Longwell knows fraction of Favre's feelings about return to Lambeau
Ryan Longwell was a long-time Packer before playing for Vikings
Vince Young doesn't need to win Sunday to be successful
Ten things I'll be watching Sunday, including the 1-12 Bowl
Brett Favre's pretty much gone underground this week, except for his regular Wednesday press conference, Thursday's NFL Network interview with Steve Mariucci and a one-on-one with Terry Bradshaw, which will air on the Fox NFL Sunday pregame show. It's not a week for him to be out there very much. It's a week to shut up and play. So what's going through his mind right now, on the verge of the strangest game of his career?
One guy, and one alone, knows a fraction of what Favre's going to be facing Sunday. It's his golf partner from the Green Bay days, and best friend on the Vikings now, kicker Ryan Longwell. In 2006, Longwell defected from the Packers to the Vikes in free agency. When he returned to Green Bay the following December, dressed in white and purple, he was stunned at the reception he got.
Foes who've played at Lambeau have said over the years how hospitable a place Lambeau is. Well, it is ... unless you're a former Packer playing for the enemy.
"I was surprised it was that loud -- really surprised,'' Longwell said from the Vikings locker room Thursday. "It had everything to do with me being a Viking. I thought, 'Cool! At least they remember me, a kicker.' But with Brett, I'm as curious as the next guy what it'll be like. People are endeared by the way he played in Green Bay, and I'm not sure what to expect from the crowd.''
The locals are. Those I've talked to think Favre will get lambasted by boos Sunday when he goes out to warm up. Longwell has seen Favre in some pretty difficult spots. He was golfing with Favre on a California course the day before the Packers played a Monday nighter at Oakland -- and Favre got the word on the course that his father, Irv, had died. Favre went out and threw for 399 yards and four touchdowns the next night.
The Packers-Vikings game at the Metrodome this year was another virtuoso performance for Favre ("You could tell he was nervous,'' Longwell said.) Sure, he's had some stinkers too, but in those two games, when he should have felt the most pressure in his career, he rose.
This will be different, but how different? In those two games, even in Oakland, he was cheered. In this one, he'll be the enemy. Walking into Lambeau as a visitor, walking into a locker room he's never used, wondering, wondering, wondering what the reaction will be when he ducks his head out of the tunnel, standing on the opposite sideline, everything backward, everything different ... Favre feels these things. Now we'll see if it will impact him in -- oh, by the way -- quite an important football game.
"I think the boos will actually pump him up,'' Longwell said. "Having been around him for so many big games, he always, always, always rises to the occasion. He plays to an almost other-worldly level when things are against him. I think even though the pressure might be on him, he somehow channels it to be a positive. I don't know ... he has a way of making the impossible possible.''
We'll see. All I know is this: A buddy in Wisconsin told me this week this is a more-anticipated event than any game of the Favre Era, including championship games. How Favre will handle the emotion of it all is something we can't predict. Talk about must-see TV. I can't imagine FOX having a higher-rated non-playoff game -- maybe ever.
Vince Young, QB, Tennessee.
Uh-oh. The attitude's not what I'd like to hear. "If we win, it's going to be good,'' Young said Thursday. "If we lose, it's all going to be Vince Young's fault.'' No it isn't. The Titans went 0-6 without Young, and they don't have to beat Jacksonville Sunday to make this turn to Young is a success.
What Young has to do is simple: move the team. Have five good drives out of 11 or 12 possessions. Throw passes on time, with accuracy. At this point, winning and losing is secondary in Young's world to developing as a good starting quarterback. The Titans are going to need to see progress to be able to count on him as their quarterback of 2010, and beyond.
Ten Things I'll Be Watching For This Weekend
1. JaMarcus Russell making his vow come true. "I promise,'' he said Thursday. "Just take my word that things are going to get better. I can't tell you when, but I know they are.'' My guess is it won't be this Sunday. Chargers have beaten Raiders 12 straight times -- by an average of 15 points.
2. The signs in Appleton and Green Bay. The most interesting thing of the weekend is how Favre will play. Second-most: how he'll be received where the Vikes are staying, in Appleton, and playing, in Green Bay. I remember once following the Bears' team buses from Appleton to Green Bay, and seeing two kids, as the buses approached on a state highway, begin to flail away at a huge stuffed bear hanging as in effigy from a tree by the side of the road. Guarantee Favre won't be napping on the most surreal bus drive of his life.
3. The NFL fragmenting the New York market ... again. Until this year, the Giants and Jets hadn't played at the same time on a Sunday since 1984. They're about to do it twice in five weeks. The first time was to avoid playing after sundown on Yom Kippur. Now it's because the league doesn't want to over-strain the police and transportation resources of Philadelphia with a football game ending at 7:30 and a baseball game beginning at 8 ... and 113,000 fans exiting and entering stadia across the street from each other in south Philly.
By moving Giants-Eagles up to 1 p.m., it's also quite convenient that the Packers-Vikings game now can go to 90 percent of the country -- all except Arizona and the Carolinas -- in peace as a ratings-killer doubleheader FOX game. It's hard to argue with the decision to fragment the New York audiences because you can't have 69,144 at the football game and 43,647 at the baseball game, several of them inebriated, flooding Pattison and Broad at the same time.
4. The Wildcat trying to shut up the Jets. Maybe instead of belittling a smart offensive wrinkle (Calvin Pace said he couldn't "respect'' the running-back-centric scheme) that shredded the Jets for 110 yards in a 31-27 loss three weeks ago, the Jets could figure out a way to stop it. We'll see Sunday at the Meadowlands.
5. Larry Johnson stewing in his own juices. It doesn't make a lot of sense for Johnson to return to the Chiefs, unless he's sufficiently penitent. Don't count on it. Kansas City has a bye this weekend, which should settle down the situation. But the Chiefs should cut ties with a guy who doesn't want to be there.
6. The 49ers going to Alex Smith ... again. Great job by fellow SI.com writer Don Banks on how rare it is for a team to give a high-pick QB a legitimate second chance -- and how this second chance is fraught with trouble for Smith, who isn't running the most comfortable offense for him. And what a place to re-debut: Smith will have to use mostly, if not completely, silent snap counts at Indy because of the noisy environment Sunday afternoon.
7. Sidd Finch, aka Miles Austin, trying to continue his Ruthian streak against the Seahawks. Think of Austin's two-game streak (16 catches, 421 yards, four touchdowns) like this: Jerry Rice had only one better stretch in a 326-game career -- in 1995, when he had a 26-catch, 442-yard, three-TD fortnight. In those two games, Rice average 17 yards a catch. In his two-game run, Austin is averaging 26.3. In other words ... pretty good.
8. The 1-12 Bowl in Detroit. I picked Detroit to beat St. Louis. I did not go to Vegas with that pick.
9. The Homewreckers traveling to western New York. Houston derailed Tennessee in Nashville in Week 2, then shut down the Bengals in Cincinnati in Week 6. Now Matt Schaub and his sore-sternumed wideout, Andre Johnson, will try to stay in the wild card race against Buffalo, a team that desperately needs a win to inject itself into said race. Strange: If the Bills win, both teams will be 4-4 ... but doesn't it seem odd to think the Bills and Texans at the midpoint could have identical records?
10. The NFL's most unknown coordinator continuing to raise his profile. Arizona's on a nice little two-game defensive run (Seahawks, Giants), surrendering an average of 10 points, 226 yards and 3.3 yards per rush. Watch out, Billy Davis. You'll actually start to get famous if you keep it up -- which you should against the toothless Panthers.
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