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Favre ponders his future after Packers' early exit

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) _ Packers coach Mike Sherman has a lot of work to do overhauling his dismal defense and keeping his offensive line together. He just hopes he doesn't have to look for a new starting quarterback this offseason, too.

Sherman and Brett Favre met for 45 minutes about the quarterback's future after Green Bay's unanticipated early exit from the playoffs Sunday.

Favre, who threw four interceptions in the Packers' 31-17 loss to the Minnesota Vikings, said he didn't want his poor performance to play a role in his decision whether to retire or return to Green Bay for a 15th NFL season.

It would be easy to walk off the field after that game and say, 'I've had enough,''' Favre said.But I'm going to try to be as fair to myself and to this team as possible. I've had a lot of great games. This obviously was not one of them. But I can't base my decision on this game.''

Everything went wrong Sunday for the Packers, who lost left tackle Chad Clifton and Pro Bowl receiver Javon Walker to ankle injuries during the game.

Ryan Longwell missed a chip-shot field goal from 28 yards, and rookie cornerback Ahmad Carroll who wore boxing gloves at practice last month to try to break his habit of grabbing receivers committed two enormous penalties on the Vikings' decisive touchdown drive after the Packers pulled to 24-17 early in the fourth quarter.

Randy Moss whose reputation is still smarting because he left the field with 2 seconds left in a loss at Washington last week hauled in Daunte Culpepper's fourth TD pass and pretended to pull down his pants and moon the crowd after scoring.

Despite running on a gimpy ankle, Moss got open when cornerback Al Harris sneaked a peek into the backfield on a busted blitz.

``When you're covering Randy Moss you have to keep your eyes on Randy,'' Sherman said.

With an all-out blitz called, Harris figured Culpepper had no time to double-pump and that he'd get rid of the ball quickly. That's what Matt Hasselbeck did in the playoffs last year at Green Bay, leading to Harris' interception return for a touchdown in overtime.

Not this time.

I was as disappointed as I've ever been after a loss,'' Sherman said.I can handle losing a ballgame, but losing the way we lost the ballgame, not playing smart, was disappointing.

``I am proud of the guys in the locker room. I am not proud of the way we played.''

Sherman asked Favre not to let this game tilt his decision when he makes up his mind about 2005.

Favre is still on top of his game he threw for more than 4,000 yards and 30 touchdowns again this season and he's guided Green Bay to the playoffs 10 times, tops in the NFL during the salary cap era.

But losing hurts Favre more and more as the years go on and time ticks away on his stellar career.

Favre wanted to give Sherman an answer by the draft in April, but Sherman wants one much sooner and will give him a deadline by the time the players scatter to their offseason homes this week.

At 35, Favre feels the tug of family, not just football.

He father and brother-in-law died in the last 13 months. His oldest daughter attends high school in Mississippi and his wife, Deanna, is fighting breast cancer.

It's not about me anymore,'' Favre said.My wife has gone through some difficult times and continues to. So that is going to play into my decision-making.''

Favre, scheduled to make $6.5 million in 2005, said he's never played for the money and won't start now.

``If I come back, I want to come back for the right reasons and that's to lead this team to the Super Bowl,'' Favre said.

He's pretty certain he has the offense to do that, but the defense needs a makeover.

Still, Favre said he didn't seek assurances from Sherman about personnel changes or acquisitions. He figures his job is simply to lead whatever players are on the field.

But for now Favre wants to get as far away from football as he can, at least for a while.

My vacation is going home to Mississippi and hiding,'' he said.I'll probably think about this game until whenever. And to block this game out and make a decision is going to be difficult. But I will try my best.''

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