that skipping training camp is no big deal for him. He delivered one of his finest seasons and brought the Vikings to the brink of the Super Bowl.
He took a beating in the NFC title game yet still threw for 310 yards and a touchdown. But he also threw two interceptions, with the last one in Saints territory at the end of regulation costing Minnesota a chance to attempt a game-winning field goal.
Now, after another summer of indecision and another rock star-like arrival, it appears that Favre is back for one more shot at a second Super Bowl title.