Ted Thompson/Mike McCarthy Press Conference Transcript - March 4

Read the transcript of General Manager Ted Thompson’s and Head Coach Mike McCarthy’s press conference on Tuesday discussing Brett Favre’s retirement.

Ted Thompson: Good afternoon. Thank you for coming. As you're all well aware of by now, Brett has informed us of his decision to retire from the Green Bay Packers and the National Football League. He's had one of the greatest careers in the National Football League, and he's able to walk away under his own terms. Very few NFL players are able to do that, and have the careers that can sustain that. Brett's accomplishments are legendary, but it was the passion with which he played that has made everyone a Brett Favre fan. His personality and love for the game allows him to become an icon to all sports fans all around the world. I think we're all a little bit disappointed, but at the same time we respect Brett's decision, and this was his decision. After those remarks, we're certainly open to taking a few questions.

(When did you hear from Brett and what exactly did he say?)

Thompson: I'll let Mike field that since he talked to him probably the most over the last couple of days.

McCarthy: I actually took Brett's call last night about 7 p.m., and he informed me it was time for him to hang up the cleats, as he referred to it. It was really very similar to the conversations we've had the last four weeks. Really, he's mentally tired, and there's just a lot of little things that go into his everyday preparation to prepare for the season, in season, and we talked about those topics again. And we talked again last night about 9, 9:30, after the 7:00 conversation, I called Ted, and then Ted and Brett spoke this morning.

(Did you say anything to try to change his mind or was there no going back?)

McCarthy: We talked on Thursday, and that's really what we talked about. We went through all the different scenarios, pros and cons, just a lot of daily detail things, things we could possibly change to help him. But the thing it really kept coming back to is physically he's feeling better, but ... mentally tired was the constant. I was surprised last night when he told me, no question. I was actually walking into my daughter's basketball banquet, and I had to remove myself from where I was standing, because I was taken back. But it's something he's given a lot of thought. Going off our Thursday conversation, it was something, the last words he left was he needs to dig deep in his heart and make the right decision.

(Did you get any sense of his mental fatigue as the season wore on last year, that the grind was too much?)

McCarthy: I would never say he gave an indication the grind was too much, but it's something we talked about a lot. Just to share, last week's conversation really was a very good analogy of what he goes through. We talked about practice one day for about 20 minutes on the phone, the importance of the quarterback at practice, the importance of how he needs to keep his tempo at a very high level, a lot of little things that quarterbacks have to do that I don't think even his teammates are aware of. It's just the combination of the little things day in and day out that kind of wears on him.

(Is there any wiggle room in this? Do you think at any point he decides different?)

McCarthy: I would say that's all speculation. Not based on the conversations I've had with Brett.

(Ted, are you surprised he's hanging it up based on his performance last year?)

Thompson: A little bit. But I think it doesn't matter when it comes, whether it would have come two years ago or four years from now, I think the finality of it, all of a sudden it kind of hits you, Brett Favre's not going to be our quarterback anymore. So it's surprising in that regard. Speaking with Brett and obviously I've had conversations and Mike has, there's certain things we wouldn't talk about because I don't think it's appropriate, it was a conversation between two people. But this decision was a complicated decision. It's not as simple as even I might think it is. Do you want to play or don't want to play? It's more complicated than that. Brett's a professional football player, one of the finest if not the finest that I've ever seen. He wants to know a couple of things. Do you still want me, and can I still play? Obviously both Mike and I were very positive in that regard and said definitely we do. After having said that, then there are other factors that weigh into his decision-making process, and like I say, it's a very complicated thing, especially (for) one that has the experience and has played for such a long time at such a high level and has those expectations all the time. It's not as easy as one might think.

(His agent and brother have hinted he wasn't wanted enough. Did you feel you did enough to communicate you wanted him back?)

Thompson: I certainly do. Mike and I, our approach was the same as it was last year at this time. The year before, when Mike was the new coach here, we took a little different approach because we kind of needed to introduce ourselves a little bit more. But last year was the same. Mike kind of stayed in constant contact, and I would make sure I stayed in touch from time to time, but we felt like, in each of those years it was important for Brett to make this decision for Brett, not to be badgered. He doesn't want to be talked into doing something one way or the other. He wants to know, like I say, can I still play and do you want me? Yes and yes. After that he has to make the decision beyond that. But we felt like the communication lines were open, and we felt like we gave him enough space to be able to make the right decision for him.

(Did you have any lingering concerns about the way Brett handled the cold weather at the end of the season?)

Thompson: Not from me.

McCarthy: I didn't have any concerns, no.

(Mike, what went through your mind after you hung up the phone last night?)

McCarthy: It was a different feeling, I can't tell you exactly. My initial reaction was to call Ted and give him the news. I did stop and think about it, that's for sure. The reality of it for me that Brett Favre was not going to be the quarterback in Green Bay anymore was really today. When Ted Thompson, Jeff Blumb and myself were in a meeting and Brett had called, and Ted then talked to Brett for some time, that's really when the reality of it ... last night, it was a different feeling. Because I thought he was going to play. Last week was the first time in all the conversations we've ever had that the word 'retirement' was ever spoken. But he was consistent throughout. It was a personal decision, and just to echo what Ted said, he was clearly wanted back. How could you not want Brett Favre's career to continue? Clearly one of the greatest or the greatest football player to ever step on the field. But it was different. It's something I have no experience in, but the reality of it really hit this morning.

(Ted, how better prepared is this team for him to leave now than a few years ago when you first took over?)

Thompson: Well, there will be plenty of time for us to talk about our future. I think this is a day probably to focus a little more on Brett. But having said that, it's a little bit daunting knowing you're going to be going forward without Brett as your quarterback. His first game was the third game of the season in 1992. Since then he's been the starting quarterback in every single game. The time when Coach Holmgren and I were in Seattle, there were several years, the first three years actually out there, we lose a quarterback after about the third game, then we put the next one in, and then we lose another one after about the sixth game, and we're sitting there thinking the same guy is still playing in Green Bay, and is still playing up until this time. So that's a little bit daunting. At the same time, we understand the task ahead of us.

(A lot of people would say why now, with the team on the cusp of the Super Bowl?)

Thompson: Like I said, I think those are things that Brett will address at some point. I do think it's a very complicated decision for him. I think he wrestled with it. In the past few years, some people have criticized him for delaying decisions and things like that. You never heard any disagreement from Mike and I because we knew it was a decision that he pours everything he has into being a professional football player, everything. And that is a draining exercise, and certainly those of us around it, around professional football players understand and appreciate that. A lot of people think it's a six-month job and you play 16 games and what can be so hard. It's everything. It's the preparing, it's going out to dinner and being able to sit and eat dinner without being bothered. Those are things, all those things I'm sure weigh on his mind. It is multiple things that you have to think through. I don't know about the timing of it. I just think that it's a decision he has constantly wrestled with in terms of trying to make the right decision and leave at the right time, and I think he believes this is the right time for him.

(Ted, do you think with or without Brett Favre this team is a Super Bowl contender, and what do you make of the talk from Bus Cook that getting Randy Moss on the team would have convinced him to return?)

Thompson: I can't speak to that. It was never brought up in any of my conversations with Brett and I don't think with Mike either this year. He likes this team, he respects this team. He was a very good teammate to some people that were half his age or close to it. And that's not an easy thing to do. I can't explain all the things that you're getting at there, but Brett is a good teammate and he likes this team and I think he appreciates this team.

(When you hear those reports do you regret not going after Randy Moss?)

Thompson: I think they're separate issues. I don't think they're tied.

(Mike, did Brett talk about possibly having remorse down the road and how to handle that?)

McCarthy: Absolutely. Just talking again last night, we talked about the reality that he'll experience, and he was telling me about the conversation he'd shared with a family member about when the games start in the fall, it's going to probably hit him the hardest.

(In his voice-mail played on ESPN, he talked about being stressed, having to always surpass what he did the week before. Given everything he's accomplished, what do you make of him feeling pressure to live up to being him?)

McCarthy: Well, he's a champion and wanted another championship, make no bones about it. As far as how he played this year, I think the film speaks for itself, the statistics speak for itself. His daily preparation was outstanding, his weekly preparation was outstanding. I think that would be normal of any champion to push himself to the limits to win another championship. Using the word stress or however you want to describe it, I think a better word to describe Brett is passion. He's an extremely passionate person, and you could see it in his preparation and you always saw it in his performance on the field.

(In the last two months, did you discuss Moss with Brett and had you gotten Moss would it have had an impact on his decision?)

McCarthy: Never one time in all the conversations we've had since the season ended did any player acquisition come up as a topic. I think what's happened here, like Ted said, these are separate topics. This was a personal decision. Every conversation talked about Brett Favre making a personal decision to be 100 percent in, make a 100 percent decision. That was the line of communication that we talked about the whole time, and we talked about every possible angle, we talked about all the different things that really he had no control, and really what it came down to is he needed to focus on what he could control, and that was having his heart 100 percent into it. And it was mostly positive. We have a relationship where we can openly disagree on things, but it was a very positive conversation, and frankly I probably misconstrued or misunderstood why I thought he was going to come back. But he was definitely struggling with his decision, but he feels good about his decision. He feels like he's left the football team in a better place than when he arrived here. I know he feels good about having his youngest daughter Breleigh seeing him play championship football, because I know that was big for him, because I know Brittany was able to see the championship years where Breleigh has only seen the last four or five years. So that was important to him. We talked about all those things, and those are all things that he carried into his decision.

(Have you spoken with or heard from Aaron Rodgers?)

McCarthy: I spoke to Aaron Rodgers this morning briefly, just to update him on what's going on here and what was in front of him.

(What was his reaction?)

McCarthy: I think he was a little surprised, but we really didn't talk much about Brett's decision. His comment to me was how is Brett doing? He asked me is he OK, and things like that. We talked briefly.

(It looks like it's slim pickings in the quarterback market in free agency. Are you going to have to move quickly to get a veteran in behind Rodgers?)

Thompson: In terms of personnel, like I said, what we're going to do with the team going forward and things like that, I think those questions are better served to address at a later time. I think this is more about Brett and his decision.

(The picture has always been Brett riding his tractor off into the sunset, but do you see a future in football for him, as an analyst or coach maybe?)

McCarthy: I'd be shocked. And I'll just warn you all, if you try to climb the fence he's going to shoot you, I'll just pass that on for you. No, I'd be shocked. He'd be great at it, but I don't think he's coming out from behind the fence very often.

(Mike, with due respect to Brett, how comfortable are you with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback?)

McCarthy: Just to reiterate with Ted, this is a celebration of Brett Favre's career, and that will be our focus. Those questions will be answered. We have plenty of time for that.

(Mike, what memories stand out most for you?)

McCarthy: I was fortunate to be his position coach and his head coach. He's a tremendous player. He was a joy to coach, day in and day out. Unique personality, the way he could affect people, the way he can walk into a room, the effect he had on the room, regardless of the age or the type of people in that room. Clearly one of the most unique individuals I've had the opportunity to work with.

(Ted, do you still have that first cut-up of Favre from when Ron asked you to check him out?)

Thompson: No, I don't. I'm sure I don't. I'm not even sure we still have that. I think that was reel-to-reel tape back in those days. But we're all going to harken back to times when we remember Brett doing this or Brett doing that. There's so many things, some of the things that happened, like in the locker room where you guys aren't even around are just hilarious. But I think on the playing field, there are numerous examples, but certainly 1994, against the Atlanta Falcons in Milwaukee County Stadium when he takes off running, we have no timeouts left, and if he gets tackled we're going to lose the game, and he dives in the end zone and makes it. I don't know if that's not just a little snapshot that you all wan to ... I know I do personally, I want to hang onto and remember that. I know the fans are absolutely devastated today. The Packers will move forward, but certainly we've all been blessed to see this man play this game the way he played it.

(Mike, do you think your football team was weakened today by this decision?)

McCarthy: Once again, those are questions we can move forward on. This is about Brett's career. But I think it's obvious. When you lose a player of that magnitude, leadership-wise, there's definitely a void.

(Do you have any doubt he could have played at the level he played at this past year again in 2008?)

McCarthy: In my opinion, I think he could have played again at the level that he just played this past season. The film reflects that. The statistics reflect that. I thought he played at a very high level this year and definitely had a lot left in his tank.

(He's been the face of the franchise for so long, how do you fill such a huge void?)

McCarthy: We're not going to do it today. But it's one day at a time. That's the beauty of the future, what it holds in front of us. We have an excellent football team. We have a lot of candidates. I think it's an exciting time for the Green Bay Packers football team, but once again, this is about Brett Favre.

Thompson: To answer your question, it will have to be a cumulative thing. It will have to be a team thing, like Mike alluded to.

(Given the void he leaves, how do you not allow yourselves to lobby him? Was there some temptation to convince him otherwise?)

Thompson: If I might take part of that one. This man is 38 years old. He's been playing in a very difficult environment for 17 years. He understands that we know that he can play. He understands that he's our guy, for want of a better word. He has to make that decision. Those are his hours that he has to spend worrying about this or concerned about this, the preparation, all the things that lead up to it. The three hours of the game, I think he's fine with. And I'm not saying he wouldn't do the other stuff, it's just that after a while it takes a toll, and based on my conversation with him and Mike's conversation with him, he feels like that's enough pain of the toll. That's just the way it was relayed to me. So for me to be presumptuous enough to talk a grown man into making a life-changing decision that he's already made is wrong.

(Mike, have you heard from other teammates and what have those conversations been like?)

McCarthy: I've only talked to a few players. I just saw Ryan Pickett and Colin Cole in the gymnasium. Everybody is surprised. That's the general consensus. Just for A, what he meant to the football team, everybody thoroughly enjoyed him as the leader, and secondly, the way he played. He played at such a high level this year, I think everybody to a man thought he was coming back.

(Mike, did you say you talked to him twice last night?)

McCarthy: Correct.

(How did you leave the conversations?)

McCarthy: We talked about his decision in the first conversation, and then just like we have in the past, I told him how do you want to handle it as we go forward? Deanna was not home at the time, and he wanted to wait until she returned and have a conversation with her. At that time I called Ted, and then he was going to call me back, and then we talked about how he wanted to move forward. Then we waited until this morning. I actually flew back from Austin last night, Texas, and then Ted and I met this morning, and that's when Brett called. The second phone call was more planning on how to move forward.

(Ted, had you told Brett you wanted a decision this week?)

Thompson: No. We had talked to him, I think most of those conversations were with Mike. Everybody talks about deadlines. The only thing we mentioned to him was that as free agency started getting going, from the club standpoint, it would be nice to know just so we could make certain plans. And he understood that and he appreciates the needs of the team.

(Ted, you were here in 1998 when Reggie retired and changed his mind. Is there any way you envision Brett changing his mind on this?)

Thompson: It would be speculation on my part, and like Mike said, and my conversation was the same, he seemed to be pretty good, at peace with his decision. But as I've also said, it's a very complicated decision process that he has go to through on this. I guess you never say never, but I wouldn't anticipate that.

{sportsad300}(Have you ever seen an athlete more beloved on a national stage and why do you think he's so embraced not just in the Green Bay community but the football community?)

McCarthy: That sounds like a great one for you, Ted.

Thompson: Quite frankly, I think it's the little boy in all of us. I think he plays the game like you would if you were in a backyard and you were wearing Wrangler jeans. He loves to play the game. He loves the competition. I can't say he loves getting hit, but he's OK with it. He understands that's part of the game. He's never been a fancy-pants quarterback that doesn't like to mix it up. He likes to play the game, and I think he appreciates the people who play the game alongside of him. And I think people can relate to that.

(When you talked about going forward, was it his plan not to speak and have his only words be what he left on someone's voice-mail?)

Thompson: I'll let you handle this one.

McCarthy: I'll let you ask him that question, when the time comes.

(Any idea what's next in Brett Favre's post-retirement life?)

McCarthy: No, I would just say the personal projects he has. It's interesting, every conversation that we have, it starts with the weather. I was in Austin, there was bad weather heading his way, and he was latching down the house getting ready for it, because of the weather at hand. And then we talk about what's going on, the construction that he's doing on his property, so he keeps very busy, and I don't think a whole lot of that will change just based on our conversations.

(Mike, is there something immediate that comes to mind that you'll miss next year?)

McCarthy: A lot of things. He's very unique. He brings great energy to the workplace. He's very consistent in his approach. Personality, like I've said earlier. He's an excellent teammate. There's going to be a lot of things I'll miss about Brett Favre.

(With all the chances he took, will that save you some gray hair?)

McCarthy: Those are good problems. Those are good problems to have. That's how I'll remember him.

(Is there any sense he was relieved he made this decision? Was there any levity? Did he joke about the website incident last week?)

Thompson: No, he didn't bring up the website thing. My conversation with him, like I said, it seemed like he was at peace with the way he felt like he'd gone through the process and made this decision. But again, there are a lot of complications in it because he loves the game, he loves the competition, and he knows, because he's been told, and he's thought through it in his mind, he knows there's going to come a day where he's going to say dad-gum, I can do this, I can still play. That never goes away, whether you're like Brett and you're able to go out on your own two feet, or whether you're like me on a way lesser level that got cut, but I still think I can play, and I still miss being around the team and the locker room and all those things. I think everybody that ultimately leaves the game feels those thoughts and I'm sure Brett will too.

(Mike, you were so close to the Super Bowl. How much as a coach does it bother you that you couldn't get him one more championship?)

McCarthy: Personally, I think all of us would have loved to see Brett Favre ride out on top. I think everybody to a man in the locker room and probably throughout the organization, I can't speak for everybody, but it definitely would have been a great way for him to end his tremendous career, no doubt about it.

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