Ryan Longwell kicked for 15 years in the NFL — nine with the Packers and six more with the Vikings, the last of which was in 2011. With the Vikings and Packers set to play in a meaningful rivalry game on Sunday at TCF Bank Stadium, Longwell chatted with the Star Tribune's Michael Rand.
Q Is 2009 when the rivalry was at its best, or is that hard to say?
A My personal opinion is the peak was 2009. Two really good teams, two really good quarterbacks, the aura of everything that went on with Brett [Favre] playing his ex-team. But you also had some really big leaguewide, divisionwide ramifications on who won those games. You're talking one game that swings the whole equation. That's a big deal. That's why this year looks a lot like that. Both teams think they should win and need the win.
Q What is your favorite Vikings/Packers game that you played in?
A I think the best one I played in, quite honestly, was 2009 in Lambeau. That was the peak of everything you can imagine — fan base vs. fan base, record vs. record, talent vs. talent, and then you had the whole nation watching the game. Factor in Favre going back to Lambeau, the boos. Everything that went along with that game was a 10 out of 10. That was crazy. Every aspect of it was the top of the charts. Emotion was high, nerves were high. Walking off that field, with Brett and I having our arms around each other, you felt like you'd accomplished something bigger than just a 'W.' There was so much riding on that game. In my 15 years in the rivalry, that was the peak of everything — bigger than trying to knock off the 15-1 team, bigger than Moss and the moon game.
Q The Packers are unveiling Favre's retired number on Thanksgiving at Lambeau. What do you think that moment will be like?
A I think it will be great. I really do. I was with Brett this summer when they put him in the Packers Hall of Fame. … I think time heals all. The fans appreciate everything he did for that organization and what he did over his career. I think it will be a great day and great event. Brett deserves it. He really does. He can breathe life into an organization, which is exactly what he did in Green Bay, which was down in the dumps. I'd argue he did the same thing for the Vikings in 2009, giving fans a reason to cheer. He's infectious that way, and I think it will be a great day.
Q Do you ever wish Favre had said "no thanks" when you went and visited him in Mississippi to persuade him to play a second year with the Vikings?
A All day, every day. You know, I will say this. I think everything that could go wrong did go wrong that year. … It almost makes you appreciate 2009 more. It was a special group and everyone played to the peak of their abilities. Having said that, and Brett would tell you this, too, that 2010 was one of, if not the biggest blessings of his career. It actually gave closure to his football career. It was absolutely, "I cannot play this game anymore because I'm banged up." It turned the page. A guy as competitive as Brett and as passionate as Brett needed a period at the end of the sentence instead of a comma. Leaving after New Orleans would have been a comma, and you just wouldn't have known what could have been.