American Football: Favre jolts Vikings with retirement threat

With everyone assuming Brett Favre was returning for a 20th NFL season, the Minnesota Vikings were enjoying a relatively calm and quiet training camp as they started preparations for another run at the Super Bowl. All that tranquillity, and certainty, is out of the window now.

Favre, who turns 41 in October, has told some team-mates and Vikings officials that his surgically-repaired left ankle is not healing the way he would like it to and that he will not return to Minnesota this season.

"He told a couple guys on our team he's going to retire," tight end Visanthe Shiancoe said. "He hasn't told me yet. I'm going to check my phone right now, but it hasn't been said publicly yet so I don't know what to believe."

Even with Favre's history of changing his mind – he has retired twice before after all, in 2008 and last year – the revelations came as a surprise to most people surrounding the Vikings. They reported to a training camp in Mankato, Minnesota last week confident that after they wrapped things up next week Favre would join them.

But Favre's messages to team-mates turned things upside down. Owner Zygi Wilf, vice-president of player personnel Rick Spielman and vice-president of football operations Rob Brzezinski were seen huddled in long discussions during practice.

Head coach Brad Childress said after the morning practice that he had not been directly contacted by Favre and called the 40-year-old quarterback's status "fluid". Childress has shown a great deal of patience with Favre, saying he would not set a deadline for a decision and allowing him to skip training camp for a second straight year. "It wouldn't surprise me one way or the other, whether he elects to play or whether he elects to retire," Childress said. "I think all of us can live with it either way."

With Favre, of course, there is always the chance that he changes his mind, and that is what the Vikings are hoping for yet again. He told the team last year he would not play, but ended up joining them after their training camp. Childress even drove to the airport to meet him for his 19th NFL season.

Favre has considered retiring every summer since 2002. It led to an ugly parting with the Green Bay Packers that got him traded to the Jets in 2008. After an indifferent season in New York, he announced his retirement in early 2009 for the second time, then reconsidered and signed with the Vikings.

He had one of his best seasons last year, with career bests in completion percentage (68.4), quarterback rating (107.2) and fewest interceptions (seven), while throwing for 33 touchdowns and 4,202 yards to lead the Vikings to an NFC North title.

He hurt his left ankle in the NFC championship defeat to the New Orleans Saints and had arthroscopic surgery in May. Favre was under contract for $13m (£8.2m) this season – but only if he plays.