Minnesota Vikings: Today's game is about more than the Favre hype

MINNEAPOLIS -- Anyone interested in the hype surrounding Brett Favre's return to Lambeau Field would have been best served to stay out of the Minnesota Vikings and Green Packers locker rooms this week.

MINNEAPOLIS -- Anyone interested in the hype surrounding Brett Favre's return to Lambeau Field would have been best served to stay out of the Minnesota Vikings and Green Packers locker rooms this week.

Those places served as the eye of the storm for Favre mania.

Sportswriters, playing the role of gawkers at a car accident, were told to move along, there wasn't anything to see. Before consenting to an interview Friday, Packers receiver Greg Jennings asked. "What do you want to talk about?" he said, making it clear he had no interest in talking about his former quarterback returning to lead the Vikings today.

One of the only candid responses came from Vikings running back Adrian Peterson: "It's going to be bananas. Just experiencing it at home and now going back where he played 16 seasons -- I don't know. I can't sit here and explain what it is going to be like. I just have to experience it first."

Peterson isn't alone. Much like when Favre beat the Packers' 30-23 on Oct. 5 at the Metrodome in his first game ever against them, no one knows exactly what to expect. That's why no matter what anyone says there will be something special about what transpires in Green Bay today.


You need look no further than Fox's plans for this telecast to figure that out.

After Favre's first game against the Packers enabled ESPN to establish a cable ratings record, Sunday's kickoff was moved to a higher-profile 3:15 p.m. CDT start as the second half of Fox's national doubleheader. It will be seen by 91 percent of the country, making it the highest percentage of viewership that Fox will have for its national doubleheader since it began carrying the NFL in 1994.

Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman, who will serve as Fox's analyst, admits he hasn't seen a regular-season game that compares to this.

"Not with the backdrop of all the drama going in," he said. "These are two good teams, and it's an important game from that perspective. But to go into a game with all the drama of Brett Favre after 16 years at Lambeau and going back home and playing for a divisional rival ... to have such a celebrated player in this league and for someone who had meant so much to one particular team and to a franchise and then to be where he's now playing."

Even without the Favre story line, as Aikman pointed out, this would be a crucial game.

A Vikings victory would go a long way toward wrapping up the NFC North, putting them at 7-1 entering the bye and giving them a sweep of the Packers. A Green Bay victory would put the Packers at 5-2 with a chance to tie the Vikings for first place next Sunday in Tampa Bay. The television monitors in the Packers locker room this week carried a simple message. Vikings week: Urgency. (They did not say Favre week.)

"The Super Bowl is for all the marbles, so that trumps this game in that respect," Packers cornerback Charles Woodson said in another rare moment of candidness. "But any other game, Monday night, playoff or whatever, this game will be up there with it."

Friend to foe


Favre went 96-30 at Lambeau Field from 1992 to 2007, leading the Packers to two Super Bowl appearances, one title and seven division championships. Thirty-six of the 442 touchdown passes he threw as a member of the franchise went to Donald Driver.

Driver, who has spent all 10 of his NFL seasons in Green Bay, figures Favre will get a mixed response.

"I've always said, you've got Brett Favre fans and you've got Packer fans," Driver said. "That's for anybody that played for the Green Bay Packers, if you go to another team, most likely they're going to hate your guts. But when it's all said and done and this guy retires, he'll go down in the Hall of Fame, he'll retire as a Packer and they'll love him once again. They'll probably boo him when he first comes in, but that's part of life. Ain't nothing. Deal with it and move on."

Favre said Wednesday he hasn't concerned himself with how he is received.

"I think it is probably more intriguing to everyone else," he said. "I think there will be a mixture of both (cheers and boos), understandably so."

Favre will have his supporters at the game, although they might be in the minority and won't include his mother, Bonita. Favre's older brother Scott said between 40 and 50 people from Mississippi are traveling to the game, including their younger brother Jeff. Scott is staying home and will watch the game at their mom's house. Bonita is the host for a get-together every week at her home to watch Vikings games.

Scott said Brett's return is too emotional for his mom to watch in person.

"Mom wouldn't dare go," Scott said. "She couldn't deal with it. I'm sure there will be some personal things said and this and that. I've gotten used to it through the years. Now back 15, 18 years ago, I might have been hauled out of the stadium for fighting. But I'm past that point now. I've heard everything."


Scott exchanged text messages with Brett early last week and the two brothers, as usual, planned to talk as the game drew closer. Scott said his message to his brother would be the same as the last time he faced his former team.

"Just go out and have fun," he said. "It's just a football game. It's one of many you've played. Once the game starts, it's only a football game. His emotions are going to be high. But once he gets out there and settles down, it will be just fine.

"I'm sure he's going to be nervous. But like I've always told him, if you don't get nervous you probably ought not be playing. He gets nervous before every game. But the level of nervousness will be more for this one."

A return trip

Several Vikings veterans have experienced something similar but on a much smaller scale. Pro Bowl left guard Steve Hutchinson returned to Seattle in his first season with the Vikings in 2006 after spending his first five NFL seasons with the Seahawks.

Pro Bowl nose tackle Pat Williams, who played his first eight seasons for Buffalo, also faced his former team in 2006.

"I went and saw everybody before the game," Williams said. "But once you kicked the ball off it's all business. Fans were cussing me out, I was cussing them back out. They have some wild fans there. They were cussing me out. It was all good. It was all fun."

Favre admitted after the first meeting that he was as emotional and nervous for that game as any he's ever played. Childress, however, said he didn't feel the need to talk to Favre specifically about how to approach this experience.


"We talk every day," he said. "He is a 40-year-old man, as you know."

Vikings offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell spent six seasons as a Packers assistant coach, including three as Favre's position coach. Bevell admitted he saw signs of nerves in that first game, but said Favre handled it well.

"I think just playing them the first time was probably bigger than going back to Lambeau just to kind of get over that," Bevell said. "At the same time, not to say that he won't be nervous. I think that it is only natural in any game you play, you go in with a little bit of butterflies. I think that he will be a little more settled this time."

Packers linebacker Aaron Kampman acknowledged the Favre story line is a good one but said there is one thing to keep in mind.

"When you're playing the game, you don't think about any of it," he said. "Now after the game or stuff like that that's a different deal. When we see each other down the road, you talk about memories. In the end things still come down to relationships, so it doesn't matter what teams you're on. This business is a pretty transient one so in the end it's still going to come down to people.

"Brett's a good guy, he's been a good teammate, he's a good friend. Having said that, when you're playing football you don't think about any of that stuff. I've got high school buddies that are offensive linemen, Brad Meester and Casey Wiegmann. When I play those guys I'm not trying to (say), 'Hey, I won't hit you or anything.' We're competing and going after it and that's no different playing against him."

Vikings (6-1) at Packers (4-2)

When: 3:15 p.m. today.


TV/radio: KBRR (GF Channel 10); The Fan (1440 AM).

Series record: Packers lead 49-47-1.

Of note: Packers held Adrian Peterson to 55 yards rushing in teams' first meeting, but Brett Favre threw for 271 yards and three TDs. . . . Packers coach Mike McCarthy is 5-2 against Vikings coach Brad Childress, but Vikings have won last two meetings. . . . Thirteen of last 14 games between teams have been decided by seven points or less, lone exception being Packers' 34-0 victory at Lambeau Field in 2007.

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