GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Packers coach Mike McCarthy was grilled about rumors of a Brett Favre comeback Wednesday -- not by the media, but by kids at the Boys & Girls Club of Green Bay.
Standing at a podium to announce a $100,000 donation to the club in conjunction with the team, McCarthy was asked by 11-year-old Miranda Black of nearby Oconto Falls the biggest question in the state these days: "Um, is Brett Favre coming back?"
McCarthy politely punted.
"I want to know which one of those media individuals made you say that," McCarthy said, referring to reporters standing in the back of the room. "Those are things we'll obviously, we'll get to down the line. But great question."
But it didn't stop there, as other kids in the audience of about 75 shouted out questions about Favre, who retired in March but might be having second thoughts.
One wanted to know how good the Packers were going to be without Favre.
"Well, we're going to be a good football team regardless of what happens," McCarthy said. "It's a football team that has worked very hard since the end of last season. The team has done a great job of improving. And we have a big training camp coming up and that's always a big part of our preparation, getting ready to go."
After McCarthy dodged a few more questions about Favre -- Why did he quit? How old is he, anyway? -- one child asked the coach if he would sign their T-shirts.
"Sure," he joked. "It's better than answering these questions."
McCarthy later waved off questions from reporters about the Favre situation, saying it wasn't the right time or place to discuss it.
It's a sticky situation for the Packers.
If Favre really is feeling the "itch" to play again after retiring in March, as was reported by ESPN last week, do they welcome him back with open arms? Or is it time to move on with his designated successor, Aaron Rodgers -- even if that leaves open the possibility of Favre playing for another team?
To date, McCarthy's answers to the kids Wednesday remain the only public comments from the coach or general manager Ted Thompson since the latest round of reports and rumors of a potential Favre comeback surfaced last week.
Rodgers, who has spent the offseason preparing as the starter, also is trying to avoid the subject.
"I've been up in the mountains hanging out with my family, so I've been pretty immune to any media reports out there," Rodgers said on a conference call promoting the American Century Championship golf tournament.
But former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer, who was on the conference call along with Rodgers, said a Favre comeback would be frustrating and disappointing to Rodgers.
"Obviously Brett holds all the cards here," Dilfer said. "But at the same time, like anything, you deal with it. And just because Brett came back, if Brett were to come back and play and start and all those things, (you're) always one snap away. I know we're saying that about the most durable football player in the history of the NFL, but things change very quickly in this league."
Favre sobbed in his retirement news conference March 6, saying, "It's been a great career for me, and it's over." But the tears hardly had dried before reports and rumors surfaced that he was having second thoughts.
In early April, Thompson dismissed a report in the Los Angeles Times that Favre's representatives were exploring a comeback with another team.
Later that month, after the Packers officially placed Favre on the reserve/retired list, Favre admitted he was having second thoughts.
"There are always second thoughts, but that's not saying I am coming back," he said. "It's never a clear-cut decision. It's something I can't expect everyone to understand."
Then Favre told the Gulfport (Miss.) Sun Herald that he'd be tempted to come out of retirement if Rodgers was injured.
The latest round of Favre speculation kicked off last week, when ESPN reported that Favre had told McCarthy he was feeling the "itch" to play again. But the Packers don't seem to be tripping over themselves to get Favre back in the fold, leading to speculation about rising tension between the quarterback and the team.
Favre hasn't spoken publicly about the latest reports, beyond telling the Sun Herald that the speculation is "all rumor" and that there was "no reason" for a media circus.
As for young Miranda, sporting a green Care Bears T-shirt and black curly hair, she only asked McCarthy about Favre because her mom wanted to know.
"If Brett Favre comes back, that would be fine," she said. "If he doesn't come back, that would be all right, too."
And she seemed to hope for a better answer than the one she got.
"Well, I was thinking that he had probably answered that, a yes or no question, or maybe called up Favre or something," she said.
But Miranda's best friend, 10-year-old Lexi Novitski, hopes for a return.
"I want Brett Favre to come back," she said. "I'm excited for the football season to start."
John Benberg, the club's executive director, said he wasn't surprised the children had such direct questions for the coach.
"Our kids are very bright, interesting, sometimes hard-core bunch," Benberg said. "They don't mince any words when they ask their questions -- which is the way it ought to be, I think, when you're 8 or 10."
If only it were that simple for adults.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press