MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The purple No. 4 jerseys with "FAVRE" on the back were already in heavy circulation around the Twin Cities and it seemed almost inevitable that Brett Favre would end his second retirement to join the Minnesota Vikings.
Then Favre dropped the news that surprised many — inside the organization and out — when he called Vikings coach Brad Childress on Tuesday to tell him he was staying retired and would not be joining the Vikings for training camp.
"The writing on the wall was, as long as his arm was healthy he was going to play," Vikings linebacker Ben Leber said. "I thought it was just a contractual deal that was taking so long and I really expected him to be at camp. So I was really surprised."
Now the Vikings are left to pick up the pieces after their summer-long courtship of the future Hall of Fame quarterback ended with a phone call just two days before players are required to report to training camp in Mankato.
"It was the hardest decision I've ever made," Favre told ESPN. "I didn't feel like physically I could play at a level that was acceptable. I would like to thank everyone, including the Packers, Jets and Vikings — but, most importantly, the fans."
Set to turn 40 in October, Favre told Childress that he didn't think his body could withstand a 19th season in the NFL. This after he retired for a second time, was granted his release from the New York Jets and had surgery to alleviate a torn biceps in his throwing arm, presumably to get him ready for one last run at a title.
But after two months of throwing to kids at Oak Grove High School in Mississippi, and a few interviews that seemed to indicate he was leaning toward joining the Vikings, Favre came to the conclusion that he just doesn't have it in him.
"I had to be careful not to commit for the wrong reasons," Favre said. "They were telling me, 'You went through all this, you had the surgery and you've got to finish it off.' But I have legitimate reasons for my decision. I'm 39 with a lot of sacks to my name."
In the end, the player who set nearly every significant passing record the NFL has during 16 brilliant seasons with the rival Green Bay Packers managed to hand the Vikings one more loss.
He turned down a chance to join the defending NFC North champions, a team with a stingy, veteran defense and the best running back in the NFL in Adrian Peterson. Adding Favre would have made the Vikings a stylish pick to win the NFC, but now they will have to go back to their original plan of having Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels compete for the job.
"It was a rare and unique opportunity to consider adding not only a future Hall of Fame quarterback but one that is very familiar with our system and division," Childress said in a statement. "That does not detract from the team that we have."
Jackson's agent, Joel Segal, said his client is eager to show the Vikings, and their fans, that they had the right man for the job all along. He will be entering his fourth season in the NFL and took strides at the end of last year before a poor performance in the playoffs contributed to Minnesota's loss to Philadelphia at home.
Segal said the Vikings' pursuit of Favre has not bothered Jackson.
"Tarvaris is very even-tempered," the agent said. "He's got a very calm demeanor. No matter what he's always ready to compete."
This is Favre, of course. Over the past two seasons he has shown a penchant for changing his mind, so it wouldn't be shocking to see him reverse course and try to join the Vikings later in the preseason.
For now, at least, the Vikings seem eager to put the circus behind them and move on.
"I would love to believe him. I would love it if everybody involved could put this thing to bed and have a little respect for the other quarterbacks involved and maybe for the team," Leber said. "Nobody wants this to linger on and be an ongoing distraction. We'll see if he keeps his word. I understand he's a guy that doesn't like training camp. Nobody does."
Leber called it "a relief" to finally have an answer to the drama and Childress said he is content with what he has on his team.
"As we have consistently communicated, we feel good about our team and they have put forth a tremendous effort this offseason preparing for the season ahead," Childress said. "With this behind us, we look forward to getting to Mankato and getting training camp under way."