“I’m healthy, I can play and there are teams out there that had interest, but they just didn’t need. They wanted me, but they didn’t need me. I’m not a player than can play by just wanting to play the game. I’m a guy that needs to win, and they go hand in hand . . . So please, understand when I say this. I’m not retiring. I am graduating. Today is my graduation day.”
~Junior Seau (who signed four days later with the New England Patriots)
No disrespect intended to Mr. Seau or his incredible career with the Chargers and Dolphins. After a couple of decent years with the Patriots an aging Seau retired again . . . then came out of retirement again. After the Patriots loss to the Ravens in the playoffs last year, Junior announced that it was his last game. But he still hasn't officially retired and is listed as an NFL Free Agent.
Why is it so hard for him to hang it up?
When Dan Marino was asked why he decided to retire, he may have summed up the feelings that many elite athletes experience as they get older:
"That is a good question. Boy, I really struggled with this. This has been the toughest month of my life as far as dealing with playing football or retiring. After the season, I pretty much thought that I was not going to play anymore and I felt that way for a while and I think it was because of the physical aspects of the game.
It kept coming back to how my legs felt during last season, going through the neck injury; not knowing whether I was going to be able to throw the football, and family reasons also, but Claire and the kids, they were great. They wanted me to play, to be honest with you. Really, it was my decision, a family decision and a health decision."
Marino later admitted that despite having established his legacy and having played his entire career with the Dolphins, he seriously considered an offer to lead the offense of the Minnesota Vikings.
Steve Young personally visited with Mike Shanahan and the Denver Broncos to listen to their offer soon after his retirement from the 49ers. Reggie White un-retired to spend a mediocre final season with the Carolina Panthers and the list goes on and on of players who have struggled with or even flip-flopped on the decision to call it quits.
Part of what made these guys great is that the the concept of quitting is foreign to them. While they know their physical skills are on the decline, their understanding of the game grows each year.
Deep down I think every one of them feels like if they got in the right situation with enough talent around them, they could go out like Elway, hoisting a SuperBowl MVP trophy in their final game. That's what they've played for their whole career, after dedicating countless days, weeks, months and years focused on winning a title, it's tough to decide it doesn't matter any more.
As an admittedly biased green and gold bleeding Packers fan, I bring this up as we have again arrived in Brett Favre season for the media.
You don't hear ESPN blasting guys like Derrick Mason for waffling about retirement because when it comes down to it, he could probably fly to The Moon and back and a story on him still isn't going to get the ratings as any text message or quote attributed to Brett Favre, Tim Tebow, Tiger Woods, Lebron, Kobe, Shaq, Terrell Owens, OchoCinco, etc. etc.
So while baseball season still has another month before it gets exciting, and with nothing noteworthy going on in basketball (or hockey or soccer, for what it's worth), the sports networks have latched on to the stories that will bring in the viewership and with that, the ever so important advertising dollars, by pissing and moaning about Brett.
The Vikings knew what they were getting when they signed Favre. An all-time elite quarterback in the twilight of his career whose body is breaking down and who is having a hard time deciding if the physical grind of practice is worth the sheer enjoyment of playing the game he loves each Sunday.
You don't hear the Minnesota coaches, players, or management complaining. Even the Viking fans are just begging and hoping for one more year to witness one of the all-time greats.
And yet the media feels that Brett owes them a direct answer, that he has no right to text his teammates about his situation without holding a press conference and telling all the reporters right now what his exact intentions are.
So they hurry and write stories calling him out as an attention whore.
Because they know a story with Favre's picture will get more clicks than a look inside the Atlanta Falcons training camp.
Get over yourself ESPN, FoxSports, and every other sports network out there! Yeah the guy doesn't want to go to training camp. Give him a break, all he did after missing camp last year was throw for 4,202 yards with 33 touchdowns and only 7 interceptions in his 18th season as a starter!
I did a little research to see how many quarterbacks in the history of the NFL had thrown over 30 TD's with less than 10 INT's in a season. Joe Montana never did, neither did John Elway, Dan Marino, Steve Young or Kurt Warner.
Drew Brees never has, and Tom Brady and Peyton Manning each have once. Sure the rules of the game are more aerial friendly than they have been in the past, but doesn't change the fact that the only other QB who hit the 30 TD benchmark with less than 10 picks last year was the man who replaced Brett in Green Bay, my guy Aaron Rodgers. (Man it's good to be a Packers fan!)
Not only that, but Brett Favre, the winner of 3 consecutive MVP's, the man many people believed was past his prime and whined should have hung it up 5 years ago, achieved career highs in QB rating (107.2) and completion percentage (68.4).
More importantly, Favre led Minnesota to a 13-3 record and their first playoff victory in five years. He carried the Vikings on his back within 3 points of the Super Bowl. And yeah he threw the final interception in the NFC Championship in a desperate situation because of a stupid penalty, but if that's all you take away from that game, then you missed something special.
What I saw was the ol' graybeard absorbing shot after shot (including a dirty high-low that would've warranted a lifetime suspension had it even been attempted on Tom Brady) and just picking himself up and keeping his team in a game they had no business being in after all the fumbles and pressure applied by a very good Saints team. A man who had already been to two SuperBowls doing everything to get to just one more, until he could do no more.So if that's the last game I ever see you play in, thanks for the memories Brett. I can now go back to hating the Vikings and hoping to see Green Bay bring the Lombardi Trophy back home. If not, then you know I'm pulling for you to win it all this year and go out like Elway did. Either way, I'm still throwing on my #4 Packers jersey after church every Sunday from September - January.