Willie Davis: 'Sad Time to Be a Packer Fan'
MILWAUKEE (AP) -- For Willie Davis, it's a sad time to be a Green Bay Packer. The franchise is caught in a feud with Brett Favre, and there aren't any obvious solutions.
In other words, the Hall of Fame defensive end is a lot like an emerging majority of Packers fans -- respectful of Favre's iconic status, but understanding of the team's need to move on.
"It is a bit of sadness," Davis said this week in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. "And it's a bit of sadness because I know how much of a burden this places on everybody."
Davis, an emeritus member of the Packers' board of directors, played for Green Bay from 1960-1969 and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1981. From his own experience, he knows how hard it can be for a player to know when to retire.
But he hasn't quite seen anything quite like this.
"It's not only a surprise to me," Davis said. "I cannot believe the magnitude of this thing."
Now Davis' biggest hope is that the situation doesn't devolve into some sort of training-camp showdown between Favre and his heir apparent, Aaron Rodgers. As far as Davis is concerned, such a confrontation could only harm the team.
"I cannot see how it wouldn't," Davis said. "Plus, I think it's a decision that would split the club into several pieces. Some would be in Brett's camp, some in Aaron's camp. That's the quickest way to start getting on a losing path."
At this point, that still seems possible -- but not likely.
After holding a tearful retirement news conference March 6, Favre is having second thoughts about playing in 2008. But after teasing the Packers' front office earlier in the offseason -- Favre seemed set to unretire in late March, only to change his mind once again -- his 11th-hour desire to unretire got a decidedly lukewarm reception from the team this time around.
So Favre's agent asked the Packers to release Favre from his contract last week so he could explore the possibility of signing with another team, a request general manager Ted Thompson has said he isn't willing to grant.
In an interview with Fox News this week, Favre said it was tempting to show up to training camp to call the Packers' "bluff." But Favre also seemed to realize that his presence in Packers camp would create a media circus, adding: "I don't want to go back there just to stick it to them."
On Wednesday, Favre's agent, Bus Cook, told ESPN that he and Favre have "no definite plans to ask for reinstatement" and it was up to the Packers to decide what they want to do next. After telling their side of the story in a series of interviews over the weekend, the team isn't talking.
"This thing really gets to the heart of any individual that has had a great career, when he wants to hang it up," Davis said.
Davis figures Favre's second thoughts on retirement aren't based on a need for more records -- doesn't he have most of them already? -- or more money.
But Davis remembers getting called by several teams after he retired, and remains thankful that he said no thanks.
"Hopefully, I was leaving at a time when I had one more game or one more season (left)," Davis said. "I didn't want somebody to tap me on the shoulder and say, 'Hey, Willie, sorry -- it's time."'
And while Davis understands Favre's frustration at the thought of coming back to the Packers with no guarantee that he'd get his starting job back -- Thompson said Favre would have to return in a "different role than he was" because the team has committed to Rodgers -- the Packers need to move on at some point.
"I understand it would be very difficult for him to come to Green Bay and not be No. 1 from day one," Davis said. "Yet, if the Packers moved forward as (we) were led to believe, how much do you let poor Rodgers sit there?"
So where does this leave the Packers? Davis doesn't really know.
"I asked myself, 'Is there a good solution to this thing?' I've got to tell you, myself, Willie Davis, I don't see how you get a good solution out of this thing right now," Davis said.
But Davis knows one thing for sure.
"I can tell you that I wouldn't want to be the guy in position making these decisions either way," he said.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)