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Icon booed, grudge renewed as Vikes and Pack feud

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Associated Press
October 31, 2009
— Brett Favre will run out of the Lambeau Field tunnel wearing purple, and nobody really knows how Green Bay Packers fans will react.

But if the angry buzz generated by the mere appearance of in-stadium video highlights of Favre and the Vikings during the first few Packers home games is any indication, the once-beloved face of the franchise will be booed. Loudly.


The tempest of emotion leading to Sunday's Vikings-Packers game could make for one of the most awkward homecomings in sports history. Favre, perhaps the league's most emotion-driven player, will try to tune it all out.


"The people that have jumped ship or whatever completely, what can I do?" Favre said. "I'm not going to concern myself with it."


That makes one of us.


Everybody else is ready for some great sports theater.


Joe Montana faced the 49ers as a Chief. Michael Jordan faced the Bulls as a Wizard. Heck, Favre already faced the Packers and beat them at his new home, the Metrodome, less than a month ago.


But as Favre returns to the scene of his surreal standoff with the Packers' front office last summer, it's hard to imagine a more intense setting.


Favre has been booed before at Lambeau, something that's bound to happen when you're the NFL's career interceptions leader even in mild-mannered Green Bay. And that, Favre said, felt "kind of a kick in the stomach."


Bring it on, Vikings defensive end Jared Allen says.


"They might still like Brett, but they're Packer fans," Allen said. "They're going to boo the Minnesota Vikings. It's not going to hurt my feelings. They're not going to make me cry. As a matter of fact, I expect good harsh ripping-on. I want to hear some funny stuff out there."


And while it's only Week 8, the stakes couldn't be much higher for both teams.


With a victory, the Vikings take a huge step toward putting the NFC North out of reach. A Packers win makes the division race tight.


Then there's the snap-judgment factor: If Favre wins, he'll complete a season sweep over his former team and stick it to the man who traded him, Packers general manager Ted Thompson.


But if Favre melts down in a flurry of interceptions and the Packers win behind another strong performance by Aaron Rodgers, it will be seen as a sign Thompson and Packers coach Mike McCarthy knew what they were doing all along.


Neither Favre nor McCarthy spent this week revisiting last year's dispute, which began when Favre suddenly told the team he wanted to come out of retirement last summer after asking for, then abruptly turning down, a chance to come back to the team earlier that offseason.


Increasing public tension between Favre and the Packers' front office during training camp in 2008 eventually led to a sit-down meeting between Favre and McCarthy, and McCarthy determined Favre wasn't in the right "mindset" to return.


McCarthy never fully explained what he meant, but did say earlier this year that Favre expressed a desire to play for the Vikings at the time.


Favre instead was traded to the New York Jets, retired again after last season, then unretired again to sign with the Vikings. Favre said this week that it's "probably best that things worked out the way they did," and McCarthy agreed.


"As far as his situation over there, and if he's happy, that's great," McCarthy said. "But going back to that time for everybody, really in my view it has nothing to do with (Sunday's) game."


McCarthy is more concerned with stopping Favre, something the Packers didn't do in their 30-23 loss at the Metrodome Oct. 5.


The Packers held Adrian Peterson to 55 yards on 25 carries, essentially daring Favre to beat them through the air.


Did he ever: Favre was 24 of 31 for 271 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions, and wasn't sacked once.


But the Vikings could be without wide receiver Bernard Berrian because of a left hamstring injury Sunday, and the Packers are playing better on defense.


Safety Atari Bigby is back from a knee injury, improving communication in the secondary. And after struggling with the transition to outside linebacker in Dom Capers' 3-4 defense, Aaron Kampman is playing as a down lineman more often and is putting more pressure on the quarterback.


The Packers gave up a total of three points in back-to-back wins over Detroit and Cleveland, but know they're in for a more significant test Sunday. Defensive lineman Cullen Jenkins said stopping Peterson remains the Packers' No. 1 priority, but they have to get more pressure on Favre.


"Brett's a great quarterback, and given the time, he'll find somebody or he'll make something happen," Jenkins said.


Pass rush pressure wasn't exactly a problem for the Vikings in their first matchup with the Packers. Rodgers was sacked a chinstrap-snapping eight times at the Metrodome, including 4 1-2 by Allen.


Rodgers could welcome back left tackle Chad Clifton, who hasn't played a full game since the season opener because of a recurring right ankle injury. And fellow veteran Mark Tauscher, who recently re-signed with the Packers after rehabbing a serious knee injury from last season, could figure in the mix at right tackle.


Rodgers didn't wilt under pressure against the Vikings, throwing for 384 yards and nearly leading the Packers to a late comeback.


"As far as rattling him, he might have been a little quick getting out of the pocket, but I thought he did a pretty good job holding in there and getting the ball down the field," Allen said. "He still threw for a ton of yards on us, so we have to clean that up."


But for everyone else, the focus will be on Favre.


Running back Ahman Green, a former Favre teammate who recently re-signed with the Packers, said he expects Favre to play the same way in a different uniform.


"I grew up a 49ers fan, seeing Joe Montana in a Chiefs uniform," Green said. "Or seeing Michael Jordan when he came back wearing No. 45. It's a little different. But it's something that you just know inside that athlete, they've still got a little fight left in them, or they wouldn't go back on the field."



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