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Vikings try to downplay Favre talk as team reports for camp

MANKATO, Minn. -- Brett Favre is retired, for now. That hasn't stopped him from continuing to loom over the Minnesota Vikings.

As the Vikings started trickling into Mankato for training camp on Wednesday evening, they were bombarded with questions about the quarterback who tormented them for so many years as a member of the rival Green Bay Packers.

After retiring in March, Favre has said he would like to play again, but has yet to file reinstatement papers with the NFL. The Packers say they have moved on and plan to start Aaron Rodgers at quarterback and have filed tampering charges against Minnesota for alleged inappropriate contact with the three-time MVP.

The allegations have put the Vikings right in the middle of all this Favre drama, and they had remained mostly quiet on the subject until confronted Wednesday.

"You can't believe everything you read," coach Brad Childress said when asked about the tampering charges. "That's an NFL matter, so I'm not going to touch that one."

Players weren't required to report until Thursday morning, but some arrived at the Minnesota State University, Mankato campus a night early. Most said they didn't give the speculation of Favre wearing purple this season much thought.

"If we do (get Favre), we do," defensive tackle Pat Williams said with a shrug. "If we don't, I'm ready to ride with Jackson. I live and die with him. I have a lot of confidence in Tarvaris. He got a whole lot better in the offseason. The whole team saw it."

Jackson did not arrive at Gage Hall while the media was allowed in the area, but receiver Bobby Wade said Favre's name never came up in their conversations this offseason, "and that's the way it should be."

"It's just not reality," Wade said. "I really want to focus on what's real to us and our possibilities as a team now and not what could be and what might be."

Almost all of the Vikings who arrived Wednesday evening took the company line, supporting Jackson while brushing aside the mere mention of Favre's name. But veteran cornerback Antoine Winfield, one of the most respected leaders in the locker room, said he would be in favor of adding Favre to the mix.

"I think it would be a great move for us," Winfield said. "But I don't know if Green Bay would trade him to a division rival."

Winfield is right. The Packers would be loathe to deal Favre to perhaps the biggest threat to their NFC North crown, especially considering they open the season against the Vikings on Monday night, Sept. 8.

Favre's No. 4 jersey is scheduled to be retired that night, but Favre has made it clear he still has something left in the tank. And Winfield agrees.

"He's still a great player. What you want to do in this league is add as many great players as you can," Winfield said. "But I think Tarvaris will do a great job for us if it doesn't happen."

Winfield couldn't help but chuckle a few times as he fielded the questions, knowing he's been in this position before. Since he signed with Minnesota in 2004, the Vikings have been one of the NFL's lightning rods.

In his four years in purple, the good-natured Winfield has had to answer questions about the infamous Love Boat incident, former coach Mike Tice's Super Bowl ticket-scalping scandal, and the difficulties during Childress's first season in 2006, when the Vikings went 6-10.

And now Favre.

"There's always some controversy with the Minnesota Vikings," the good-natured Winfield said with a chuckle. "We're about to get started. Everyone's excited. It's time to get back to work."

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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