Sunday slant: More meaning for the aged

Brett Favre has been to four NFC Championship Games, but they still mean a lot to him – and this one might mean even more for the gunslinger who always seems to have something to prove. He's not the only Viking savor the opportunity.

Even a Super Bowl winner wants more. Thirteen years after Brett Favre won his first and only Super Bowl title, he is back in New Orleans, the city where he earned the Lombardi Trophy for the Packers, and looking to make throwback moment.

Favre has already had his revenge on his former team twice this year. All that's left for him to prove is that he's still good enough to do in Minnesota in one year what he did once in Green Bay in 16 years.

The mission is the same. The method to get there is different. But the appreciation for the moment is growing.

"It does change. How can it not? Every guy in that locker room thinks he knows that he'll play a long time and that hey, playoffs, no big deal. We'll be back if we don't make it this year," Favre said. "Every guy thinks that way, but as I've found out, it's not the case. So, here I am, two years after what I thought was really going to be a Super Bowl berth for (the Packers) and it didn't happen. So, enjoy every minute of it and I know I have done that, and I'll do everything I possibly can to help this team win, and up to this point I know I've done that. And I'll hold no regrets when it was over."

Favre is hoping to extend the season for two more wins, which would give him his second Super Bowl title and prove to the Packers that he wasn't too old and didn't lose his edge, despite losing the 2007 NFC Championship Game, his last game with the Packers.

But the Vikings' opportunity to get to the Super Bowl isn't just about Favre. There are players who tried to reach this level for a decade in the NFL and feel this is their best chance.

"You have to take advantage of every opportunity, especially in this game," said cornerback Antoine Winfield. "When I came in, in '99 with Buffalo, we went to the playoffs, and I was thinking, "Oh, we'll be in the playoffs every season." I didn't go back until '04 when I came here. But, to be in the NFC Championship is special. Guys are enjoying it, we're having a lot of fun. We're not ready to go home yet, so we expect to go down to New Orleans and get a win."

The Vikings will have to overcome a mediocre road record in order to do it. New Orleans is loaded with black and gold, and "Who Dat?" nation is in full force on Bourbon Street. As Saturday wore on, the confrontation between rival fans became more prevalent.

Tight end Jim Kleinsasser remembered the last best chance the Vikings had to advance to the Super Bowl. It wasn't 2001, when he was part of the team that endured 41-donut in New York.

No, Kleinsasser remembers at least one thing about the 1998 NFC Championship Game, the one that took place only months before the Vikings drafted him in the second round. He was at his college house at the University of North Dakota and his roommate couldn't take the pain the purple were dishing out.

"I've had friends tear up living rooms in college. In the '98 season, my college roommate tore up the room. He was flipping out pretty bad," Kleinsasser said. "I understand that pretty well. I want to be around for the big change-off on that mindset."

Kleinasser was 11 months old during the Vikings' last Super Bowl appearance on Jan. 1, 1978.

Like Favre, Kleinsasser may not have many more opportunities, but even before Kleinsasser's roommate was tearing up a room, Favre was forging back-to-back Super Bowl appearances. One of his teammates in his second Super Bowl, the loss to the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXXII, was then-rookie kicker Ryan Longwell.

Twelve years later, the 35-year-old Longwell has a similar outlook on this NFC Championship.

"When you have success early in your career … you almost expect it to happen, to kind of happen every year. I went to the Super Bowl my first year with Brett at quarterback and Reggie (White) on defense," Longwell said. "You kind of thought we're going to go back every year and haven't been back since. I think (Brett's) having a lot of fun with the group of guys. He's having a lot of fun because he's playing well. I think he appreciates the situation we're in so much more, and that's something you can only get with age and being around the league a long time."

For Favre, it's about redemption, mostly from his 2007 NFC Championship loss and maybe other factors in his mind.

"I've got another chance. That's all you can ask for really," he said. "For me, I'm honored by just having this chance and being able to redeem myself. Unfortunately, the (2007) game didn't go in our favor. There were a lot of good plays in that game. That (overtime interception) obviously was not one of them. So, that's a good example of limit the mistakes, limit the turnovers. It's easier said than done but you've got to go out. I'm going to prepare as hard as I can. I'm well aware of this opportunity."

Said Kleinsasser: "Now more than ever is the time to lay it all on the line."

QUICK SLANTS

  • Favre mixed in another veiled reference to the ongoing "will he or won't he retirement" tour. During an answer to a question about his championship game appearances in the 1990s, he said, "I'm sure I would've probably told you that they're precious and make every moment count, but in the back of my mind I was thinking, yeah, but I'll be around 10 to 15 more years. I'm not saying that now, but then again you never know."

  • Favre has a new commercial for Sears that is supposed to debut Sunday. He is convinced to buy a television when the salesman tells him that the green display screen comes in purple as well.

  • E.J. Henderson was expected to make the trip to New Orleans, according to linebacker Chad Greenway. "It's going to be great to have him along on the trip and certainly will be motivational for us to get one for him, as well. … It's tough any time you lose a guy like E.J. in the locker room and on the field."


    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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