New England Patriots defensive tackle Myron Pryor (91) hits Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre.

Do you suppose that, deep down in his heart of hearts, Brett Favre wishes now that he hadn't come back to play football again this season?

After all, last January, Favre got the Minnesota Vikings within a gray whisker of reaching the Super Bowl. He had the best statistical season of his storied NFL career, and even though his ill-fated decision to throw a late-game interception wound up costing the Vikings a shot at victory in the NFC title game against the New Orleans Saints, he could have gone out on the top of his game.

In hindsight, it would have been a great way to walk away from the game for the devil-may-care, gunslinging QB who never met a risk, or a challenge, he didn't like.

But Minnesota offered him a pile of money to return again this season for what they hoped would be another run at the Super Bowl, and maybe even that championship that has eluded the Vikings all these years. Unfortunately, he decided to come back one more time.

And since he did, the 2010 season has steadily turned into a disaster for Favre, and for the Vikings, too.

After missing virtually all of training camp, Favre is nursing a bad ankle, and he and the Vikings are limping along with a 2-5 record almost halfway through the season. With each passing week, a playoff spot seems to slip further from their grasp.

Thus far this year, Favre's passing numbers — which were so amazingly stellar last season — look more like something you'd expect from a guy who just turned 41 years old. After throwing for 33 touchdowns with just seven interceptions in 2009, when he threw for more than 4,200 yards and his passer rating reached an all-time high for the 20-year NFL veteran, he has just seven TD tosses and 11 picks this season. His passer rating and passing yards per game are both languishing at an all-time low.

What's more, while his balky ankle has bothered him most of the season, he took a vicious helmet shot to the chin and was forced to leave last Sunday's game against the New England Patriots.

As he was being carted off the field, he looked like a dazed and confused old man who was wondering, "What am I doing here?"

Over the course of the 2010 season, a lot of NFL fans are starting to ask the same question.

And, as if the problems on the playing field weren't bad enough, he's encountered some image-damaging issues off the field as well.

He admitted sending some well-publicized, suggestive voice mails to an attractive young N.Y. Jets employee, Jenn Sterger, while he was playing for the Jets in 2008. He's also been accused of sending some smutty photos of himself to her as well, though Favre has denied those allegations. The NFL is still looking into possible sexual harassment issues.

One can only wonder whether this whole mess involving Sterger would have surfaced this year at all if Favre had just decided to retire, and stay retired, after the January 2010 playoff loss to the Saints. Now Favre deserves whatever shame and punishment he gets.

Indeed, with what he and his teammates have endured on the field, combined with his alleged dalliances off the field, it's disappointing to see what has become of this fierce warrior's reputation.

Favre has been an incredible quarterback for two decades. He's been great for the game and he's been fun to watch because he loves playing the game so much.

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But, sadly, like so many great sports stars before him, it appears he has stayed too long. Like Howard Cosell said, he's become a shadow of his former self, and Favre fans have been forced to watch their tarnished hero go through a brutal campaign on and off the field.

He had a chance to walk away with his head held high, and I sure wish he had. Now, with the way this season is unfolding, he'll wind up limping away with his head down instead, likely wishing, deep down in that heart of his where his competitive fire has always burned so brightly, that he hadn't come back for one more ill-fated try in 2010.