Packers rivalry still holds it all

The Vikings have been talking about Monday night's game since the schedule came out. Green Bay still presents a bitter rivalry, and players want to start the season out fast. See what former Packers and other Vikings had to say about the anticipation surrounding the opener.

Darren Sharper has said he's not going to do any trash-talking heading into the regular season opener with the Green Bay Packers. He said he'll leave that to Pat Williams, who was talking some smack about what the Vikings intend to do to the Packers Monday night. In fact, Sharper was rather lighthearted about the meeting, feigning surprise when he heard the first question about the Vikings-Packers rivalry.

"I forgot who we're playing this week," Sharper said with a smile and a wink.

But there is no questioning the rivalry that exists between the Vikings and the Packers. For Minnesotans, it is the biggest rivalry the teams have and, from someone who has been there, the Vikings might be returning to the top of that list.

"The Packers have two big rivals in the Vikings and the Bears," kicker Ryan Longwell said. "But they're very different. The Vikings-Packers rivalry has been very heated over the last 10 years and almost every game has been close and comes down to the final few minutes. The rivalry with the Bears goes as far back as the NFL does, so there's a lot of history surrounding it. They're different in that respect, but I think if you were to ask Packers players, a bunch of them would put us down as their top rival."

What the rivalry will have different Monday night is that it will be the first game the Packers have played in 16 years without Brett Favre as their quarterback. While it adds a new twist to the rivalry, players – even the best of the best – have come and gone during the span of the rivalry, but the venue remains the same and the history remains a part of that rivalry.

"It will be a little strange (not playing Favre), but we've been preparing for that since he left for New York," Sharper said. "It's still going to be the same Lambeau Field – the mystique, a great place to play, so we still have a lot of reasons to be excited."

The circumstances surrounding this rivalry will take on heightened importance because of the setting. It was a Monday night game in 1998 with the Vikings at 4-0 heading into Lambeau Field that made a lot of believers around the league. At the time, the Packers were the class of the division and the Vikings were the upstarts looking to knock them off the top of the hill. They succeeded and went on to a 15-1 season. Ten years later, the Vikings see this as a similar type of situation – a chance to beat their bitterest rival on their home field and send a message to the rest of the league that the road to the championship at some point will go through Minnesota.

"Your division rivals you see twice a year and you can make up ground or lose ground when you're playing them," Longwell said. "The only way you have a chance to win the Super Bowl is to take care of your division. To start off with a big rivalry game with the Packers is an exciting game."

The setting of the game has all the makings of a Hollywood script. The Packers were supposed to retire Favre's jersey Monday night, but we all know that won't be happening. This is a different Packers team, and both teams see this as a critical game and are aware that not only is winning key, but given that most of their fellow NFL players will be watching, the intensity will be ratcheted up a couple of notches higher.

"All 32 teams around the league have high expectations to start the season," guard Steve Hutchinson said. "The fact that you're opening in Lambeau Field, which is a historic stadium and one of my personal favorites because it's like a college atmosphere. Green Bay fans are so passionate. Being on Monday, aside from Denver and Oakland, you know all the other players around the league are watching you. That makes it even more special."

While some players tried to downplay the meeting as just one of 16 games during the season, getting off to a strong start is critical, given that three of the Vikings' first four opponents went to the 2007 playoffs and that it could be easier than many think for the Vikings to dig themselves a hole if they start the season 0-2 – a possibility while playing the Packers and Colts in the first two games of the season.

"That's something I've said for the last couple of years – that we have to start fast," Sharper said. "The last couple of years, we've started out 2-2 and 1-3 and it does kind of put you in a hole. The first game can set the tone for the whole season. Starting fast, I believe, carries over. At the end of the year, hopefully we're not sitting back and saying, ‘We hope this team loses or we have to beat this team to get into the playoffs.' If you can win a couple at the (start) of the season, it gives you a heads-up on other teams."
Getting a win over the Packers hasn't been easy. Over the last two seasons, the Vikings haven't beaten Green Bay in four tries and the debacle in Green Bay last year was truly a low point for the Vikings 2007 season. Even with Favre gone, the Vikings aren't taking the Packers lightly.

"I expect the same thing we've gotten from them the last two years," Hutchinson said. "We have yet to beat them since Coach Childress took over and I came here in 2006. They've found a way to kind of shut us down. The last time we played them there, they beat us 34-0."

If the Vikings can defeat the Packers on their home turf, it could signal a changing of the guard, much like the Monday night win 10 years ago helped propel the 1998 Vikings to the best season in franchise history. There is plenty riding on the outcome of the game and the Vikings are going to put their best foot forward.

"This is the kind of games you dream of," defensive end Brian Robison. "The rivalry, the atmosphere, playing on Monday night. It's all there. We believe we have a team that can contend to win the Super Bowl and to do that, we have to take care of our business against Green Bay. If we can get a win there, it will go a long way to helping us get to where we expect to be at the end of the year."

The hype is over. The talking is over. It's time. To steal a line from Hank Williams Jr., "Are you ready for some football?" You can believe the Vikings will be Monday night.



Viking Update Top Stories

\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n","mobileBody":" Darren Sharper has said he's not going to do any trash-talking heading into the regular season opener with the Green Bay Packers. He said he'll leave that to Pat Williams, who was talking some smack about what the Vikings intend to do to the Packers Monday night. In fact, Sharper was rather lighthearted about the meeting, feigning surprise when he heard the first question about the Vikings-Packers rivalry.

\"I forgot who we're playing this week,\" Sharper said with a smile and a wink.

But there is no questioning the rivalry that exists between the Vikings and the Packers. For Minnesotans, it is the biggest rivalry the teams have and, from someone who has been there, the Vikings might be returning to the top of that list.

\"The Packers have two big rivals in the Vikings and the Bears,\" kicker Ryan Longwell said. \"But they're very different. The Vikings-Packers rivalry has been very heated over the last 10 years and almost every game has been close and comes down to the final few minutes. The rivalry with the Bears goes as far back as the NFL does, so there's a lot of history surrounding it. They're different in that respect, but I think if you were to ask Packers players, a bunch of them would put us down as their top rival.\"

What the rivalry will have different Monday night is that it will be the first game the Packers have played in 16 years without Brett Favre as their quarterback. While it adds a new twist to the rivalry, players – even the best of the best – have come and gone during the span of the rivalry, but the venue remains the same and the history remains a part of that rivalry.

\"It will be a little strange (not playing Favre), but we've been preparing for that since he left for New York,\" Sharper said. \"It's still going to be the same Lambeau Field – the mystique, a great place to play, so we still have a lot of reasons to be excited.\"

The circumstances surrounding this rivalry will take on heightened importance because of the setting. It was a Monday night game in 1998 with the Vikings at 4-0 heading into Lambeau Field that made a lot of believers around the league. At the time, the Packers were the class of the division and the Vikings were the upstarts looking to knock them off the top of the hill. They succeeded and went on to a 15-1 season. Ten years later, the Vikings see this as a similar type of situation – a chance to beat their bitterest rival on their home field and send a message to the rest of the league that the road to the championship at some point will go through Minnesota.

\"Your division rivals you see twice a year and you can make up ground or lose ground when you're playing them,\" Longwell said. \"The only way you have a chance to win the Super Bowl is to take care of your division. To start off with a big rivalry game with the Packers is an exciting game.\"

The setting of the game has all the makings of a Hollywood script. The Packers were supposed to retire Favre's jersey Monday night, but we all know that won't be happening. This is a different Packers team, and both teams see this as a critical game and are aware that not only is winning key, but given that most of their fellow NFL players will be watching, the intensity will be ratcheted up a couple of notches higher.

\"All 32 teams around the league have high expectations to start the season,\" guard Steve Hutchinson said. \"The fact that you're opening in Lambeau Field, which is a historic stadium and one of my personal favorites because it's like a college atmosphere. Green Bay fans are so passionate. Being on Monday, aside from Denver and Oakland, you know all the other players around the league are watching you. That makes it even more special.\"

While some players tried to downplay the meeting as just one of 16 games during the season, getting off to a strong start is critical, given that three of the Vikings' first four opponents went to the 2007 playoffs and that it could be easier than many think for the Vikings to dig themselves a hole if they start the season 0-2 – a possibility while playing the Packers and Colts in the first two games of the season.

\"That's something I've said for the last couple of years – that we have to start fast,\" Sharper said. \"The last couple of years, we've started out 2-2 and 1-3 and it does kind of put you in a hole. The first game can set the tone for the whole season. Starting fast, I believe, carries over. At the end of the year, hopefully we're not sitting back and saying, ‘We hope this team loses or we have to beat this team to get into the playoffs.' If you can win a couple at the (start) of the season, it gives you a heads-up on other teams.\"
Getting a win over the Packers hasn't been easy. Over the last two seasons, the Vikings haven't beaten Green Bay in four tries and the debacle in Green Bay last year was truly a low point for the Vikings 2007 season. Even with Favre gone, the Vikings aren't taking the Packers lightly.

\"I expect the same thing we've gotten from them the last two years,\" Hutchinson said. \"We have yet to beat them since Coach Childress took over and I came here in 2006. They've found a way to kind of shut us down. The last time we played them there, they beat us 34-0.\"

If the Vikings can defeat the Packers on their home turf, it could signal a changing of the guard, much like the Monday night win 10 years ago helped propel the 1998 Vikings to the best season in franchise history. There is plenty riding on the outcome of the game and the Vikings are going to put their best foot forward.

\"This is the kind of games you dream of,\" defensive end Brian Robison. \"The rivalry, the atmosphere, playing on Monday night. It's all there. We believe we have a team that can contend to win the Super Bowl and to do that, we have to take care of our business against Green Bay. If we can get a win there, it will go a long way to helping us get to where we expect to be at the end of the year.\"

The hype is over. The talking is over. It's time. To steal a line from Hank Williams Jr., \"Are you ready for some football?\" You can believe the Vikings will be Monday night.


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