Favre Return Poses Dilemma For Packers
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
National Football League training camps are opening around the country this week. And our own Stefan Fatsis is having some flashbacks. As we've noted before, Stefan, who talks with us most Fridays about sports and the business of sports, Stefan spent the summer of 2006 as a place kicker for the Denver Broncos and has a new book out about the experience. How you doing, Stefan?
Mr. STEFAN FATSIS (Author, "A Few Seconds of Panic"): Hey, Robert.
SIEGEL: Let's start with the big news. I hear you are coming out of retirement (unintelligible) that you're actually going to play again. No, it's not you, it's Brett Favre. Brett Favre has come out of retirement and he is going to play again in the NFL. What's going on?
Mr. FATSIS: Well, NFL.com reports that Favre has told the Packers he's going to show up for the start of camp tomorrow, and this just continues a long running soap opera. Favre in the spring issued a tearful goodbye to football. The Packers moved on. They planned for the new season with his back up, Aaron Rogers, as the quarterback. And then Favre said I want to play again. And that put the team in a very awkward position because he is this beloved icon in Green Bay and throughout the league.
But there's something much more fundamental going on here. The Packers are going to have to decide whether they have a better chance of winning games with Aaron Rogers than they do with Brett Favre. And if that's the case, Favre is likely to get traded to another team. The Packers aren't going to want a $12 million backup quarterback. Sentiment is nice. In the NFL, I learned, it's all about the bottom line. Everyone's job - GMs' jobs, coaches' jobs, players' jobs, depend on a winning. One player said to me during camp when I was in Denver, he said there's no sorries in the NFL.
SIEGEL: Being in the NFL means not having to say you're sorry.
Mr. FATSIS: Not for the players, anyway.
SIEGEL: Why do you think Favre decided to come back to play in the first place?
Mr. FATSIS: I think he had trouble retiring. When I was in Denver, the quarterback was a guy named Jake Plummer, and Jake told me one day, he said, you know, a lot of guys get to the point in this league when they've been around for 10, 12 years or more and they go harder and harder because they can't let go. Brett Favre clearly still can play football. He had a great season last year and probably sometime in the off season he just decided I'm not ready to let go. And if that's the case, sure, go ahead, play. I don't think worrying about your legacy is terribly important. The guy has already won a Superbowl and demonstrated he's one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. If he wants to go out this way, let him go out this way.
SIEGEL: Well, with or without Favre, there'll be fewer players overall trying to make NFL teams in the next few weeks. Training camp rosters have been reduced to a total of 80 from closely to 90 in previous summers. Why?
Mr. FATSIS: The NFL whacked its European development league last year and teams just get extra players from there for training camp. Then in April, NFL owners voted against expanding rosters to compensate. Some teams say they're facing a revenue crunch, believe it or not, partly because of how much they're allocating for players in the current labor agreement. And 80 may sound like a lot for training camp, but because of NFL roster rules, when a player gets injured temporarily, he can't be replaced. So teams are going to face shortages in camp. That's going to increase the workload and injury risk for those remaining.
SIEGEL: And the smaller rosters will mean that there are fewer chances for players to make the NFL.
Mr. FATSIS: Yeah, about 200 to 250 fewer players this summer getting a shot. And the reality in camp is that most players or many players, rather, don't have that much of a chance of making the final 53 man roster, anyway, even on the day one, but there are always some surprises.
And I think one of the casualties are going to be the kickers - the kickers and punters. More teams are going to keep fewer or no camp legs, as they're known, the extra guys who really don't have a chance to make the team, so they can open up more spots for the players who are at the hitting positions and are far more at risk.
SIEGEL: One player who won't be in campus, Caleb Campbell, the West Point graduate who was drafted by the Detroit Lions, who evidently thought he had permission from the Army to play, but obviously not.
Mr. FATSIS: He did. The Army had interpreted a Department of Defense policy that would allow him to play professionally. Good for the Army, publicity reasons, recruiting possibilities. Then the Army, on the eve of training camp, reversed itself. The player himself, Caleb Campbell, he's going to report to his military service. He will honor his commitment without complaint, it sounds like, obviously. He went through West Point and this is what he wants to do. But it doesn't look good for the Army, frankly. The Lions used the draft pick on the assurance that this guy could play. The NFL touted Campbell's military background and his character and commitment, and this seems to reverse the goals in the first place. This is bad P.R. for the military, even in a time of war.
SIEGEL: Okay, Stefan. Before I let you go, how about those Milwaukee Brewers?
Mr. FATSIS: I saw C.C. Sabathia pitched brilliantly last week in San Francisco. They have a chance.
SIEGEL: Well, Stefan Fatsis, author of "A Few Seconds of Panic," thank you very much for talking with us once again.
Mr. FATSIS: Thanks, Robert.
SIEGEL: Stefan talks with us on Fridays about sports and the business of sports.