No Favre? Vikings still plenty fired up for Pack Print
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Sunday, 07 September 2008 09:23
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 Fifteen times the Minnesota Vikings faced the Packers in Green Bay with that fun-loving, infallible quarterback wearing his green No. 4 jersey - and frequently wearing them out.
Brett Favre went 11-4 against his across-the-border rivals at Lambeau Field, losing only in 1993, 1998, 2003 and 2005. Some of those victories over the Vikings stung enough to rank among the most bitter of defeats for a franchise swimming in them.
There was the fourth-and-1, 23-yard scoring pass in 1999 to Corey Bradford with 12 seconds left, prompting an angry Cris Carter to berate beaten cornerback Jimmy Hitchcock as he left the field.
There was the overtime winner in 2000 to Antonio Freeman, who fell as Cris Dishman deflected the ball, tipped it into his chest before it hit the ground after bouncing off the back of his shoulder - and cruised into the end zone.
And there was the comeback from a 19-6 deficit in the third quarter in 2002 on the strength of three touchdown passes by Favre, who exchanged taunts with Minnesota defensive tackle Chris Hovan as both teams closed the game with a midfield skirmish.
Now that Favre is more than 1,000 miles away, having unretired and been traded to the New York Jets, the scene on Monday night will be strange for the Vikings without their nemesis crouching behind the center.
``It'll be different,'' said kicker Ryan Longwell, Favre's teammate in Green Bay for nine seasons before signing with Minnesota.
Safety Darren Sharper, who played eight years with the Packers before switching sides, has long maintained a disappointment in Favre's absence - citing a desire to compete against the best and, of course, get his hands on one of Favre's infamous risky throws.
``I loved playing against Brett,'' Sharper said. ``I would've liked to have had another opportunity to face him twice a year, but I'm still going to be as excited to play them as I would've been with him coming back.''
The sight of Aaron Rodgers dropping back in the pocket won't get the defense's adrenaline going the way Favre - who had a 17-15 career record against the Vikings, including one loss in the playoffs - used to. Nonetheless, this rivalry has never been more intense.
``With some of the things in the offseason, it goes from top to bottom,'' Sharper said.
The allegation by Green Bay that Minnesota was illegally talking to Favre about his plans this summer, a tampering charge that was dismissed by the league, has most notably added to the usual mutual dislike.
``You put your hand in the cookie jar and you're almost about to get a whuppin' from your mother and then she finds out that you didn't do it?'' Sharper said. ``Having been about to get a whuppin' and being scared, you'd be a little ticked off at your brother for making up a lie.''
The Packers were serious, though. As if their front office needed another reason to seethe about the Vikings, who eagerly signed Sharper, Longwell and Robert Ferguson when Green Bay allowed them to become free agents and convinced Brad Childress to cancel an interview with the Packers when he accepted the job in Minnesota in January 2006. Childress is 0-4 against Green Bay.
``I think this year's a little more souped up than it was in previous years,'' Vikings linebacker E.J. Henderson said.
Just for fun, and also for psychological purposes, defensive linemen Jared Allen and Pat Williams have piled on. They're looking forward to welcoming Rodgers to the NFC North.
``He ain't Favre, so I'm not going to say his name,'' Williams said.
Allen, for his part, has never played at Lambeau Field.
``Monday Night Football is always a fun game, and when you've got these kind of rivalries, the atmosphere always gets cranked up another level,'' he said. ``And for me, playing at Lambeau with all the history of that stadium, I'm just excited for it. These are the kind of games; this is why we play football as football players.''
 

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