EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — As far as Brett Favre was concerned, he was finished.
Last fans saw the 40-year-old Vikings quarterback, he threw an interception in the final minute of regulation of the NFC title game then watched the Saints win on overtime's first series.
"Believe me, when I left New Orleans, a big part of me was — I don't want to say done — but the fact that we lost that game, how hard it is," Favre said, his voice trailing off.
Monday night, about seven months after the loss, Ryan Longwell, Steve Hutchinson and Jared Allen, his three closest friends on the team, unexpectedly arrived at his doorstep in Mississippi.
"We need an answer, yes or no," they told Favre. "We're either going home with you or moving on without you."
So here we are with Favre starting his 20th season.
"I could make a case for both playing, not playing," said Favre, who joined the Vikings for practice Wednesday. "The chances (of going to the Super Bowl) here are much greater than other places. From that standpoint, it was always going to be easier (to return). Part of me said it was such a great year, it would be easy to say, 'Hey, can't play any better, why even try?' Then the other part is, 'Guys are playing on a high level. Why don't I go back out?' "
Favre threw 33 touchdowns and seven interceptions last season but had left ankle surgery May 21. A few weeks ago, he texted teammates and the team saying he would not return because recovery was slower than expected. But he said Wednesday the ankle wasn't the main concern.
"There is nothing on me that's 100 percent," he said.
What held Favre up was what he called a fear of failure.
"I can only control what I do, but I don't want to fail," he said.
Win or lose, Favre said this will be the last time he holds a welcome back news conference.
"I can promise you this: Not that I have ever set out as a goal to play 20 years, it's 20 years and I'm done. This is the last year of my contract. I'm sure a lot of people are like, 'Yes!' " Favre said, pumping his fist.
Then — of course — he hesitated.
"Did I just say that?" Favre said with a grin. "I do believe it now. I do. I'm going to fall apart sometime."
Manning out: Giants quarterback Eli Manning will sit out Saturday's game. While he said he felt fine after needing 12 stitches during Monday's game to close a cut on his head, the team is concerned that wearing a helmet might break the stitches or irritate the wound. Backup Jim Sorgi didn't practice because of shoulder and rib injuries and also might sit. Rookie Rhett Bomar took all of the snaps.
Tebow out: Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow missed practice after taking part in warmups. The team did not disclose why, but the ex-Gator wore extra padding around his ribs during practice Tuesday.
Bills: Starting safety Jairus Byrd might miss the season opener after his third surgery on his groin in 13 months. The groin has been bothering him throughout camp, and it grew worse Monday. Also, receiver David Nelson's right ankle injury sustained Tuesday is not as bad as feared. Details were not disclosed. The ex-Gator won't play in tonight's game but could return Aug. 28.
Cowboys: Starting left guard Kyle Kosier is out for at least a month after spraining his right knee. The injury came two days after right tackle Marc Colombo had right knee surgery. But he is expected to be ready by the season opener.
Jets: All-Pro center Nick Mangold returned after missing three practices and a game with headaches. He took a blow to the head during practice last week, but the team said it was not a concussion.
Lions: Defensive end Lawrence Jackson was acquired from the Seahawks for an undisclosed pick in 2011. The 28th overall pick in 2008 started 24 of 31 games in two seasons and had 41/2 sacks last season. But Tuesday, he said he didn't fit into new coach Pete Carroll's scheme.
Redskins: Defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth sat because of the lingering effects from dehydration, which caused him to leave early on Tuesday.