Two days into the Green Bay Packers' first mini-camp of 2003, Brett Favre was back talking about a hot button issue from the 2002 season: retirement.
And while his outlook on the topic hasn't changed -- Favre said he still doesn't know when he'll call it quits in the NFL -- his patience dealing with the subject has expired.
Favre said he still expects to receive questions regarding his inevitable retirement, but he doesn't plan on answering them. Not anymore. Not after last season, when the subject became "an annoyance." Not when he still doesn't have an answer.
"Just leave it alone," Favre said Thursday. "I mean, I don't know. I really don't know.
"I hope that it's not injury that forces me out; I think every player hopes that. And if I can still play the way I'm capable of playing, able to compete the way I can compete, then we'll just see. We'll leave it at that, and at the end of the season I'm going to be fielding all those questions again."
Joked Favre: "I can't even remember how the whole retirement thing started, but whoever started it needs to be shot."
When it started is difficult to pinpoint, but no doubt speculation regarding Favre's future leapt to a new level last September when Sports Illustrated's Peter King detailed Favre's fondness for his offseason home in Hattiesburg, Miss.
King quoted Favre as saying, "I think about retirement a heck of a lot more than I used to ... I miss home. I know it's nuts but (GM/Head Coach) Mike Sherman told us today that he was giving us Saturday and Sunday off this week, and the guys were all excited. All I could think was, I wish I could be on my lawn mower back home."
From that point on Packers fans began fearing the worst, and the media began asking questions.
Favre said that he and Sherman tried to make the story go away, but "as much as we tried to put it to rest, it seemed like we were adding fuel to the fire."
The surprising thing is that speculation regarding Favre's future has remained persistent, even though the story hasn't changed since last summer.
Favre said he'll continue to play for as long as he's healthy, effective and excited about the game. For the moment, he is all those things.
Thursday, Favre did nothing to suggest that he doesn't love being in Hattiesburg. Nor did he pretend, approaching his 13th NFL season, that he's eager to be back at another mini-camp.
But Favre was equally passionate about his love for football. And he has absolutely no plans to leave it.
"We joke about the tractor and cutting grass and all that stuff, but it's stuff I enjoy doing and, yeah, it's tough to leave that," Favre said.
"I did look forward to going home to that (after the season). It was a nice way to get away from football. As bad as I felt after (the playoff loss to Atlanta), I needed that to get away and not think about it.
"And I know that when it comes time to come back to training camp, I'll dread coming back. I mean, how can you look forward to training camp, really? ... I can't wait to go right to the games.
"There are times in meetings you sit there and think about home, but there are times at home where I think: If I didn't have football to go back to, I'd miss it. I really would. I'm not naive enough to think that when I walk away from the game that that's it, I won't miss it."
Favre likened his 12 years in the league to the 12 years of school before college. Just like he once longed to be out of high school and in the "real world," now he longs for some of the benefits of retired life.
But that doesn't mean he's ready to graduate just yet.
"I want to enjoy it and play as long as I can, as long as my heart's in it and as long as injuries aren't a factor," Favre said. "I think as you get closer to the end of your career -- and I know I'm a lot closer than I was a few years ago -- you never know when it's going to be the last play or the last game, so you want to get the most out of it. And that's the way I feel."
And, until that changes, it's the only story Favre plans to tell.