The Minnesota Vikings-Green Bay Packers rivalry isn't rivaled by any other sports in the area. The Twins are in a heated pennant race. The Gophers are fighting for respect with a border battle against Wisconsin.
But when it's Packers week, the attention of Minnesota is focused on the Vikings.
The fact that the Vikings now have Brett Favre and the Packers don't has only added gasoline to an already-intense fire. Some players in Minnesota's locker room tried to downplay the significance Favre adds to the Monday night game that is expected to draw huge ratings nationally; others know there is little hope downplaying the hype.
"It will be ridiculous. I love it," said guard Anthony Herrera. "Every game is going to be bigger and bigger. We're 3-0, we're shooting for 4-0. We've got Brett. They wanted – they had him, let him go.
"It's personal for Brett, it's personal for us. They're going to come after him. Coach and them are going to do a good job of having us ready to play. It's going to be a battle."
It always has been, but the Packers have won four of the last five meetings, including sweeps in 2006 and 2007, to take a 49-46-1 advantage in the season series.
"All you got to do around here is say Packer week and everybody gets excited. So it should be a real good contest," said cornerback Antoine Winfield, who admitted he couldn't think of a situation like this where a star quarterback joined rival as intense as the Vikings are to the Packers.
"Once this game starts, it's all about business. But right now, it's the buildup. The media, Brett coming from Green Bay, and all the years he played there. That's what all the hype's going to be about."
Receiver Sidney Rice said he doesn't expect Favre to say much to his new teammates about the rivalry, but he's happy to help Favre try to beat his former team.
"It's going to be great. I'm super excited," Rice said. "I'm sure all of the rest of the receivers that we have are excited and, as I said before, I know Brett's excited. It's going to be a fun game, and hopefully we can come out and execute on our game plan and come out with the victory."
Favre is scheduled to address the media this week until Thursday, but kicker Ryan Longwell knows what Favre brings to the media hype machine. Longwell played nine seasons with Favre in Green Bay before the kicker crossed the border to start playing for the Vikings in 2006.
"I think you have the diehard Packer fans that will never forgive either of us for wearing purple, ever. So, that's half the battle," Longwell said. "But I think there's people who are football fans who appreciate everything he did, and they're big Aaron Rodgers fans, and whoever that next quarterback is, they'll be big fans of his. I think those people understand what (Favre) gave to the organization will last. Whether that takes a few years, after he's done, who knows? But they'll appreciate what he's done for them."
Longwell said this will be one of the biggest games he's played in with Favre, rivaled only by the time Favre pelted the Oakland Raiders on Monday Night Football shortly after the death of his father.
With this game, however, there is already the built-in border and divisional battle. Favre's presence in purple brings that to a fever pitch.
"There's a rivalry before Brett or I got involved," Longwell said, "but with him being such a long-tenured guy, and really putting the franchise back on the map, then coming over here, it's certainly fun and it certainly adds an element to it. (It will) be one of those games that's fun to be a part of."
Herrera likened the rivalry to his collegiate days when his alma mater Tennessee played Alabama. In the pros, however, players have a chance to get to know their rivals a little more personally and Herrera enjoys playing against many of the Packers.
"We look forward to playing this game. Not just because we want to go out there and beat them and it's personal, it's a game we love to play. They're going to love it, we're going to love it and we're just going to go at it," he said.
"At the end of the day, when we're done playing we hug each other – good job – because we appreciate the battle. It's not like, ‘I hate you.' It's nothing like that. It's a camaraderie thing. You go out there and you give it your all. You know they're coming hard, they know we're coming hard, and just may the best man win."
For most players, that's probably true. But with Favre playing for the Vikings, there is no doubt that move didn't sit well with every Packers player or front-office type.
Rice said the passion of the fans for this rivalry helps drive home the importance to the players.
"It means just as much to us as players. We don't want to disappoint the fans," he said. "We don't want to disappoint ourselves, first of all. We definitely don't want to disappoint the fans. This game right here, come out and focus 100 percent right from the start, ready to attack."
For so many reasons, this is simply a statement game.
"This is the game you want to play in right here," cornerback Antoine Winfield said. "You make a few plays, you put your name out there."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
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