Longwell, Sharper Feel the Rivalry

Safety Darren Sharper played in his first two games against Green Bay, instead of with Green Bay, last year as a new member of the Minnesota Vikings. Now it's kicker Ryan Longwell's turn. See what the two ex-Packers had to say about the rivalry and the reaction from Green Bay fans.

The Vikings-Packers rivalry extends well beyond a border battle that temporarily pits family members against each other because they live in the neighboring states and stand firmly entrenched behind their state's NFL colors.

For players that once called Lambeau Field home and now play eight Sundays a year at the Metrodome, Sunday's game will be extra special.

Two years ago, safety Darren Sharper traded in cheese for walleye and signed with the Vikings. Last year, kicker Ryan Longwell did the same. In both instances, the migratory move west caused fan mail to get redirected.

Sharper and Longwell still received fan mail from followers of the Packers. But …

"I got letters from kids who say they can't cheer for me anymore because their parents told them they couldn't," Longwell said. "If I would've signed with San Diego it wouldn't have been a big deal, but because I signed with a team that has a big rivalry with the Packers people thought I did something wrong."

Sharper felt a similar wrath a year before. "I got letters from people saying they were disappointed in me," he said.

Last year, the Vikings swept the Packers during the regular season. They beat Green Bay 23-20 at the Metrodome in October, then a month later beat the Packers 20-17 in Lambeau Field.

"I was happy to be undefeated last year against the Packers," Sharper said. "Hopefully, we do the same this year. Green Bay's tough, and knowing it's a rivalry for both sides they're going to play us tough.

"We don't have to let it come down to a last-second field goal, but if it does we have the guy who's going to make it."

Some Green Bay fans have downplayed their rivalry with Minnesota, instead citing the historic relationship the Packers have had with the Bears as their real rivalry. Longwell doesn't see it that way.

"They're different kinds of rivalries, they're not the same kind of rivalries," Longwell said. "The Bears-Packers rivalry has a lot of history behind it. But in my time over there the Bears weren't that good. We were going to Super Bowls my first years there and we could not win over here, though. Coach (Mike) Holmgren used to get so frustrated that they could not come over here and win."

Longwell still keeps in touch with a few former teammates like Mark Tauscher, Donald Driver and Aaron Rodgers. He still plays in Brett Favre's charity golf tournament and talks often with Rob Davis, his former long snapper. He looks forward to Sunday when his former teammates will be foes.

"Any time you play a division game it's a lot of fun," Longwell said. "There is always something extra when you play within the division."

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