Notebook: A big game ... or not

Vikes DT Pat Williams is a key; a better practice; special-teams update; and more from a busy Thursday.

Monday's Packers-Vikings showdown is a big game. So, naturally, everyone is downplaying its importance.

And they have a point. It is, after all, only Week 1. While the winner will take the early lead in the NFC North, the loser will have 15 weeks to overcome that one-game deficit.

"I always look at it as one-sixteenth deals," Vikings coach Brad Childress, sounding like he's talking from the Coaching 101 textbook, said in a conference call with Green Bay reporters on Thursday. "It means a little bit more because it's in the division, and there's always the hype of the offseason, people changing rosters and that type of thing. But I don't think any more of it. It's already a very good rivalry. It's a longstanding, very good rivalry, and it's a good way to start off. As good as any."

His counterpart, Mike McCarthy, sounded more concerned with the day's practice than the meaning of Monday's game.

"It's important to address your opponent. It's important to address the type of game that you're in, national TV game, it's a home opener. All those things are of significance, don't get me wrong," McCarthy said.

"But it's our first football game. I'm more concerned about our football team. I'm more concerned with how we practiced Monday, Tuesday, the things that we corrected Monday, Tuesday. ... There's tendencies of things that happen in big games, so you address those things with your team. We've actually addressed those types of statistical breakdowns throughout the preseason, and so forth. Having the opportunity to play on ‘Monday Night Football' against the Bengals was an opportunity for our team to compare, this is ‘Monday Night Football,' how we're going to start the season."

And, of course, how a team is playing on Sept. 8 isn't nearly as important as how a team is playing on Dec. 28 and, possibly, beyond.

"It's the first game of the season, so there's probably going to be a lot more mistakes," Packers receiver Greg Jennings said. "Generally, that first week, it's not mistake-free football. It's all about who capitalizes on the mistakes that are made. It's going to be definitely too early to gauge (who has the best team)."

Fearsome foursome

Defensive end Jared Allen adds star power to the Vikings' front four, but Pat Williams is the sturdy and steady force in the middle. He started his second consecutive Pro Bowl last season, and he's not just a big body to take on blockers. Williams led the Vikings' defensive linemen with 78 tackles last season.

"He's a guy that's able to move laterally," Packers right tackle Mark Tauscher said. "For as big as he is, he moves laterally. I think his instincts are probably as good as any defensive lineman in the league. He knows what you're trying to do on your first step, and he's able to react to it, a lot of times quicker than you are."

If the Packers can't control Williams and fellow Pro Bowl defensive tackle Kevin Williams, it could be a long night.

"They have a great front," Tauscher said. "There's no question about it. It's the strength of their defense. We realize we're going to have to block them and be able to run the football. I don't know if we're going to face a better defensive line than we're going to face on Monday night."

Better practice

McCarthy called Tuesday's practice a "piece of work." He was happier with Thursday's workout.

"I thought we looked like a football team that was preparing properly for a big game," McCarthy said. "I know one thing for sure: How you practice usually illustrates how well you play. That's really what our focus is on. I thought today was a good day of work for our football team, and we have two more days to make sure we've got things cleaned up and revved up and ready to go."

Long road for Humphrey

Tight end Tory Humphrey missed all of last season with a broken leg sustained on the first day of training camp. So, not surprisingly, he's looking forward to facing the Vikings.

"Yeah, Monday night. It's going to be my first time playing in a Monday night game, besides," said Humphrey, who caught three passes for 41 yards in the preseason.

Special teams

In case you were wondering, here's the No. 1 kickoff unit: From the outside to the right of kicker Mason Crosby are Jarrett Bush, Will Blackmon, Korey Hall, Desmond Bishop and Jason Hunter; from the outside to the left of Crosby are Tramon Williams, Nick Collins, John Kuhn, Brandon Chillar and Tracy White.

The No. 1 kickoff return unit features Bush, Kuhn, Humphrey, White and Aaron Rouse up front, Hall just behind them, Hunter, Mike Montgomery and Jermichael Finley in the wedge, and Blackmon and Jordy Nelson as the returners.

Culpepper retires

There was a brief flirtation between the Packers and unemployed quarterback Daunte Culpepper during the offseason. Green Bay made a token contract offer, Culpepper declined and the Packers drafted two quarterbacks.

No other teams showed interest in a quarterback who never recovered fully from major knee surgery following a 2005 injury, so on Thursday, Culpepper announced his retirement.

Coats for Kids

The Packers will hold their annual Coats for Kids collection before Monday's game.

Fans can donate new and gently used coats for distribution to needy children through area Salvation Army units. Cash donations will be accepted, as well.

The Salvation Army will be collecting coats at the corner of Lombardi Avenue and Oneida Street beginning at 5 a.m. Monday. At 1:45 p.m., the Salvation Army will be stationed at each entry gate to Lambeau Field to accept donations.

Bill Huber is editor of Packer Report and PackerReport.com. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com


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