Notebook: Sharper, Longwell praise Rodgers

In other news from Saturday: Pickett will be a key; McCarthy focuses on Kitna, not Favre.

The Minnesota Vikings have done a lot of yapping about what they intend to do to Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers in his debut as the starter on Monday.

However, two Vikings with Packers ties, safety Darren Sharper and kicker Ryan Longwell, are impressed with what they've seen of Rodgers.

"I can see how they believe that he can do the job," Sharper said. "He has shown in preseason games to have the moxie to be a quarterback in this league. He has shown that he can mobile and can make all the throws necessary to be a top-flight quarterback, so we'll see what he does on Monday night."

Longwell, who played for the Packers when Rodgers was drafted in the first round in 2005, also had praise for Green Bay's untested starter.

"He's a lot further advanced than people think," Longwell said. "People think this is his first go-around, but the opportunity to be in the league for four years with having to be really the guy is an opportunity (Falcons quarterback) Matt Ryan and those other (rookie quarterbacks) would like to have. He's in a good situation and I think he'll be fine."

Nonetheless, the Vikings know what kind of pressure Rodgers faces as he replaces Brett Favre, and they have no intention of giving him a free pass.

"It's going to be a lot of pressure," Sharper said. "Not just from him trying to replace a legend, but the pressure we're going to apply to him. Playing against a defense as good as ours, it's going to be a different tone from what you've seen in the preseason. We definitely want to bring pressure and get him flustered. It's his first start, so you definitely want to get under his chin a little bit and see how tough he is."

Pickett fence

Two key figures on Monday night will be two players who haven't taken a snap since last year's NFC championship game: running back Ryan Grant and defensive tackle Ryan Pickett.

Pickett's play is essential considering the Packers' run-first opponent. Pickett and coach Mike McCarthy said Pickett will not be limited by a snap count. As long as his conditioning is sound, the massive run-stuffer will be on the field trying to corral Adrian Peterson.

"Ryan Pickett, the strength of his game is run defense," McCarthy said. "He's definitely one of our better or best run stoppers in there. He'll definitely contribute to the success of our run defense, just like he did last year. It's great to have him back.

"But run defense, just like run offense, it's all about attitude, technique, fundamentals and finish, and that's our focus. That's a strength, running the football was a strength of their football team last year, and I'm sure that will be an approach they try with us Monday night. We anticipate it, and we'll see what happens."

Grant, meanwhile, took part in all of Saturday's practice after being held out for precautionary reasons on Friday.

Watching Kitna, not Favre

A New York Jets-Miami Dolphins game hasn't been must-see TV since Ken O'Brien squared off against Dan Marino.

That will change on Sunday, when Favre makes his Jets debut at Miami.

The game will be carried in the Green Bay market, but McCarthy will not be watching.

"I'm actually going to work on Detroit, if you must know," McCarthy said. He'll be getting a jump on the Lions, since the Packers will have a short week of practice.

Speaking of schedule

In case you were wondering about how the Packers will spend their time leading to Monday night's game:

"Sunday will be a Saturday for us, a normal Saturday," McCarthy said. "We'll be done here approximately 11, 11:30 (a.m.). We'll go to the hotel just like we have every year between 7 and 8 (p.m.), we'll have 8:30 chapel over there, 9 o'clock will be our team meeting. And then Monday, we'll have walk-throughs in the morning. It is an early starting time (6 p.m.), it's not your traditional Monday night game (which start at 7 p.m.). I think that helps, especially being at home."

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


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