The shoot, as feared, is exactly like last year. It's all hokey Americana; there's a chocolate Lab, a red pickup truck, a fishing boat, and an unintentional homoerotic moment when Brett pushes a sculpted young man into a lake with all his clothes on. It will end with a twilight scrimmage. Bus disappears to call Vikings coach Brad Childress, telling him the ankle surgery is minor and won't be the deciding factor in whether Favre plays in 2010. There are costume changes and camera fixes, so there's plenty of time for Brett to pontificate. It's been two years since the Packers unloaded him to the Jets, and he's still pretty pissed off about it.
"I'll admit I made the mistake of retiring early," he says, tearing into a giant cupcake. "But I felt they were pushing me toward it."
After Favre reversed that first retirement in August 2008, there was a meeting between Team Brett and the Packers front office at Favre's Green Bay home to discuss what to do with him. The Packers didn't want him back; they were committed to going with Aaron Rodgers, a promising young quarterback. But they couldn't just release Favre for salary cap reasons. That meant a trade. Deanna, Bus, and Brett sat on one side of the table; Packer GM Ted Thompson and head coach Mike McCarthy sat on the other side.
"There was just silence," remembers Favre. He inhales the rest of the cupcake. "I said, 'Well, what are we gonna do?' They made it pretty clear I wasn't going to play there, and I said, 'How about the Vikings or even the Lions?' I wanted to stay in the same division. They said that wasn't going to happen, but maybe Tampa." He swallows the remnant of his snack, but frosting is still smeared in his stubble. "I said, 'Fine, trade me to Tampa. I'll whip your asses in week four.' "
He laughs. "Maybe that was a mistake. I'm flying back to Hattiesburg thinking I'm going to the Bucs, and I get off the plane and Bus tells me I've been traded to the Jets. I said, 'Bullshit,' but they were smart; they released the news so I'd look like an ass if I backed out."
Favre walks onto the phony field. The commercial crew has choreographed razzle-dazzle plays they want Brett to run through in the simulated pickup game. The other guys – a mix of actors and local extras – are mostly a decade younger. They're getting into it, working up a sweat, high-fiving each other between plays. Favre indulges them and joins in, repeatedly screaming, "Incoming!" – making his teammates flinch, thinking that a returning football is about to bash them in the head. Somehow they fall for the joke five times. Then, one pretty boy makes a couple of nifty catches. He makes the mistake of telling Favre he never drops a pass.
Brett just nods and winks at me on the sideline. The camera rolls again. He drops back and unleashes a throw at approximately 10 times the velocity of his previous tosses. The ball hits Pretty Boy's chest like a concussion grenade. Pretty Boy falls over. Pretty Boy doesn't catch the ball. Pretty Boy will have an imprint of laces on his sternum in the morning.