They say time heals all wounds, and Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers provided the ultimate test.
That was the big takeaway as I watched the premiere of *Timeline: Favre Returns* on NFL Network. I remembered that Favre and the Packers had a contentious divorce, that went from ugly to bitter when Favre signed with the Vikings in 2009. What I didn't recall was just how hell-bent Favre was on revenge against Green Bay in the closing chapter of his career.
Equally fascinating was Favre's take on how he came to retire for the first time after the 2007 season. Favre paints of picture of being pushed into the decision.
"I was thinking, 'What the heck happened here? How am I here?' Two days ago, I was like, 'I don't know (if I want to keep playing).'" Here I am now thanking everyone and how tough it is. What's going on?"
"I was leaving (the news conference) thinking, 'What just happened?' and 'I know I'm not OK with this.' How could you not be conflicted?
If Favre felt double-crossed, Packers fans at the time felt positively betrayed. Timeline does a nice job capturing that moment in time. Picture this: Fans organized a mock funeral procession for Favre that included three hearses -- one for Favre's "body", one for his ego, and one for Favre again if he changed his mind about being dead.
Yeah, it got personal. And things only got worse when Favre had perhaps the best season of his career at age 40 in Minnesota, playing MVP-level football and throwing seven touchdowns and no interceptions in two wins over the Packers and new starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
"It was by far the worst I've ever felt, seen, heard," Favre recalled of the reception when he returned to Lambeau Field as a Viking on Nov. 1, 2009. "It just made the way I played even sweeter."
The hour-long special concludes with a happy ending, as Favre returns to Lambeau Field in the summer of 2015, and then again on Thanksgiving night to have his iconic No. 4 retired.
Watching grown men and women weep at the sight of Favre tells a powerful story, as does the image of Favre struggling to get through his address to the sold-out crowd. The breakup was ugly, but it helped make the reunion that much sweeter.
"I'm a Packer. Always will be a Packer," Favre said. "By no means did we ever think we would be in the situation that we eventually were going to be in. Now, I can laugh about it."
» This is the first of five episodes we will recap on NFL Network's new *Timeline* series. Timeline will continue next Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET with Jersey Guys, a one-hour show chronicling the New York Giants' move out of New York to New Jersey. Look at Timeline as NFL Films' answer to ESPN's acclaimed 30 for 30 series. That's not a bad thing.
» Favre looks tremendous at age 46. He could probably pass for 35 with a fresh dye job, though you shouldn't hold your breath on that. The Ol' Gunslinger spends his time in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, where he bikes 20 miles and swims half a mile each day with his wife, Deanna. He seems happy and at peace. "Who was the idiot who thought up the triathlon?" an exhausted Favre asks during a swim. Oh yeah, Brett Favre is still funny.
»Aaron Rodgers agreed to be a part of the special, and spoke candidly about his sometimes uncomfortable relationship with Favre. "I don't think there was a situation where he was real excited about a young rookie coming in," Rodgers recalled of his first season in 2005. "It was a tad disappointing to not be able to be buddy-buddy with him right away, but that's the nature of this league at times. You get older and you realize that they're always trying to replace you." Translation: Brett Favre was kind of a jerk to me at first, but I understood why.
» I loved this quote from Favre on retired life, a sentiment I imagine thousands of former pro athletes can relate to: "The crowd's turned off. There's no one saying, 'Mr. Favre, park right over here.' There's no one catering to you. There's no one saying, 'Hey Brett, you want your ankles taped?' No one cares. It's over. There's always a new star."
Timeline: Favre Returns airs again on NFL Network on Friday and Saturday at 9 p.m. ET.