Brett Favre has handed the Minnesota Vikings one more loss.
The 39-year-old Favre called Vikings coach Brad Childress on Tuesday to tell the coach he won't be coming out of retirement to play for Minnesota.
"It was the hardest decision I've ever made," Favre told ESPN. "I didn't feel like physically I could play at a level that was acceptable. I would like to thank everyone, including the Packers, Jets and Vikings - but, most importantly, the fans."
The decision, which was first reported by the Star Tribune of Minneapolis, is a stunning blow for the Vikings after they openly courted Favre all summer. Adding Favre would have been viewed by many as the final piece for a team that already has star running back Adrian Peterson and a stingy veteran defense that returns nearly intact from last year's NFC North title season.
"It was a rare and unique opportunity to consider adding not only a future Hall of Fame quarterback but one that is very familiar with our system and division," Childress said in a prepared statement. "That does not detract from the team that we have."
Last year, Favre tearfully retired from the Green Bay Packers after 17 seasons in the NFL and three MVP awards - then made an about-face and played for the New York Jets. He retired again, had surgery in May to alleviate a torn biceps tendon and then flirted with the idea of coming back again with the Vikings, the Packers' NFC North rival.
"When I heard the news, I was probably as surprised and shocked as everybody else," linebacker Ben Leber told The Associated Press in a phone interview. "The writing on the wall was as long as his arm was healthy he was going to play. I thought it was just a contractual deal that was taking so long and I really expected him to be at camp. So I was really surprised."
After two months of rehab, Favre told Childress he didn't think he had enough in him to get through a full season.
"I had to be careful not to commit for the wrong reasons," Favre said. "They were telling me, 'You went through all this, you had the surgery and you've got to finish it off.' But I have legitimate reasons for my decision. I'm 39 with a lot of sacks to my name."
Now Childress has some damage control to do with Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels, the two veterans who were expected to compete for the job before the latest Favre drama began.
Jackson and Rosenfels were peppered with questions about Favre during the team's minicamps this summer. It already was a testy situation for them to deal with, and now they will likely face a whole new set of inquiries with the job up for grabs again.
Jackson's agent, Joel Segal, said he spoke to his client shortly after the news broke.
"He was his usual cool, calm and collected self," Segal said. "He said, 'Great, let's get ready for camp."'
Favre holds almost every NFL career passing record that matters, including touchdown passes (464), completions (5,720), yards passing (65,127), regular-season victories (169) and interceptions (310). Many thought he could help the Vikings land that elusive Super Bowl championship, even if he was reviled by fans here during his incredible run across the state line in Wisconsin.
Favre instead passed on a chance for revenge on GM Ted Thompson and the Packers, whom he felt gave up on him too soon when deciding to move forward last summer with quarterback Aaron Rodgers. He was sent instead to the Jets, where he appeared rejuvenated early in the season before arm problems arose. He threw nine interceptions in the final five weeks and the Jets finished the year 1-4 to miss the playoffs.
Vikings players will begin arriving in Mankato for training camp on Wednesday, with a mandatory reporting day of Thursday and the first practice on Friday.
Childress has said he believes the Vikings will be good with or without Favre.
"As we have consistently communicated, we feel good about our team and they have put forth a tremendous effort this offseason preparing for the season ahead," he said. "With this behind us, we look forward to getting to Mankato and getting training camp under way."
Of course, this is Favre, which means there always could be the possibility that he will change his mind. As far as Leber is concerned, however, there's no turning back now.
"In my mind this should be the end of it," he said. "To be respectful of the players that are involved and the team as a whole, you have to put an end to this and you can't let it linger on."
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)