While team president Mark Murphy said Thursday that Brett Favre could “possibly” return to Lambeau Field for a game this season, the Green Bay Packers don’t expect to retire the legendary quarterback’s No. 4 this year.
And at least part of the reason is concern about him being booed.
Speaking after a meeting with reporters about the club’s financial picture, Murphy wouldn’t rule out the possibility of Favre making an appearance at the stadium in 2014, but he all but nixed the idea of Favre’s jersey retirement happening this season. And at least part of the reason is Favre’s concern and the team’s concern about how he will be received by Packers fans in the wake of his 2008 departure.
“I don’t anticipate having him retire a number this season, in a game this year,” Murphy said. “We have very good relations, and very good communication, but I don’t anticipate that this year.”
Asked if Favre could come back for a game without having his number retired that day, Murphy replied, “ Possibly. I just can’t confirm anything to this point.”
Last month, ESPNWisconsin’s Mark Chmura, Favre’s longtime friend and teammate, said that he was told by an NFL source that Favre backed out of coming to Lambeau Field last year for fear of being booed. Another source close to Favre said it was the Nov. 4 game against the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football that Favre’s camp and the Packers were talking about for his return.
On Thursday, Murphy wouldn’t confirm that the Bears game had been the game under consideration, but he did acknowledge that Favre is worried about being booed.
“That is an issue. He doesn’t want it, and neither do we,” Murphy said. “He wouldn’t want to come back and get booed. You can’t control 80,750 people … [but] I really think as time goes on, every year that passes, it’s less likely that he would get booed, but that is an issue.”
Last season, after signing a ceremonial one-day contract with the Packers, kicker Ryan Longwell returned to the stadium and was introduced to the crowd at one point. He was booed by many of the fans in attendance, and his greatest transgression – other than signing with the rival Minnesota Vikings as a free agent in 2006 – was a poorly executed joke about the Twin Cities having better restaurant options than he had at Green Bay, where he’d become the franchise’s all-time leading scorer while kicking for the Packers from 1997 through 2005.
Longwell, who helped recruit Favre to the Vikings after his one season with the New York Jets, was traveling in Europe Thursday and did not return a text message or a voicemail.
“Brett was confirmed to come up here to a game last year,” Chmura said last month during his weekly radio show on 540 ESPN in Milwaukee and 100.5 ESPN in Madison. “But (he) had to cancel at the last second, a game late in the year. Brett is very afraid of getting booed at Lambeau. And that’s why he’s reluctant to come up.
“He wasn’t going to do anything. There was no coin toss or anything like that. He was just going to go up and watch the game in a box. I think they might’ve shown him on the JumboTron, just to get a [feel] for it.”
Asked about the discussion about Favre coming back for the Packers-Bears game last year on Monday Night Football, Murphy paused and replied, “We’ve had discussions throughout. There were a couple different options we were looking at.”
Murphy has long said that he wants to retire Favre’s number before he enters the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Favre retired from the Vikings in 2010, meaning he is eligible for election in February 2016. If selected on the first ballot, he would be enshrined in August 2016.
“I can say with confidence he will be a first-year Hall of Famer,” Murphy said.
But when asked if he believed Favre’s number would be retired before that, Murphy departed from the answer he’s given in recent conversations. Rather than expressing confidence it would happen, he instead expressed hope.
“Hopefully,” Murphy said of a 2015 jersey retirement. “That’s our hope.”
In a June interview on SiriusXM NFL Radio, Favre struck a hopeful tone about coming back to Green Bay.
“It's going to happen, I'll be back up there. Again, my career in Green Bay, I wouldn't trade it for anything. It was awesome. The people were awesome, and I just think everything's going to be fine and in my opinion it is now. It's just a matter of getting back up there.”
Favre is expected to be enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in the 2016 class, and Packers president Mark Murphy has made it clear that he and the organization want Favre’s No. 4 retired before that happens. Murphy said in April that conversations were positive between the sides.
“I think he’s excited to come back,” Murphy said in March at the NFL Meetings. “It’s really just kind of working out the timing.”
Listen to Jason Wilde every weekday from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. on “Green & Gold Today” on 540 ESPN, and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/jasonjwilde.