Ryan Longwell kicked during some of the most interesting years of the Vikings/Packers rivalry, and he did so while spending an extensive amount of time with both teams. He kicked for the Packers from 1997-2005 and the Vikings from 2006-2011, bearing witness to plenty of drama — as well as being Brett Favre’s teammate on both teams as well.
In advance of the Vikings/Packers game Sunday night — the first regular-season game at the new U.S. Bank Stadium — we had Longwell on as a guest on the Access Vikings podcast. he provided not only great insights into the rivalry but also the fascinating 2009 and 2010 Vikings seasons with Favre. I urge you to listen to the full podcast episode (Longwell’s part is from about the 30-minute mark through 46 minutes), but here are a few of the best things Longwell had to say:
*On the nature of the Vikings/Packers rivalry: “When I first got to Green Bay, we had great teams but we could not win in that stinking Metrodome … It was always the loudest stadium, always the hardest to communicate … and we struggled because of it. The players feel (the tension) and know it. It’s a big deal — more so than just the division, but the rivalry.”
*On memories of the rivalry and of switching teams: “The two games that stand out to me: as a Packer, coming to the Metrodome and kicking the game winner on Christmas Eve (2004) to win the division. And one of the best games I’ve ever been a part of was when we went to Lambeau with the Vikings in 2009 with Favre and beat the Packers. I have great memories from both sides of the rivalry.
“It’s one of those things where unlike college football the NFL is a business. You are loyal until there are reasons not to be, and then you go where the job is. Minnesota was a great move for me and my family. … When we went back (to Lambeau) in 2009, (Favre and I) were captains and went to the G in the middle of the field for the coin toss. I’ll never forget Brett and I in Vikings uniforms on the G, all the people booing us. It was so loud. … Of all the career successes, the one picture I do have on my wall in the office is Brett and I at the 50-yard line for that coin toss just because of the surreal moment.”
*Reliving the end of regulation during the 2009 NFC title game: “It’s probably one of the more frustrating moments of my career. … I’m thinking when we get the ball back, ‘I’m going to kick us to the Super Bowl.’ Just get us inside 60 yards and we’ve got this game. I’d kicked a couple in pregame plenty good from that distance. … I was just excited for the chance. Usually when you’re driving for a game winner you’re all business. It was the first time, that when we got close to midfield I looked around the Superdome and took it all in — what an awesome opportunity I’m going to get in a few seconds. Obviously it didn’t turn out that way, and frustratingly we didn’t get the kick off. And we’ll never know. But I still to this day say that was the most talented team and I think we would have beat the Colts. I think we had a good shot at winning that Super Bowl. That’s why it’s frustrating. We had the talent.”
*On going go Favre’s home in 2010 to talk him into playing one more year: “It was very difficult. We were there for 15, 16 hours and the first 14 1/2 were the absolute, ‘no, I’m not going back.” Looking back, I can’t blame him. Everything he wanted to accomplish, he did. He had the best statistical year of his career. He beat the packers twice. He had a loaded squad. And he knew what I knew from that 1997 Packers experience that you can’t bottle the same thing up and assume you can go right back. It’s not that easy in that game. Lo and behold, we found out pretty quick that the magic wasn’t there.
We made a plea to just come back to have fun — win, lose or draw. We just wanted the same fun and vibe. And that’s what swayed his decision. And things didn’t go our way from the get-go. That year taught him more about himself than any other year. It was a good closure on his career — there was never any doubt after that year (that he was done).”