For years, there has been something of a running joke concerning the Vikings-Packers rivalry. There's never been any question that the Packers were the Minnesota Vikings' No. 1 rival, but it was one-sided. The Packers' top rival was Chicago.
Several former Packers have continued their careers as Vikings and gone on to have some very productive seasons, including Darren Sharper, Ryan Longwell and Brett Favre. But as a player who has seen the recent metamorphosis of the Green Bay Packers team, linebacker Desmond Bishop believes the top rival of the Packers has shifted from Chicago to the Vikings. While history dictates the Packers-Bears playing on frozen fields is the imagery that stands out, the game has changed and so has the focus of the rivalries within the NFC North.
"It used to be that way, but I don't think it's that way anymore," Bishop said. "From my experience, the Bears were a big rivalry, but, for the players, it was more the Vikings. When Favre first came over here, that really kicked things up a notch."
Bishop was a rookie in Favre's final season and was surrounded by the venom vetted by Packers fans when Favre had the audacity to sign on with a division rival. From the fan perspective, that took the rivalry to a new level. But from the player perspective, the Vikings-Packers rivalry grew because both teams were in the process of working their way toward being Super Bowl champions.
"I think both of our teams improved at about the same time," Bishop said. "The Vikings were knocking on the doorstep (in 2009) when Brett got here and the Packers won the Super Bowl in 2010. While the Bears are definitely a rival, I think from the fans and players perspective, it was a bigger rivalry game in preparing for Vikings week than preparing for Chicago."
While Favre became the face of the border battle in 2009, from the Packers' side of things, it's been about one player since 2007 – Adrian Peterson.
"From the defensive side, it's always been about Adrian," Bishop said. "You know what kind of damage he can do. You would see him on highlights and just shake your head. Then you'd see him on film and be even more impressed. When you played against him and saw it up close, it was even more impressive. We put a lot of attention into what do we have to do to stop this guy. I'm guessing it was the same type of attention that other teams would give Aaron (Rodgers) or Brett when they had to play the Packers."
It seems like every year one of the two Packers-Bears games is on national TV in prime time – giving one network the chance to wax poetic about the days of George Halas and Curly Lambeau and the battles between Bart Starr and Dick Butkus. Much like Major League Baseball, those epic matchups are part of the game's history, not the game's present.
It took a long time for the Vikings to overtake the Bears, but when it comes to Green Bay's biggest division rival, that team will be playing Sunday at Soldier field. Unfortunately for Bears fans, it won't be their favorite team.
"From the organization standpoint and from the history of the game end of things, I would say the Packers and Bears are the rivalry most people point to," Bishop said. "That's just because the rivalry dates back to the first days of the NFL and has been going on for about 100 years. The rivalry with the Vikings has built up over the years and, from the players' side, I don't think there's any question that the rivalry with the Vikings has become the No. 1 rivalry in Green Bay. It's always been that way in Minnesota, but I think it's made it over there as well."
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Bishop: Vikings now Packers' top rivalry
Viking Update Top Stories
Diggs appears on track to playThe Minnesota Vikings appear to be on track to get their leading receiver back for their Sunday matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Viking Update1:26 PM
VIDEO: Norv Turner on offensive successMinnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner talks about the success of Sam Bradford, the return of Taylor Heinicke and the variety of receivers on the team.
Viking Update11:25 AM
Edwards apologizes for ‘poor decision’Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator said his decision to drive above the legal blood-alcohol level was a “poor decision” and a “one-time deal.”
Viking Update10:24 AM
Eagles explain their side of Bradford tradeAny Vikings fan is familiar with the nuts and bolts of the Sam Bradford trade. On Wednesday, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson and quarterback Carson Wentz explained their version of…
Viking UpdateYesterday at 10:22 PM