NEW ORLEANS – Perhaps it would have been too cruel if the last pass Brett Favre threw in his spectacular career was an ill-advised and arguably game-losing interception in the Minnesota Vikings' NFC title match with the New Orleans Saints last January.
Never mind that it occurred in the Louisiana Superdome — where he won his only Super Bowl with Green Bay back in 1997, a stadium less than an hour's drive from his hometown of Kiln, Miss., and against the team he rooted for growing up.
For the most part, Favre had been fantastic at 40, and that was no way to go out. Sure enough, he was back in the Louisiana Superdome for the NFL's opener on Thursday night. There would be one more season — his 20th — and more memories of an exceptional NFL career.
"I do feel as confident as I did this time last year, maybe even a little more confident," Favre said. "I didn't know what to expect last year."
Tracy Porter's interception at the end of regulation in the NFC championship, which saved the Saints' Super Bowl run, overshadowed a magnificent performance by the Vikings quarterback. Favre took a beating but kept slinging scintillating completions in a 310-yard night that made him the all-time leader in playoff yards passing, ahead of Joe Montana.
"We hit him a lot last year. You should see the throws that he was making. It was amazing to watch, actually," Saints safety Roman Harper said. "It really blew me away how accurate he was amid all the pressure. He'd be off his back foot and zing it 20 to 25 yards on a rope. That's the part that's really amazing to watch because you just don't see a lot of quarterbacks that are able to do that."
When Favre hobbled off the field with a gimpy ankle on Jan. 24, 2010, not even he knew if he'd ever play again.
So began what seems to have become an annual ritual of waffling until halfway into the preseason, when Favre decided he would not retire for a third time and instead come back for at least one more season.
Recently, he said it would be his last — take that for what it's worth — and he seemed pleased that he would kick off his 20th season with a return trip to the Superdome. After all, that gave him the chance to join the long-suffering Saints fans he grew up with for the unfurling of the franchise's first championship banner.
"It was mixed emotions going there last year as I grew up a huge Saints fan," Favre said. "I was no different than all the other Saints fans throughout the years. You just lived to wait for another year and say 'We are going to get it next year.'
"It is close to home — and I don't know if that is good or bad considering all the ticket requests we are always getting," Favre said, before adding, "It is fun to go back there."
Favre will be 41 on Oct. 10, and although he had a career best passer-rating of 107.2 last season, there was no telling how affective he would be this year following surgery on this left ankle and an injection to, in his words, lubricate "where it's bone on bone."
"It remains to be seen if it will work," Favre said this week.
With Favre's return coming against the defending champs in the first game of the NFL season, there was a big-game build-up to the opening kickoff. NFL-sponsored pre-game festivities included a concert in the French Quarter featuring Dave Matthews and Taylor Swift, along with a Mardi Gras-style parade
Tailgaters were setting up around the Superdome, on the edge of downtown, at noon, and there did not appear to be a lot of work being done. Some government offices, business and schools shut down as if it were a state holiday.
The big difference, of course, is that both teams have another 15 games scheduled this season.
So for Favre and the Vikings, the biggest concern wouldn't be the final score of the first game on the schedule. It would be how Favre, who has still never missed a start in his career (285 straight in the regular season, 309 including playoffs) would feel in the days, weeks or months ahead.
"In all honesty, this game is totally different from (the NFC championship), for obvious reasons," Favre said. "Both teams will continue to play.
"Don't get me wrong. I want to win this game as much as I wanted to win last year's game, (but) it is a different mindset."