GREEN BAY – Bob Harlan thought he had the perfect opportunity for prodigal son Brett Favre to begin reconnecting with the Green Bay Packers organization he came to embody during his 16 years as the team’s star player.
But much to the retired Packers president’s disappointment, he does not expect the iconic quarterback to return to Green Bay for former head coach Mike Holmgren’s induction into the Packers Hall of Fame on July 21.
Speaking on Green & Gold Today Tuesday morning, Harlan said he suggested to the Hall of Fame that Favre be among the invitees for Holmgren’s induction dinner, which will be held at the Lambeau Field atrium on that Saturday night. Holmgren, who coached the 1996 team – led by Favre – to the Super Bowl XXXI title, is the lone inductee this year.
But Harlan said the Hall of Fame reached out to Favre’s agent, James “Bus” Cook, and does not expect Favre to attend. Favre, who was traded to the New York Jets in 2008 following his unretirement and then spent the 2009 and 2010 seasons with the rival Minnesota Vikings, did not play in the NFL last season.
“We had a meeting about two months ago and talked about who should be invited back – Jon Gruden, Andy Reid, people like that,” Harlan said, referring to two Holmgren assistants who went on to be successful head coaches themselves. “And, we talked about players. And I said to the group, ‘What about No. 4? This would be the perfect time for him to come back, come into Green Bay.’
“The crowd at the Hall of Fame banquet is an adoring crowd, they’re as loyal to the Green Bay Packers as anybody.’ And unfortunately, I don’t think he’s going to do it. We did approach his agent, and I don’t think Brett’s going to do it. I feel badly about that.”
Harlan said as he understood it, the Packers Hall of Fame, which is run independently of the Packers organization, reached out to Cook without consulting with coach Mike McCarthy or general manager Ted Thompson first.
"What we tried to do, the people at the Packers Hall of Fame worked through his agent, and the last I heard, the agent had not gotten back to them. I don’t even know if Bus knew what we were calling about," Harlan said. "They did make that phone call to him. In my mind, there would not have been a better place for him to make his return to Green Bay.
"(McCarthy and Thompson) don’t really have anything to do with that. That strictly came from the committee that runs the banquet."
Favre attended the July 2008 Hall of Fame banquet, serving as presenter for his longtime center and friend, Frank Winters. Favre, who had criticized the organization and Thompson a few days earlier in an interview on FOX News, did not speak about the situation he and the Packers were in at the time.
Harlan said he believes Favre will return to the fold eventually, but that hard feelings remain. Harlan also said it’s important that Favre and the Packers reconcile before Favre is enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. The five-year clock starts from a player’s final game, meaning Favre would he Hall eligible for the 2016 class.
“He’s got to come back someday and have his number retired. He’s going to go into the Packers Hall of Fame; I think he should go into the Packers Hall of Fame before he goes into Canton,” Harlan said.
“I met with he and (his wife) Deanna the day they announced their retirement (in March 2008), and you could tell it was a very, very difficult day for him. I know he broke down and cried at his press conference, but in a short meeting I had with him before that conference – and basically all I wanted to do was thank him for all he did for this community and this organization – he was extremely tense and seemed very tired. And I thought Deanna, his wife, seemed the same way. And I think it was, he just could not face the reality that this was coming to an end. I felt badly about that since that day.
“I just have great respect for him, and somehow, some way, he’s got to come back here.”
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