MILWAUKEE (AP) – For most of his career, he was celebrated as a tough guy playing a man’s game with the joy of a little boy. Now Brett Favre stands on the verge of plunging the sports world into yet another offseason’s worth of waffling on his retirement.

Does Favre really want to play for the Minnesota Vikings – or is he simply willing to jump at any chance to play against the Green Bay Packers and prove a point to the man who traded him, general manager Ted Thompson?

That doesn’t seem to be a particularly important question in the Twin Cities right now, where the potential signing of Favre is seen as the final piece in an otherwise Super Bowl-ready roster. The chance to tweak a division rival makes it even juicier.

Even Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty – perhaps forgetting that he’d need to pick up a vote or two in Wisconsin if he runs for president in 2012 – called the potential Favre signing “a wonderful little salt to rub in the eyes of some of our Green Bay Packer friends” on Wednesday.

“Can you imagine Brett Favre going into Lambeau Field in Viking purple and maybe even wearing No. 4?,” Pawlenty asked. “There would be audible gasps.”

Right now, the collective sound emanating from Wisconsin – and anywhere else fans have tired of Favre’s now-annual bouts of public indecision on his football future – is a loud, protracted groan.

The 39-year-old Favre, who is a free agent after retiring for the second time in as many years and being released by the New York Jets, is scheduled to meet with Minnesota coach Brad Childress this week to discuss the possibility of playing for the Vikings, according to several media reports.

Favre’s agent, Bus Cook, did not return messages left by The Associated Press. But in an interview posted on USA Today’s Web site Wednesday afternoon, Cook reiterated that Favre remains retired, said he wasn’t aware of any meeting with Childress, and denied that Favre would return simply out of spite.

“Are there certain things about the Packers, how things ended there and he felt they didn’t treat him right? That’s true,” Cook told the newspaper. “Does he have a certain vendetta against them? That’s not true. If he came back, it would be because he wants another chance to win a Super Bowl.”

For now, much remains unclear about Favre’s situation, including just how much he has left to give. He was awful at the end of last season, and apparently hasn’t had surgery to fix an arm injury that might explain his subpar play.

That’s the danger in a comeback: While Favre would get a pair of chances to stick it to his old team with the Vikings, he also could sustain a serious injury, alienate whatever remains of his fan base in Wisconsin and become a national punchline in the process.

And he shouldn’t expect his former Packers teammates to take it easy on him.

Packers linebacker Nick Barnett posted on his Twitter account Wednesday that Favre should “do whatever he feels is in his heart” – as long as he’s prepared for Packers players to treat him like the enemy.

“Once he puts (on) that purple, he will become an enemy which is all part of the game,” Barnett said. “It’s hard to imagine him doing that.”

But given the squishy nature of Favre’s relationship with the concept of retirement, and the depth of his distaste for Thompson, it really isn’t all that hard to imagine.

Even in his announcing his second retirement in February after one season with the New York Jets, Favre had a hard time hiding his grudge against the Packers general manager.

“My stay in Green Bay was unbelievable, unbelievable,” Favre said at the time. “And not one thing could take that away, not one person. And that organization has been outstanding to me throughout my career. It is what it is. It’s unfortunate.”

Favre went a step further in a subsequent interview with’s Peter King, saying, “Part of me coming back last year, I have to admit now, was sticking it to Ted.”

Favre’s list of complaints against Thompson stretches back several years, and includes the Packers letting a pair of veteran offensive linemen leave through free agency, not signing wide receiver Randy Moss and not interviewing Favre’s friend, Steve Mariucci, after Mike Sherman was fired.

The camera-shy Thompson hasn’t taken public potshots at Favre throughout the controversy, and Packers coach Mike McCarthy tried to distance himself from the subject last week.

“If Brett wants to play football, he should play football,” McCarthy said. “And that’s really my stance on it. I mean, if he still wants to play, he should take advantage of his opportunities.”

McCarthy clearly didn’t want to get sucked back into an issue that became a major distraction during the team’s training camp last year, before Favre ultimately was traded to the Jets.

“The what-ifs and the hypothetical stories, you know, I thought maybe you guys would give me a bye this year,” McCarthy joked to reporters. “I did such a good job last year.”

Meanwhile, Favre’s once-untouchable popularity in Wisconsin seems to be waning – although one of the team’s most famous fans, NASCAR driver Matt Kenseth, said he wouldn’t mind Favre playing for the Vikings.

“I hope he comes back and plays again,” Kenseth said. “I think it would be fun to have him in the division and play at Lambeau Field again.”

But former Packers and Vikings safety Darren Sharper said Favre’s image would likely take a big hit in Wisconsin.

“He’s not going to want to answer any fan mail,” Sharper said, in an interview on Sirius NFL Radio. “He’s not going to want to look at any Web sites or blogs. Because the way I took a beating when I left Green Bay and headed to Minnesota, to think of Brett Favre, a legend for the Packers, going to Minnesota? He won’t be able to go back to, I think, Wisconsin to get inducted into the Packer Hall of Fame because they’re going to be a little bit upset.”

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