As reports that Brett Favre will retire for a third time dominated the NFL, Steve Mariucci stepped forward with a message: Everybody just needs to calm down.
Mariucci, who coached Favre in Green Bay, said Tuesday that his former pupil isn't ready to call it quits and is trying to wait out a troublesome ankle that needed offseason surgery.
"So the question mark is, how fast can he be healthy?" Mariucci said on NFL Network's NFL Total Access. "He's trying. He's trying like crazy. He was working out in his yard today, he told me.
"He's aware of this media frenzy right now. He's not quite sure where it all came from. I mean, he spoke to some people. ... He may have mentioned to somebody that he's leaning that way, because his ankle is not perfect. But right now, he hasn't retired. He's still trying to get healthy. He doesn't know if he's going to be able to be healthy in time. That's the question mark right now."
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Mariucci added that he doesn't believe even Favre knows what he'll do. Mariucci also said that Favre's ankle is improving, but "it's not where it needs to be yet."
"Right now, he told me, 'I'm trying to get my body healthy,' said Mariucci, who added that the quarterback has another week or so to see if his ankle is ready. "The Vikings haven't given him a timetable to be in camp at Mankato State -- they don't want him in the camp right now. They would prefer that he waited and stayed home to heal up even more and do what he did last year and show up at Eden Prairie, if he can."
The Vikings hope Favre can, despite reports from The Minneapolis Star Tribune and The Associated Press that said the quarterback was prepared to hang up his cleats for good. A team source also told NFL.com's Steve Wyche that Favre had informed the Vikings that he wasn't coming back for 2010.
However, the Biloxi Sun Herald, citing a family source, backed Mariucci's assertion in reporting that Favre hasn't made a decision.
The confusion over Favre's status flooded Vikings training camp, where tight end Visanthe Shiancoe revealed he heard the quarterback had started to contact teammates and team officials to say he will not return for a 20th NFL season.
"He told a couple guys on our team he's going to retire," Shiancoe said after Tuesday night's practice. "He hasn't told me yet. I'm going to check my phone right now, but it hasn't been said publicly yet, so I don't know what to believe."
Vikings coach Brad Childress said Favre hadn't told him directly that he plans to retire as of Tuesday morning. The coach wouldn't confirm Favre's status with the team, calling it a "fluid situation," and he was unavailable for comment after the night practice.
"I'm not a big hearsay person," Childress said. "I gotta hear it from the horse's mouth."
Vikings owner Zygi Wilf declined to comment. Favre and his agent, Bus Cook, didn't return messages from The AP.
"I plead the fifth on everything," Vikings defensive end Jared Allen said when asked about Favre's status. "I love Brett and he reserves the right to do what he wants to do. We obviously love him as a teammate. We'd like to have him back. But until it's official, I'll believe it when I see it."
Fair enough. With Favre, nothing ever seems final. He told the Vikings last year that he wouldn't play, but he changed his mind and joined them immediately after they broke training camp. Childress even drove to the airport to pick up Favre for his 19th NFL season.
Camp this year ends on Aug. 12, and Favre can expect some calls from teammates urging him to return.
"I'm going to try to get him here every chance I get," Shiancoe said. "I'm going to try to send him texts or something."
Favre retirement timeline
March 4, 2008 -- Packers announce Favre's retirement
July 11, 2008 -- Favre requests release from Packers
Aug. 6, 2008 -- Packers trade Favre to Jets for conditional draft pick (turned out to be a 2009 3rd-round pick)
Feb. 11, 2009 -- Favre announces retirement for second time
Aug. 18, 2009 -- Favre signs two-year, $25 million contract with Vikings
May 21, 2010 -- Favre has surgery on his left ankle
Aug. 3, 2010 -- Favre informs Vikings he will not return
Star running back Adrian Peterson said he still hopes that Favre will hand him the ball during the Vikings' Sept. 9 season opener at New Orleans. Peterson said he exchanged text messages with Favre on Tuesday, but declined to give details.
"I'm still up in the air like you guys trying to figure out what's going to happen," Peterson said. "I'm sure he'll make the best decision for him."
This uncertainty is nothing new for the Vikings, who have spent the last two offseasons answering questions about Favre's future.
"It's always back and forth with Brett," said quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, who's in line to be the starter if Favre is gone. "It's his decision. He deserves the opportunity to decide when he's going to retire or not, whether he wants to retire or not. It's up to him. Right now, I'm just trying to focus on getting better."
Favre has considered retiring every summer since 2002. It led to an ugly parting with the Packers, who traded him to the New York Jets in 2008. After a so-so season in New York, he announced his retirement in early 2009 for the second time, then reconsidered and signed with the Vikings.
Favre had one of his best seasons in 2009, with career bests in completion percentage (68.4), passer rating (107.2) and fewest interceptions (7), while throwing for 33 TDs and 4,202 yards to lead the Vikings to an NFC North title. He hurt his left ankle during an NFC Championship Game loss to the Saints and had arthroscopic surgery in May.
Favre is under contract for $13 million this season, but only if he plays.
Nearly everyone has assumed that Favre will return, and he has done nothing to discourage that. He threw passes to high school students in Hattiesburg, Miss., for the second consecutive summer, joked about playing until he's 50 and said another season wouldn't worsen his already damaged ankle.
Packers linebacker Nick Barnett said he didn't know whether to believe the latest Favre news.
"It's like believing in Santa Claus. You get gifts, but you ain't seen Santa Claus," Barnett said. "We'll see what happens ... If he does retire, congratulations. It's a well-deserved retirement. But if he does come back, we'll be gunning for him the same way."
If Favre decides to retire, it will end one of the most storied careers in NFL history. A three-time league MVP (1995-97), Favre won the Super Bowl in 1997 with the Packers. His 11 Pro Bowl appearances are the most ever by a quarterback.
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Indeed, Favre holds most major NFL records for a quarterback, including career touchdowns (497), passing yards (69,329), wins (181) and seasons with at least 3,000 passing yards (18).
Of course, he also has thrown the most interceptions (317) and been sacked 503 times -- a long, long history of wear and tear.
Retirement also would mean that the last pass of Favre's career was an interception. Saints cornerback Tracy Porter picked off a forced throw from Favre with the Vikings in New Orleans territory at the end of regulation, preventing an attempt at a potential game-winning field goal. Favre watched helplessly from the sideline as Drew Brees drove the Saints for the winning field goal in overtime.
"I know when I leave the game, I'm going to miss it," Favre told The AP in 2007, when the annual summer rite of indecision was still novel. "I know that. I'm not going to sit here and say, when I leave, it's over and I felt like I've done everything there is to do."
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, who grew up in Wisconsin as a Favre fan, said he was surprised the veteran might hang it up after playing so well last season.
"If it is (true), then we were lucky enough to watch an unbelievable talent and great guy," Romo said. "But it's better to go the year before than a year too late."