Teammates split on Favre-to-Lambeau greetings

Ryan Longwell had a long talk with Brett Favre before the QB signed with the Vikings. What it's like to be a visitor in Lambeau and other subjects were broached. We might be surprised by Favre's reception from the Lambeau crowd, he said. Other teammates are expecting a chorus of boos.

As the hype machine continues to wind up to a fever pitch as the Vikings-Packers game draws closer, all eyes are going to be focused squarely on Brett Favre. After being the franchise player of the Green Bay Packers, he will be playing his first game at Lambeau Field as something other than No. 4 in green and gold. This time, he'll be No. 4 in purple and gold.

There is growing speculation as to how the partisan Packers fans will react to his appearance wearing a Vikings uniform. Clearly, he had some concerns about it before he signed with the Vikings. When he was still mulling his decision, he called his friend and former teammate Ryan Longwell.

Longwell knows what he's going through – to a lesser extent of the attention Favre will grab – because he's been there himself. He said that he and Favre had a long conversation about the subject of going back to Lambeau Field. Favre hit Longwell with numerous questions about what it was like and Longwell said he wanted a little inside information.

"He asked a lot of questions" Longwell said. "We had never been in the visiting locker room – little things like that. Going to other sideline, staying in Appleton, just what it's like to see everyone there, how the fans react. I think he'll get a better reception than I did. We just talked through the whole process and he was curious about what I went through."

Longwell said he actually got a little pumped up from the less-than-enthusiastic response – a chorus of boos every time he stepped on the field or when his name was mentioned over the public address system. But he said that's part and parcel to being a visitor playing at Lambeau Field. The fans have a strong sense of loyalty to the team and, if you're not wearing green and gold, you're the enemy.

"It's a great place to play," Longwell said. "They're good fans that love their team and don't like the other team – especially when the other team is the Vikings. I thought it was actually kind of exciting when they booed me the first year, because at least they knew I existed over there at some point. They're passionate about their team and anybody who isn't on their team they don't like."

There has been a lot of speculation as to how the fans will react to Favre. Some believe the booing will be deafening from fans who felt betrayed when Favre signed on with the hated Vikings. While Longwell thinks there will be plenty of fans who boo loudly, he thinks by and large fans will show their appreciation for the quarterback who led the team to so many victories on that hallowed turf.

"I don't know if there will be more (cheering than booing), but I don't think it will be the 70,000 (people booing) that I got," Longwell said. "He did a lot for that franchise and I think people respect that even though he's with the enemy now. During the game I'm sure they won't cheer him, but just before the game I think he'll be OK."

Given the circumstances – a win pulls the Packers within a half-game of the division lead and negates the win the Vikings earned at the Metrodome earlier in the month as well as Favre's return – the players are expecting a raucous, playoff atmosphere when the game is being played.

"I think there will be a lot of emotion in the building," offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie said. "I think a little bit because of the Brett situation and plus that they are our rivals. We won the first time, so they want to redeem themselves the second time. We're going into their house, so there's going to be a lot of energy in there."

The level of the buildup to the game, however, is something few could have predicted. While many media types and fans alike pointed to Nov. 1 as date to be circled on the calendar, the national attention of the first Vikings-Packers game may actually pale in comparison to Favre returning to Lambeau to play against the Pack. Longwell said the spotlight on the game makes his return and those of other Packers soft in comparison.

"I've never seen anything like it," Longwell said of the hype. "I remember Edgar Bennett, a running back for a few years in Green Bay when I first got there, and he played for the Bears. It wasn't really a big story. I came over (to the Vikings) and it was a little story. But with Brett, people love him. If you're not a Packer fan or a Jet fan or a Vikings fan, people still love him for the way he plays the game. He's a lightning rod for attention and this is certainly an attention kind of games."

Defensive end Jared Allen said that he's not sure if the booing will be directed at Favre or the Vikings in general. He said it's what everyone should be expected – whether it's Favre, Adrian Peterson or members of the Vikings defense – and he's not going to sweat it.

"I don't care," Allen said. "They're not supposed to like us. If they're good fans, they'll boo."

The questions concerning Favre's legacy have been blown up in large part because his coming to the Vikings was such a media story over the summer that TV, radio and Internet networks latched onto the story like a hungry tick and never let go. Longwell said if there is a potential exception to the booing rule, it could be Packers fans with Favre.

"I've seen some weird things with him," Longwell said. "In the Black Hole in Oakland, they gave him a standing ovation when he was introduced the day after his dad passed. It's not beyond reason that it could be different than what we all expect."

We will have to wait to Sunday for the verdict on how the fans in Green Bay respond to Favre, but, as someone who was there with him for a lot of the good times, Longwell said he is convinced that even die-hard Packers fans will show their appreciation for Favre and be happy to see him playing again – even if it is for the other team.

"People respect the way he plays the game, which is as hard as he can with every ounce of energy into it and flying around," Longwell said. "It's not really textbook-like. There's something to that we can all relate with – playing in backyards growing up as a kid. That's how he plays a game that is supposed to be so rigid. He doesn't play it that way. That makes it very fun to watch."


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