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Favre likely to return, but Vikings preparing for life without him

The Vikings are facing a number of questions regarding Brett Favre this spring.

» Is he coming back?

» What will they be without Favre if he decides to retire?

» Why didn't the Vikings bail on Favre and go get Donovan McNabb?

The Vikings didn't draft a quarterback this spring, which tells you something about how good they feel about Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels.

Jackson told me recently about his year serving as a backup to Favre. He said that he really felt like he became a better quarterback after learning from Favre. There were a number of areas in which Jackson felt he grew due to Favre's help: How to prepare, how to communicate with teammates, how to move the team in pressure situations, how to be demanding of receivers when it comes to route running.

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers learned from Favre and then made a smooth transition to starter. Jackson feels the same thing will happen in Minnesota if he's called on to start in 2010. Still, Jackson is quick to add that he would like to see Favre return to the team for the 2010 season to give the Vikings a chance to win a Super Bowl.

Nobody knows if Favre is coming back this season. Favre himself doesn't even know if he's coming back this season. One high-ranking Vikings official told me, "Your guess is as good as mine."

Well, I'm going to take an educated guess.

Miami Dolphins great Dan Marino once told me that it's hard to know for sure if you are going to play again after a long season late in a career when injuries haven't healed yet. Still, Marino also made clear you should play as long as you can. I believe that Marino may have given that last bit of advice to Favre. I think Favre will get that itch to play again in June, and will then start trying to decide if he can make the commitment to another NFL season.

Fans, media and even coaches do not really know what it takes for a 41-year-old quarterback to get ready for an NFL season. Favre is really embarking on uncharted waters here (Vinny Testaverde aside).

Vikings coach Brad Childress told me that Favre practically lived at the team's facility last season, grinding through video tapes, looking for an edge, trying to stay healthy enough to play. This is not a 9-to-5 job. Favre will only come back if he can answer "yes" to the 24/7 commitment the position requires.

I think Favre will return because of his love of competing, the quality of the Vikings team he will return to and the understanding he has to come ready to play. Favre proved last season that he doesn't need training camp, and he also proved he won over the locker room in a matter of days.

If he decides that he's done and can't play anymore, Favre will leave the Vikings in much better shape than they were in before he played for the team. Because of Favre, the receivers have all improved as route runners and there will be carryover if Jackson assumes the role of Vikings starter. The offensive line and running backs can handle play changes at the line of scrimmage. Keep in mind that Favre was dealing with a first-year starting center in John Sullivan, who -- along with the rest of the line -- will be better. That being said, Jackson will not make the quick decisions Favre made, and just like when Rodgers took over in Green Bay, there should be more sacks. The loss of Favre, as well as running back Chester Taylor, would put a lot of stress on third-down and two-minute situations.

Last season, Favre threw for 33 touchdowns and had just seven interceptions, which would be an unrealistic goal for Jackson if he became the starter again in 2010. Favre went 5-1 against division opponents in 2009 (throwing for 15 touchdowns and no interceptions in those games), which would add to the pressure Jackson could face this coming season.

No one really thinks that the Vikings will be as good without Favre, but I don't think they'll find out, because I believe Favre will return. We may have this same discussion again next year in May, just like we have had in the last few springs, when I figured he would return and he delivered.

As for the ankle injury, Favre's had ankle surgeries before, and came right back to play.

We'll see Favre some time in mid-August. In the meantime, Jackson has to prepare as if he is the starter, which is a good thing for him to do.

Last year, people were all up in arms about Favre missing training camp, but the early-season production with limited reps and new teammates suggests that he knew better about what he was doing. Favre went 6-0 to start the 2009 season, throwing 12 touchdowns to just two interceptions. Now, Favre knows the players, and the system. Throw in the fact that the Kickoff game vs. the Saints is close to home in New Orleans, and I would be surprised if we don't see No. 4 come running out onto the field and help kick off the 2010 NFL season.

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