The inaugural Green Bay Packers Fan Fest kicked off in fine fashion Friday night in the Lambeau Field Atrium. Packers Hall of Famer Larry McCarren served as the master of ceremonies for the evening and introduced many of the Packers legends that will be in attendance over the three-day event.
The crowd packed the floor of the Atrium and cheered heartily as much of the 2005 Packers coaching staff was brought out. McCarren then called to the stage former greats Don Majkowski, Jerry Kramer, and Lynn Dickey, to the delight of the assembled audience.
The fanatical Packer backers applauded even more loudly as Bob Harlan, Ted Thompson, Ron Wolf, and Bart Starr each took the stage and spoke briefly about their appreciation for the remarkable dedication of the Green Bay fans.
But the loudest and longest cheers were reserved - as they are each Sunday afternoon in the fall - for the man these fans were relieved to know would be back under center in the Green and Gold for the 2005 season, Brett Favre.
Favre met McCarren at the podium and received a standing ovation from the gathering that lasted nearly a minute.
During the applause, Favre wondered to McCarren, 'What if I had said I wasn't going to come back?'
Favre sent the crowd into another round of cheers when he himself confirmed that he has not played his final game.
"Yes, I am," he replied when asked to authenticate that he would be returning.
Speaking publicly for the first time since January's season-ending playoff loss, the quarterback explained in his own words the process he and his wife, Deanna, went through in his decision to continue his playing career.
"No," Favre responded when asked if his decision was a difficult one to make. "It's been two and a half months and I never said I was not playing. There are obviously some issues that I had to deal with and my family had to deal with, and I wanted to get some time away and think about it.
"I love to play the game. I still feel like I can play at a high level. But there were other issues - not just me - that I had to deal with. My wife said, 'Hey, go back and play,' and that made my decision much easier."
Some had speculated that the loss of his two starting guards via free agency - Marco Rivera and Mike Wahle - would affect Favre's decision to continue his career. While the quarterback admitted that the departed linemen will be missed, he knows that roster turnover is part of the business of professional sports, and he's also confident that the front office will field the best team possible next season.
"We were fortunate for the last two, three, four years to have our starting offense together year in and year out," Favre said. "In some ways we got spoiled with that because you see every day (that) teams lose guys. We were fortunate to keep those guys together. Now we just have to find a way to replace them.
"Guys like that are hard to replace but I know Ted (Thompson) and Mike (Sherman) will do a great job of finding guys. You never replace Marco, Mike Wahle and Frank Winters and guys like that, but you find a way and you try to get better. You go on with the guys you have."
Favre is confident in the talent that will be surrounding him on the field, and sees no reason for anything but optimism.
"I still feel like this team, with the core players that are coming back, the sky's the limit," he asserted. "I don't want to make predictions - I never have - but we should expect the Super Bowl and nothing less. That's the only way for us to look at it."
When asked what keeps him going 15 years into his career, the quarterback needed to look no farther than the throng that had turned out on a cold evening in March to support their team whose regular season opener is still six months away.
"There's no other place in professional football, really in professional sports, that can have a scrimmage and sell out," he said. "There's no other place that can have a fan appreciation and have the turnout that they have. I really mean that, I'm not blowing smoke.
"I think the people here know that this is a special place, and I realize that I'm doing something that I can only do for a small time in my life, and I might as well enjoy it as long as I can. Before you know it, it's gone. I'm one of the few guys who I think is aware of what I'm able to do and the surroundings and what this means. Some guys - before they know it, they're gone and they (say), 'If I could have just held on to the moment.' I'm doing that and I'm holding on for as long as I can."
Needless to say, everyone in attendance Friday night is glad Favre is holding on for at least one more season.