Ryan Longwell, the career scoring leader in Green Bay Packers history, retired as a member of the team on Tuesday.
Longwell played for Green Bay from 1997 through 2005. He then spent six seasons in Minnesota before kicking in one game for Seattle in 2012. He ranks 13th in the NFL history with 1,687 points. Here are some comments from his Tuesday news conference.
Opening statement: “It’s good to be back in Wisconsin and good to be back with the Packers and see some very familiar faces. From when this started several years ago, I got cut from the 49ers and I was actually disappointed when I got the call that, ‘This is the Green Bay Packers. Your flight leaves in two hours.’ I remember thinking that, they were the only team that drafted a kicker, and the way the waiver wire process worked is that the team with the worst record from the year before would get you, and knowing that the Packers had won the Super Bowl, that means there was one team in the league that put in a bid on me and that was the world champs, so I got in the plane and the last thing I told my dad was, ‘I’m going to be the kicker on Monday night. I don’t know how but I’m going to do it.’ The first game was against the Bears, I remember seeing the 38-yarder fly through the goal posts on the first drive and thinking, ‘Now whatever happens from here, I’m good, because I made it.’ Who would have thought 16 years later, had a decent career, and had a great run here? I’m very proud of it.”
On if he is officially retired or would he kick if a team, like the Packers, asked: “I’m done. I’m done kicking. A little background on why I’m so firmly done. My faith is extremely important to me. That’s what keeps me going, and that’s what I follow the lead. I was born in Seattle and grew up watching Jim Zorn and Steve Largent and all those guys. Went to the Kingdome with my grandpa. It was always a dream of mine to play in the Kingdome and just cheer for the Seahawks and do that. That one week I got to kick with the Seahawks this past year with the Seahawks was the perfect ending to my career. I remember Sarah and I had just put the kids to bed, it was a Sunday night, we kind of, we had been talking about retiring and being done, my agent called and said, ‘It’s the Seahawks. They need you. Do you want to go?’ We kind of looked at each other and knowing the big picture, that the Lord works in mysterious ways, just thinking, you talk about a bookend and a great way to finish.’ If I would have gone to the Super Bowl, it would have been great. The fact that it was one week and all my relatives were staying out in Seattle, I got to see all of them, that was just the perfect ending to this career. Yeah, I’m officially done, I’m in the work world now and I’m happy about it.”
On retiring as a member of the Packers rather than the Vikings: “I’m proud of what I accomplished over here, not that I’m not … I thought I had a great run in Minnesota. You know, I was blessed. I was blessed to be able to live what is the Packers experience for nine years. Basically, it was my first team – I had a cup of coffee with the Niners – but this is my first team. Sarah and I grew up here and this was our NFL experience. We were so blessed to be able to see this whole operation from the other side, from the visiting sideline, from the visiting locker room, from the other side of the state line and see just how special – not just the tradition and the fan base but the people here and how crazy the fans are and playing in front of sellouts all the time and just seeing how special this was and knowing that this little kid from Bend, Oregon, was the all-time leading scorer. It’s kind of how we wanted to go about it. I didn’t know, because of my time in Minnesota, if it was even possible. But when we started reaching out to Ted (Thompson) and Russ Ball months ago, ‘Hey, this is what we’d like to do,’ they were all in. It was really good and the timing was right for it.”
On his memories: “The one I regret was not enjoying my rookie year Super Bowl run more. I was in the locker room with Favre and Reggie White and these guys, and I’m thinking, ‘We’re going to go to the Super Bowl every single year. So it’s not even a big deal that we lost this one.’ Man, I got never back. I wish we would have enjoyed that a little more. I’ll never forget that 38-yarder against the Bears on Monday night. That was probably every kid’s dream: ‘Monday Night Football’ for the defending world champs and on the opening drive you kick a field goal. I’ll never forget that. And then the non-football side of things, I had great teammates. The two experiences that I’ll never forget and really changed my life were walking through the old tunnel with my best friend and buddy and teammate Josh Bidwell the night before a game and he goes, ‘Hey, I need you to pray for me because I think we might have found something and I’m going to go and get it checked after this.’ And then how that spiraled within a 12-hour period just changed my life forever with his cancer situation. Then, obviously, when Doug and Josh and I were with Brett and he got the call that his dad had passed. That and moving on to that game on Monday night in Oakland, it was surreal to think you lived through it and were a part of it. Those are the experiences. I had a lot of great times and those couple that really steered in our life in a different direction and made you appreciate everything a whole lot more.”
On his Applebee’s comment upon joining the Vikings: “This place, people ask me what’s the difference, everybody knows the fans base, everybody knows the season-ticket waiting list, but this is much more of a family than just a big-city sports team. Because of that family, a stupid comment by a kid about Applebee’s gets people not liking you – and rightfully so. What was meant to be an off-the-cuff joke was taken out of context and turned into something, but that happens in a family where in a big city, you’re just put on a tabloid or whatever and they make it a big deal. There’s genuine hurt in a family. So, this atmosphere around here around is different. It’s just different because of the size of the town, it’s different because of the passion of the fans base and it’s different because of the people in this building.”
On what happens to players after going from Green Bay to Minnesota: “I think as an athlete, you’re ultimately very competitive and on that competitive coin on the other side is you have full 100 percent confidence in your abilities. I think it’s only natural if you get let go or not wanted or not signed by your news organization or your job or your NFL team that there’s going to be some animosity. You could go to any other team on the planet but when you happen to go to the team right across the border, it kinda amps up that thing. I know a lot of us have migrated that way, and most of us migrate back. It’s just one of those things. The rivalry between those two organizations and two teams is what it is. It’s a great rivalry. Guys are seen from them and seen from here playing a lot, and it just leads to some emotion that you don’t get if you go elsewhere.”
On his relationship with Brett Favre: “Brett’s a great friend. I talked to him again this morning. He’s as excited for me being here in this situation as anybody. I think as a Viking we knew what piece we needed and the best guy available was Brett. Obviously, it got a little bigger than we anticipated. … I feel like (a reunion between Favre and the Packers) will happen soon. I feel like everybody’s in a good place about it, and like I said, I think time heals everything. I think it’s his desire to be here. When that happens, I think it will be the right time, but I don’t know when that is.”