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Packers punt questions about Favre, Vikings

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- New Green Bay safety Anthony Smith wasn't around for the distractions caused by last season's Brett Favre unretirement saga. But should Favre follow through on his flirtation to come back with division rival Minnesota, Smith would relish the chance to face him on the field.

"I would, only because he's one of the best quarterbacks ever to play the game," said Smith, a free agent pickup who played for Pittsburgh last season. "To get a chance to play against him would be a great honor."

Of course, it'd be an even bigger honor to pick off one of Favre's passes.

"Get one off the best!" Smith said. "Maybe I'll have him sign it or something."

Smith's wishes aside, just about the last thing anybody at Lambeau Field wants is to get dragged into more Favre-related drama.

Ultimately, they might not have a choice. Favre admitted in an HBO interview this week what has long been suspected, rumored and reported: Provided his ailing arm recovers from offseason surgery, he might come out of retirement for the second straight year -- this time to play for the Vikings. Last year, it was the Jets.

But until Favre actually puts on the purple uniform of the Packers' NFC North rivals, players, coaches and executives are doing their best to punt away any questions about him. Their stock answer on the subject of Favre's future is simple: If he wants to play, he should.

"If Brett wants to play, then he should play," quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. "That's kind of all I have to say about that. Other than that, he's one player on one team that we play twice a year."

If the Packers are privately disappointed, annoyed or angry about having to deal with the latest fallout from their former star's complicated relationship with the concept of retirement -- or relish the chance to get back at him on the field -- they aren't saying so.

Not yet, anyway.

"I'm not going to speculate on things that haven't happened yet," Rodgers said. "So when that happens, then I'll give you a good answer."

The same holds true for members of the Packers' front office, who have taken public criticism from Favre over the past year but have been hesitant to respond.

"If Brett wants to play, he should play," Packers president and CEO Mark Murphy said. "He's very unique in that he's almost 40 and he can still play. If he wants to, he should do it. And we wish him the best. But we're really focused on our team and getting ready for the season, and we feel pretty optimistic about the season we're going to have."

Favre has made it clear over the past year that he holds a grudge against Packers general manager Ted Thompson for several reasons stretching back several years, including the team's lack of interest in signing free agent wide receiver Randy Moss or hiring Favre's friend, Steve Mariucci, to be the Packers' coach.

But Favre's previous disagreements with the front office were nothing compared to last year's mess, one of the ugliest divorces between a star player and a franchise in recent memory.

After waffling about his football future for several years, Favre formally announced his retirement in March 2008 -- but even then, his mind wasn't made up. After months of backchannel communications with Packers officials, Favre decided last July that he wanted to play again. By then, the Packers had decided to move on with Rodgers.

Favre tried to force the Packers to take him back, turning training camp into a media circus. The Packers eventually traded Favre to the New York Jets -- where he won big early on, fizzled down the stretch and retired again in February.

Now Favre apparently is having second thoughts for the second straight year.

"If it's in you to be a football player, you want to belong to something," Packers linebacker Brady Poppinga said. "My whole life, I've belonged to something. I've either been a part of the football or basketball or the track team, and I know that some day when I'm not part of one of those things, you're going to want that feeling of being a part of something."

Poppinga even can forgive Favre's use of the word "we" in talking about the Vikings during his HBO interview.

"If that may have Freudian-slipped, kind of bursted out of there, then I don't blame him," Poppinga said. "That's just the nature of who he is and the nature of being a part of a team your whole life."

Drama aside, would it be fun to face Favre?

"I just like to be challenged," Poppinga said. "And there's nothing better than to be challenged by greats and by great competitors."

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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