These annual Brett Favre retirements are a little like rumors of the NFL returning to Los Angeles. They start as stop-the-presses stories, but after a while you just stop listening.
Favre is done.
But people who suggest this is absolutely the end for the 39-year-old quarterback were saying the same thing 11 months ago, when Favre tearfully retired from the Green Bay Packers.
Is it real this time? Or just more crock management?
Favre isn't the first NFL star to finish his career -- if this is indeed the end -- in an unfamiliar jersey. Johnny Unitas closed out his with the San Diego Chargers. Joe Namath finished with the L.A. Rams. Franco Harris' last team was the Seattle Seahawks. Those could all be answers to trivia questions.
But no one will forget that Favre's apparent final act came with the New York Jets.
"It's time to leave," he told reporters in a conference call Wednesday. "The downside of this sport, unlike other professions, is you can't do it forever."
Was it worth it?
Only Favre can answer that, because he made a lot of money and was able to scratch that itch, the one he talked about last summer when he announced his decision to un-retire. He also left a lot of disenchanted Packers fans in his wake, ones who would have defended him to the bitter end had he just decided to hang up his cleats when he said he would.
(It's worth noting that Packers General Manager Ted Thompson, widely vilified by Favre and his backers last summer, is looking better by the day. So is Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who was a class act throughout the Favre ordeal and played very well in his first season as a starter.)
What Favre learned in his jump from the Packers to the Jets is that the (gang) green isn't always greener on the other side of the fence. Yes, he made the Jets a better team -- for the first part of the season, at least -- and gave them an immeasurable marketing boost when they needed one to sell personal-seat licenses for their new stadium.
Yet, just as in his career, he didn't know when to say when. He was hampered down the stretch by a torn right biceps and had two touchdowns and nine interceptions in the last five games, four of which the Jets lost.
Favre blamed the injury for his struggles. "I guess it was a matter of time before something broke down, and for the quarterback it happened to be the most important thing -- the throwing shoulder," he said. "It could very well be fine next year, and I'm aware of that."
If that sounds to you as if Favre still has his foot jammed in the door -- the suggestion that his shoulder could be fine next year -- you're probably not imagining things.
Even if he's being as sincere as he can, there's a very real possibility that he'll get that gnawing urge to play again once summer rolls around.
He sounded just as sure of his decision a year ago.
As for his legacy, that might be bruised but it's intact. He still has the credentials to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, including the NFL records for passing yards, touchdowns, victories as a starting quarterback and, of course, interceptions.
But there's no denying Favre has lost credibility over the last year. His word is his bond. Except when it isn't.
It's funny, one of the most appealing things about Favre is the fact that he's human. He's as unpretentious as his unshaven face, as casual as blue jeans at a cocktail party, a superstar with a homespun, aw-shucks appeal.
But it's his other very human traits -- namely indecisiveness and ego -- that leave us unable to say if over really means over.