What grudge match?
Oh, sure, the Green Bay Packers want to beat the rival Minnesota Vikings to get back in the division race and avenge their loss from Oct. 5. And the Vikings want to beat the Packers to put a stranglehold on the NFC North race.
But as for the hyped sideshow? Brett Favre spoke fondly of his 16 years with the Packers on Wednesday, and the Packers didn’t show the slightest bit of animosity toward their former quarterback.
Wearing enemy colors, Favre returns to Lambeau Field on Sunday for the first time since his last face-to-face meetings with coach Mike McCarthy and general manager Ted Thompson during the first days of August in 2008. Those meetings led to the Packers closing the door on Favre’s return and his trade to the New York Jets.
“Actually, when I got up there, it was a lot of (how) meetings can be in times like that, in business in general, where you finally meet face to face,” Favre told reporters at Winter Park on Wednesday. “It seems to be a lot better, and that’s the way it was. I’ve said this all along — I totally understood the direction they wanted to go in. But it’s probably best that things worked out the way they did, and it’s worked out for both sides, I think. But it was — the meetings that I had with Ted and Mike I had that day were fine.”
About five hours to the east, McCarthy didn’t disagree with the notion that, at least from the Packers’ perspective, that things worked out in the end. Through six games, Aaron Rodgers is the second-rated quarterback in the NFL and the Packers are 4-2. With a win on Sunday, the Packers and Vikings would both have two losses.
“I’m very comfortable where we are today as a football team,” McCarthy said. “It seems like he’s happy over there in Minnesota. That’s really my focus. As far as his situation over there, and if he’s happy, that’s great.”
What’s certain to be great is the theater on Sunday. How will the 70,000-plus in attendance react when Favre runs out of the tunnel for pregame warmups? Will the boos overwhelm the cheers when he steps behind center for the first time?
“I think that’s probably more intriguing to everyone else,” Favre said. “I think there’ll be a mixture of both, understandably so, but as I’ve said before, what I’ve accomplished there and was a part of, you can’t take that away. You know, it’s OK to pull for your team, I guess. But I can’t make anyone cheer or boo or whatever.”
Packers receiver Donald Driver, who remains close friends with Favre, followed suit with the rest of the locker room that there will be some cheers but a lot more boos.
“You have Brett Favre fans; you have Packer fans,” Driver said. “Brett Favre fans are probably going to cheer him regardless of the situation. Packer fans are going to boo him. I can see that happening.”
Running back Ahman Green recalls transferring high schools. During his second game, he faced his old classmates and heard all about being a traitor.
“Yeah, it’s going to be strange,” Green said. “I’ve known him — when I got here, he was a Packer; when I left, he was a Packer. And now with him being instead of green and gold, purple and gold, it’s like, ‘Wow.’ I grew up a 49ers fan, (it’s like) seeing Joe Montana in a Chiefs uniform or seeing Michael Jordan when he came back wearing the number 45. It’s a little different, but you just know that inside that athlete, he’s still got a little fight in him.”
Favre said he’s been in Lambeau Field’s visiting locker room a few times for photo shoots but never thought he’d be suiting up for a game in it. Beyond that, the oddity of facing his former team came and went during his three-touchdown performance at the Metrodome a few weeks ago. Favre said a “true Packer fan” would cheer for him except for the two Packers-Vikings matchups. The fans who have jumped ship, however, are of no concern to him, though he knows they won’t be cheering him on Sunday.
“I’ve heard boos in that stadium before. Honestly, numerous times,” Favre said. “That was obviously different. As a player there, you don’t expect to hear that in your home stadium. But I didn’t play every game in that stadium very well. I played a lot, but there was some times where we struggled and that was kind of a kick in the stomach hearing those boos. It wasn’t often. There was way more cheers. And I suppose there will be a little bit of both this week.”
Favre created countless memories at Lambeau Field, from his off-the-bench touchdown pass to Kitrick Taylor to beat the Bengals in 1992 to winning the NFC championship game four years later to his “Improbable Bobble” to beat the Vikings on a rainy Monday night in 2000 to his turn-back-the-block 2007 season.
Whether it’s for revenge or division bragging rights or both, he’d like to add another chapter to a lifetime full of memories on Sunday.
“There’s been a lot of great games, a lot of games in general. New stadium, old stadium,” Favre said. “But aside from the playing part of it, my youngest daughter and I would always go over and ride scooters around the concourse when the weather got really bad. We’d go up there underneath. It was a good way to get out and do something. Nothing other than that.”
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.