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Favre Focused On Packers' Future


If you've followed the Green Bay Packers for longer than a minute, you've heard all the stories about the future of their starting quarterback.

You've heard how much he loves cutting the grass at his offseason home in Hattiesburg, Miss. You've heard how hard it is for him to pull away from that solace in the South at the start of each NFL season. And you've heard that retirement is a subject of consideration.

So now hear this: Brett Favre is back in Green Bay, excited to be here, and anxious to get the 2004 season started so he can redeem what he sees as a missed opportunity.

"It's been good to get away," Favre said Wednesday, following the Packers' first mini-camp of practice of the spring. "But it's nice to come back, believe it or not.

"I was just telling my wife a couple days ago, I said, 'I sort of look forward to going back.' I mean it's not like I do much (at mini-camp), but in the past it's like, 'Oh, God. I've got to go to mini-camp.'"

"But I don't know. I guess losing to Philly and us getting to that point, really feeling like we had a chance and not really being in that position in quite a while, left a bitter taste in my mouth. And there hasn't been a day that's gone by where someone hasn't asked me how my thumb is, or what happened against Philly, what happened on fourth-and-26, where I was throwing it on that last pass.

"So it's almost like I can't wait to get back and give them a reason to ask a different question."

For the time being however, Favre is stuck answering all the old ones.

Meeting with the Wisconsin media for the first time since he threw an interception against the Philadelphia Eagles last January that sealed the Packers' fate in their NFC divisional playoff loss, Favre was asked how much he's thought about that wayward pass in the months since.

"I haven't beat myself up over that play," he said. "You make decisions and you live with them. Sometimes they're not good ones, but fortunately I've made enough good ones to keep me around ...

"I look to other plays in games that could have been different, that may have gotten us home-field advantage (in the playoffs). That (Arizona) game, or at Detroit, or Minnesota, games we don't lose here at home. I look at those games and plays in those games, not the one that ended our season."

What eases the sting of last season's playoff exit is Favre's optimism for the season ahead.

The thumb that he broke in Week 7 last season is healed now, or as healed as it probably ever will be. Favre said he still can't bend his thumb like he could before the injury, but he doesn't feel restricted by it either.

Wednesday, passing only in early-practice drills, Favre worked without a splint. But afterward he hinted that he might use the stabilizing plastic strip in games next season, promising to keep it "close by."

Beyond his personal health, Favre likes the makeup of the team going into 2004. And for good reason.

The Packers return all of their starters on offense after a record-setting season, while the defense seems poised to return starters at as many as 10 spots.

From Favre's perspective the Packers are talented and young, but they're also confident. Something they weren't going in to last season. At least not compared to the 1996 team that won Super Bowl XXXI.

"The difference is that (1996) team knew we were going to win the Super Bowl," Favre said. "We knew it. This team here, I felt like we were very talented and we were capable of just about anything. But it was like the light went on at some point and it was almost too late to get us into the playoffs.

"That's what I told (safety Darren) Sharper today. Most of the guys go, 'We were pretty good at the end of the season.' Well, we were the same team at the start of the season, but guys just didn't believe at that point.

"And hopefully this team going in this year will believe it, because the bulk of our team's coming back and there's no reason we shouldn't be better than we were last year."

Likewise, there's no reason to think that Favre's enthusiasm and love of the game won't continue for seasons to come.

Wednesday, Favre took on the issue of retirement and suggested that if it was once an area of greater consideration, it's not something he thinks about now. And he wants to stay in the now.

"I find myself catching myself over and over again on things I said a year or two ago," Favre said. "I always say that what I say today or what I believe today, stand by that ...

"I'm having fun and still playing at a high level ... I'd love to win a Super Bowl, and I know we're capable of doing that, so I'm hanging on to see what happens."

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