CELEBRATION — Perhaps he arrives tonight. Perhaps he will slink around the AMC Theatres and scuba dive underneath the lake, shimmying across the parking lot in order to stay beneath the radar.
Perhaps, under cover of darkness, he will parachute gently onto that part of the team hotel that looks like a guard tower. Perhaps he will then roll out across the roof and come in through the bathroom window.
Perhaps, even now, he is hiding out at Disney World, his identity cloaked by a giant Tigger head.
Soon, perhaps Brett Favre will arrive at Bucs training camp.
After all, his legend reported right on time.
It was Favre Recognition Day at the Celebration Hotel on Friday, which was kind of odd since, technically, the guy doesn't work for the team that is staying here. No matter. Favre was here in spirit, in speculation, in rampant rumor and in constant questions. The buzz could not have been louder if Jon Gruden had walked across the parking lot in a Packers jersey with No. 4 on it.
All in all, it was the strangest reporting day ever for the Bucs. Favre talk simply took it over. For a day, at least, he was Bucco Brett. Favre's name hasn't been spoken this often since John Madden was overheard moaning it repeatedly on the day Favre tried to retire.
Hey, look! There is Ronde Barber!
Gee, I wonder what he has heard about Favre.
Yes, the NFL's runaway rumor has reached a new level of wackiness. Suitcase after suitcase kept arriving, and the only baggage anyone cared about belonged to Favre. Kevin Carter came into the interview room, and Davin Joseph and Derrick Brooks, and all were peppered with questions about Favre.
Alas, there were no sightings. There was, however, a guy wearing a Danny Wuerffel jersey, and for a moment, you wondered if maybe Gruden was bringing him to camp, too.
On reporting day, of course, you expect a coach to deal with a lot of questions. About the thin group of wide receivers. About the signing of the No. 1 draft pick. About the absence of Jeff Garcia, the incumbent starting quarterback who for some reason happens to be sniffing the garlic in Gilroy, Calif.
Of course, it would be easier to feel sorry for Gruden if he had taken any one of the dozens of opportunities he had to step on the neck of the Favre rumors. Instead, he tap-danced around them. Oh, he would say something like, "Garcia is our quarterback," but not without saying, "as we sit here." He would say, "We haven't asked for permission to talk to Favre," then he would say, "as far as I know."
You know what it sounded like? It sounded like a guy saying, "We aren't going to trade for Favre today … but we sure would like to tomorrow."
And so the drumbeat gets louder. And you wonder: Did all of this noise start because Bruce Allen had a casual conversation with Chris Simms about how long it might take Favre to learn the playbook? That's big news, if for no other reason than it suggests that Allen had a casual conversation with Simms. Given the stories of the past year, you would expect Simms to be throwing rocks at Allen's office window while Allen shakes his fist in response.
It's amusing. It's entertaining. It is much more fun to debate Favre, the superior quarterback, against Garcia, who has the superior knowledge of the offense, than it is to chat about the depth chart at long-snapper.
As we all know, Gruden loves quarterbacks the way Madonna loves to boogie and the way Britney Spears loves Marlboros. Still, this seems crazy. Conspiracy theorist that I am, I was convinced that Garcia was attending his reunion to thumb his nose at the Bucs because of his contract dispute and that the Favre talk was the team's way of thumbing its nose back. By now, however, there at least seems to be some interest on the part of the Bucs.
Know this, however. Asking for permission to talk to a quarterback — if someone has brazenly done so without Gruden's knowledge — is a long way from completing a deal. The odds remain against it.
If I were the Bucs general manager, I would want to know how Favre really felt about playing in Tampa Bay. I would want to know what the price would be in a trade. I would want to know how long it would take Favre to learn most of the playbook (Hint: If he learns the touchdown plays first, it won't take long). I would want some sort of inclination that Favre planned to play beyond this year. I would want to know when Favre planned to file those reinstatement papers.
Most of all, I would want to know what Favre thinks of Donovan McNabb.
After all, this time next year, Gruden is probably going to be interested.