MANKATO, Minn. – With everyone assuming Brett Favre was returning for a 20th NFL season, the Minnesota Vikings were enjoying a relatively calm and quiet training camp as they started preparations for another run at the Super Bowl.
All that tranquillity, and certainty, is out the window now.
Favre has told some teammates and Vikings officials that his surgically repaired left ankle is not healing the way he would like it to and that he will not return to Minnesota this season.
"He told a couple guys on our team he's going to retire," tight end Visanthe Shiancoe said after practice on Tuesday. "He hasn't told me yet. I'm going to check my phone right now, but it hasn't been said publicly yet so I don't know what to believe."
Even with Favre's history of flip-flopping, the revelations came as a surprise to most surrounding the Vikings. They reported to training camp last week confident that after they wrapped things up in Mankato on Aug. 12, Favre would join them in the Twin Cities — just as he did last season.
But Favre's messages to teammates turned things upside down on a sweltering day. Owner Zygi Wilf, vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman and vice president of football operations Rob Brzezinski were seen huddling during practice in long discussions.
Head coach Brad Childress said after the morning practice that he had not been directly contacted by Favre and called the 40-year-old quarterback's status with the team "fluid." Childress has shown a great deal of patience with Favre, saying he would not set a deadline for a decision and allowing him to skip training camp for a second straight year.
"It wouldn't surprise me one way or the other, whether he elects to play or whether he elects to retire," Childress said. "I think all of us can live with it either way. The big thing is that he is at peace with it."
With Favre, of course, there is always the chance that he changes his mind, and that's what the Vikings are hoping for yet again. He told the Vikings last year he wouldn't play, but ultimately ended up joining them after they broke training camp. Childress even drove to the airport to pick him up for his 19th NFL season.
Favre and his agent, Bus Cook, did not return messages from The Associated Press, and most players aren't taking Favre's messages as definitive just yet.
"I love Brett and he reserves the right to do what he wants to do," defensive end Jared Allen said. "We obviously love him as a teammate. We'd like to have him back. But until it's official, I'll believe it when I see it."
Star running back Adrian Peterson said his gut feeling was that Favre would be handing him the ball in the Sept. 9 opener against New Orleans, and that is what Saints receiver Lance Moore expects to see as well.
"I don't believe it," Moore said at Saints camp in Metaire, La. "As competitive as he is, I would be shocked if he wasn't here for opening night."
Favre has considered retiring every summer since 2002. It led to an ugly parting with the Packers that got him traded from Green Bay to the Jets in 2008. After a so-so season in New York, he announced his retirement in early 2009 for the second time, then reconsidered and signed with the Vikings.
He had one of his best seasons last year, with career bests in completion percentage (68.4), quarterback rating (107.2) and fewest interceptions (7), while throwing for 33 TDs and 4,202 yards to lead the Vikings to an NFC North title. He hurt his left ankle in the NFC championship loss to the New Orleans Saints and had arthroscopic surgery in May.
Favre was under contract for $13 million this season, but only if he plays.
With unproven Tarvaris Jackson in line to start at quarterback if Favre does retire, the Vikings know they need him back.
"It definitely will be a blow to the team (if he retires)," Shiancoe said. "Be real. It will be a setback to the team. It's just something that I'm pretty sure the reason has to be a strong reason."
Favre has been working out at Oak Grove High School in Hattiesburg, Miss., to see if the ankle can handle another year in the NFL. He will turn 41 in October.
There are plenty of guys in purple who think the NFL's iron man has one more season left in him.
"I'm going to try to get him here every chance I get," Shiancoe said. "I'm going to try to send him texts or something. But at the same time, I know he made a decision for a reason and hopefully that reason transforms or gets better."
If this is indeed the end for Favre, what a career.
A three-time league MVP (1995-97), Favre won the Super Bowl in 1997 with the Packers. His 11 Pro Bowl appearances are the most ever by a quarterback. He holds most major NFL records for a quarterback, including career touchdowns (497), yards passing (69,329); wins (181); and seasons with at least 3,000 yards passing (18).
Of course, he also has thrown the most interceptions (317) and been sacked 503 times — a long, long history of wear and tear.
"It's like believing in Santa Claus. You get gifts, but you ain't seen Santa Claus," said linebacker Nick Barnett, whose Packers will be challenging the Vikings for the NFC North title this year. "We'll see what happens ... If he does retire, congratulations. It's a well-deserved retirement. But if he does come back, we'll be gunning for him the same way."
AP Sports Writers Chris Jenkins in Green Bay, Wis. and Brett Martel in Metaire, La., contributed to this report.