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 GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) -His shoulders slumped under a Packers parka, Brett Favre shuffled off the field while Giants players celebrated an NFC championship around him. Favre's last pass had been intercepted, setting up the winning field goal, sending the Giants to the Super Bowl and the Packers home.
That's no way for Favre to go out.
It's not a question of whether Favre still has the goods: the style, the charisma, the howitzer arm. He not only remains a great leader and showman - a football icon, if you will, throughout not only Wisconsin, but the entire league - but a pretty fine quarterback.
Although Sunday's loss, robbing the 38-year-old Favre of a return to the Super Bowl after a decade's absence, was one of his more forgettable performances, he's coming off a sensational season. A week before the NFC title game, he was superb in beating Seattle in the snow.
Yes, the frigid temperatures at Lambeau Field on Sunday seemed to bother him more than at most other times in his nonpareil 17-year career. He made some careless throws and some unwise decisions.
But that's always what you get with this riverboat gambler of a quarterback. And it's just what the Packers, not to mention the rest of pro football, needs.
For years, the only three-time league MVP was the measuring stick at the most visible position in the game. Unlike some of the other ``star'' QBs, Favre never has been dull, rarely has spouted the company line, and always made it obvious he loved playing this game. To the kid from Kiln, Miss., it's not a business, not a job, but a game.
If only every athlete kept that outlook throughout such a long tenure.
``Who knows? But we'd definitely like to see him back,'' said receiver Greg Jennings, who has become a favorite Favre target in the two seasons they've been together. ``I'd definitely like to see him in that locker over there again next year.
``Playing 17 years, it's a lot of wear and tear on your body. Whatever decisions he makes, we'll support it. I can only speak for myself: I'll be back.''
That drew laughs from everyone gathered around Jennings, but the fact Jennings and much of the youngest team in the league will return intact could influence Favre's decision. This is a team on the rise, just as the quarterback predicted before the 2006 training camp.
Wouldn't he like to be around to lead its further development? Remember, one more step and the Packers are playing for the championship.
Favre was dropping no hints last week or after Sunday's loss. He promised to make a quicker decision than he did the last two years, when his uncertain status created a soap opera he and the Packers unquestionably need to avoid this time.
When he did get reflective last Friday, he also gave no indication how he's leaning.
``I think obviously losing games, playing in games, being around a long time, you gain experience through all these games,'' Favre said. ``But I try to block out the bad ones.
``But I also feel like I've learned a lot from them, and whether or not it helps you in the next game remains to be seen. But I can say with each season there's things that I have learned from the previous season or previous games where - and it may be one play - where it has helped me see things a little bit clearer.''
Favre made it clear after falling to the Giants that his future did not hinge on any one game. Nor would he allow the emotions of the moment to cloud his mind.
``Had we won this game and gone to the Super Bowl, and whatever happens in that game,'' he said, ``when it was over, I was going to go home and think about were I wanted to go from there. I don't think that's going to really change because we didn't make it. It's been a great year.
``I'm very disappointed. I'm not going to rush to any quick decisions. ... I'm not going to let this game sway my decision one way or the other.''
There have been some difficult times in Favre's family recently, and his older daughter, 18-year-old Brittany, attends high school back in Mississippi. Favre admits he's a farm boy, and his retirement more likely will include days riding around on a tractor instead of sitting behind a microphone.
But if the competitive fire still burns within - and the aches within are easy enough to handle - Favre belongs in green and gold in 2008.
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