Mr. Longwell Goes to Lambeau

Vikings kicker Ryan Longwell is returning to Lambeau Field for the first time since he ended his nine-year Packers career. See what Longwell had to say about his return, about the playoff implications and about the potential that it could be Brett Favre's last game at Lambeau Field.

With a team that is somewhat made over in the last year, several starters aren't used to playing at Lambeau Field as members of the Minnesota Vikings.

Kicker Ryan Longwell, a Packer for 144 games over the previous nine years, knows Lambeau Field well.

"It's pretty tough. Obviously a combination of things – the winds and the temperatures, but also the footing too. You're dealing with everything Mother Nature has to throw at you," Longwell said. "It's a fun place to play in December when it's cold because of the tradition, but it's pretty tough."

Longwell will be at Lambeau Field on the visitors sideline for the first time in his career.

"I'm excited. I had a great experience over there and still have a lot of friends over there on the team and the support staff in the organization. It'll be fun to go back, but I don't know what the reaction will be. It will be different to be on the other sideline," he said.

After amassing a field goal percentage of 81.6 during his years in Green Bay, Longwell has connected on 21 of 25 kicks (84 percent) this year with the rival Vikings.

"It's certainly different going back to Lambeau. It's a place where I've had a lot of fond memories and had a lot of big kicks, a lot of division titles over there and stuff like that," he said. "It's always a hostile environment to go play in the division. They got us the first time, so we want to see if we can't get them this time."

However, Longwell's return to Lambeau has much bigger than just his personal feelings.

The Vikings and Packers are both 6-8, but amazingly they each have a shot at a wild card spot in the NFC playoffs if they win on Thursday night.

"If this was two 12-2 teams, I think it would be pretty heated, but I think the rivalry games have a way of throwing out the records and still being heated. I'd expect this to be the same way," Longwell said.

A loss would almost certainly eliminate that team from wild card contention, but there are most twists and turns in this matchup.

There is the short week of preparation, and it could be Brett Favre's last game at Lambeau Field. After facing the Vikings, the Packers travel to take on the Chicago Bears for their final game of the season. A loss in either of those games could bring an end to the Favre era.

"You just never know what he's going to do," said Longwell, who joined the Packers five years after Favre was acquired from Atlanta in a trade. "I would expect a lot of people are going there with the anticipation that it will be his last game, but you never know. He could play three more years or this could be it. From my point of view, I'm anxious to see what the crowd's like and see what it's to be there as a visiting team.

"I think he's so close to the records. I think they've shown improvement this year from where we were last year, so that may be reason enough for him to come back. It's kind of the first time in the last few years where he's had no off-the-field stuff to deal with so maybe he just rides off into the sunset. You never know – but he's amazing to watch play. He's the best there is. It will be fun to see what he does."

While the potential for Favre's last game at Lambeau is sure to dominate the storylines on NFL Network's coverage of the game, the Vikings' focus will be in trying to keep their flickering playoff hopes alive.

After losing six out of the last eight games, it's surprising they still have a chance at the playoffs.

"Obviously, we hurt our chances (Sunday), but I just think every week in this league you've got to win. Whether it's day to day or week to week, you've got to do something to get better and win the games. We are fortunate to be in the NFC, where 8-8 may get you in," Longwell said.

"After that Seattle game, we were 4-2 and were feeling pretty good. I think the true test of the character in the locker room is when you hit tough times. Six out of eight (losses) is certainly tough times. … This week, fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you want to look at it, you get to focus on someone else real quick. It can be good after a loss to move on pretty quick."


In light of Brad Johnson getting booed at the Metrodome on Sunday against the New York Jets, Longwell was asked if he ever heard Brett Favre get booed.

"I was there when he was the three-time MVP and everybody was talking about wanting to replace him – bring in (Matt) Hasselbeck or bring in Doug Pederson, then it was bring in Aaron Rodgers. You see the glitz and glamour of being Brett Favre, but at the same time the fans can get restless, and even he faced it a few times even though he kept playing through it," Longwell said.

"I've never heard anybody get booed that frequently and that often as what was going on (Sunday). It's sad. The NFL, it's hard to do this and the quarterback position is the hardest to play. You never want your fans to be that way, but at the same time we've got to perform on the field to give them something to cheer about."

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