The first step in bringing harmony to an important stretch of Green Bay Packers' history might have been completed Saturday night in New Orleans.
Quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and Brett Favre, who have combined to start 331 of the Packers' last 333 regular-season games over the last 20 years, shared a stage at the NFL's Honor Awards Show to present the AP's Comeback Player of the Year. The two former teammates worked in a well-placed joke about a certain comeback story, and then resorted to an awkward and clearly-staged handshake/quasi-hug before announcing Peyton Manning as the award's winner.
While one shaking of hands does not heal a thousand wounds, the sharing of that stage Saturday might be the initiation Favre needs to mend the fences with the Packers. It's clearly time to put that process in motion, and Rodgers agreeing to do Saturday's presentation with Favre could be the signal to all parties—Favre, the Packers franchise and the fans—that it's past due to let bygones be bygones and time to recognize a piece of franchise history that will transcend one dreadful summer in 2008.
Everyone knows the back story of that earth-rattling summer: Rodgers is drafted in the first round in 2005, Favre tearfully retires in early 2008, the Packers give the starting job to Rodgers, Favre un-retires, the Packers send Favre to New York, Favre eventually returns to Green Bay wearing purple.
Few break ups in the history of sport have burned as many bridges.
However, the last remaining embers of that destruction are slowing running out of steam. Rodgers beat Favre twice in 2010, won the Super Bowl that next February and then a year later came on stage at the first annual awards show to accept his first NFL MVP. The transition was a rocky one, but the Packers successfully moved on from one certain Hall of Famer to another who is rapidly building his own case for enshrinement in Canton someday.
Favre did get a few over-analyzed quips in here and there along the way, but to say he's still shadowing over Rodgers' reign as the Packers starting quarterback is giving too much credit to Favre and too little to Rodgers. Without much doubt, the Packers are Rodgers' team and Green Bay is Rodgers' town.
However, that current reality doesn't paint over the fact that Favre created a legacy and history in Green Bay that deserves to be celebrated.
Regardless of your personal opinions of Favre, a few certainties remain: In three years, Favre will be inducted as a first-ballot Hall of Famer, and, eventually, Favre will have his No. 4 jersey retired by the Packers. Immortality, both on a league and franchise level, is coming for Favre.
The Packers know it. Favre knows it. Rodgers knows it.
The time is quickly approaching when a somewhat petty war waged in the summer of 2008 will be put on the backburner, and the career of one of the greatest Packers of all-time is rightfully recognized with a bust in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and 10 letters on the facade of Lambeau Field. Favre should become the 23rd member of the franchise in Canton and the sixth to have his jersey number retired.
Before that happens, however, fences need to be mended. Relationships must begin the restoration process. Simple conversations are required.
Maybe Saturday night's handshake was nothing more than an awkward moment between two grown men who still hold a touch of resentment towards the other. Maybe the moment was completely and utterly fake, a creation used by the NFL to get people to watch their otherwise meaningless awards show.
Or maybe Saturday's handshake will initiate the start of a much-needed repair process. Maybe it opened up conversation between two legends of the Packers franchise who suffered through an equally maddening and trying time during the summer of 2008.
Maybe, just maybe, Favre and Rodgers opened the door for the comfort of harmony between the two—a mending of fences that can help restore a relationship between Favre and the franchise that shared 16 seasons, three MVPs, two Super Bowls and countless records.
If so, Saturday was worth infinitely more than just a 30-second skit designed for a few cheap laughs.
Zach Kruse is a 24-year-old sports writer who contributes to Cheesehead TV, Bleacher Report and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He also covers prep sports for the Dunn Co. News. You can reach him on Twitter @zachkruse2 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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