Ryan Longwell spent nine years kicking for the Packers before coming to the Vikings in 2006. He was with Green Bay when quarterback Aaron Rodgers was drafted in the first round of the 2005 draft, and while realizing that Brett Favre will be missed, Longwell believes that Rodgers will do all right as Favre's replacement.

"A good guy, he'll be fine," said Longwell, who like Rodgers played in college at California before landing with the Packers. "He has the fortune to kind of learn the NFL without having to be on the field, and that's a huge advantage for him.

"I think he has a lot of confidence and has that X-factor that you need as a quarterback, and I think he'll be fine with it."

Longwell did say it will be very different tonight at Lambeau Field without his longtime teammate Favre there.

"This will be the 12th year that I've been playing, and he's been the quarterback every single time -- whether I've been on their team or this team, he's been the guy behind center," Longwell said. "So just not seeing him there and not seeing him at the pregame to talk to will certainly be different."

Longwell is a close friend of Favre's and stayed in contact with the quarterback in the offseason as his retirement saga played out. "I talked to him through the whole process and was definitely kept abreast of what was said to him, and about him, and the whole thing," Longwell said. "I'm a big fan of his and he knows that, so it will be fun to see how he plays for the Jets.

"... Saying nothing against Aaron and how the [Packers] offense will perform, you just miss a guy that has that much tenacity and personality in an organization. I think Aaron will say the same thing. It's not a guy you replace, just like Reggie [White] wasn't." White, the late Hall of Fame defensive end, retired from the Packers after Longwell's second NFL season in 1998.

Asked if there is any danger of the Vikings being overconfident now that Favre is gone from Green Bay, Longwell replied: "No, I don't think you can be overconfident ever in this league. The NFL has an incredible way of humbling anybody and everybody at any given moment, and I think to be overconfident is to make a big mistake."

Well, the Packers beat the Vikings 34-0 with Favre having a big game the last time the two teams played in Green Bay, on Nov. 11. Vikings coach Brad Childress has a much better chance of getting his first victory over the Packers with no Favre than he ever did before, providing that his offensive line can protect Tarvaris Jackson.

Helped U's confidence

After going 1-11 last year, the Gophers football team's 2-0 record this season is going to provide a great deal of confidence for the team, according to coach Tim Brewster.

"But what we've got to find out is how we're going to react to winning," Brewster said Sunday. "This football team has got to make sure that we keep things in perspective."

Brewster made it clear the team didn't solve all of its problems in its 42-17 road victory over Bowling Green on Saturday night. "We've still got a long way to go to improve as a football team," he said. "But the biggest thing we've got to do with our team is just understand why we're 2-0. It's because we've been as hard-working a football team as there is in the country. And these players, I'm going to make sure as the head coach they understand how we got to this point."

One thing the Gophers can't continue to do is let Adam Weber get sacked. He was sacked three times Saturday.

"We've got to do a better job of protecting Adam, and Adam's done such a great job of taking care of the football," Brewster said. "I just couldn't be more pleased with the way he's playing, and we've got to make sure the players around Adam are playing up to his level."


Asked what it will take for his team to beat the Packers tonight, Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said: "It starts with being able to stop the run and then getting after the quarterback. That's going to be key for us, can we stop the run? We had trouble doing it the second time we played them a year ago, and if we can handle that, then we've just got to be able to defend the passing game." Ryan Grant rushed 25 times for 119 yards and a touchdown in that 34-0 Packers victory last year.

Twins outfielder Michael Cuddyer, who suffered a broken foot while rehabilitating a different injury at Class AAA Rochester, is convinced he will play before the month is over. "I'm hitting, I'm throwing and doing everything except running, which I hope to do in a couple of days," he said. "Just to be available to help is my goal, and I don't think I'm very far away from it."

Twins infielder Nick Punto, who can be a free agent after the season, said: "Of course I want to stay here. These are guys I've been playing with for five years, and it's a good team and hopefully I will get a chance to stay." Punto said there have not been any negotiations for 2009. "We will probably do that at the end of the season, hopefully," he said. "Right now we have a task at hand, and that's to try to win the pennant."

Infielder Matt Tolbert, who just rejoined the Twins after being sidelined more than three months because of a thumb injury, said: "I'm almost there. ... Every day, there is a little soreness after swinging. I will just have to deal with that for a while. You try to take a lot of ground balls, swing a lot and do all of that stuff I did before I got hurt."

Linebackers Abdul Hodge and Chad Greenway were teammates for four years at Iowa. When Greenway was drafted in the first round by the Vikings and Hodge in the third round by the Packers in 2006, I had two NFL scouts tell me they liked Hodge more than Greenway. Greenway ended up missing all of 2006 because of a knee injury but is back up to speed with the Vikings, while his buddy Hodge missed all of 2007 following surgery on both knees, and even though he was reported to be having a strong training camp this year, the Packers released him last week.

On Sunday, University of Minnesota coaches, student athletes and members of the athletic administration held their second annual Allianz HopeDay Festival. HopeKids is an organization that provides hope to children with cancer and other critical illnesses. The festival included sporting clinics from 25 Gophers sports.

It was almost a big Saturday for former Gophers associate athletic director Jeff Schemmel, now AD at San Diego State, as the Aztecs football team nearly beat Notre Dame in South Bend, losing to the Irish 21-13. And then you have East Carolina, coached by Skip Holtz with former Gophers defensive coordinator Greg Hudson now serving that role there. The Pirates have upset Virginia Tech and West Virginia in the first two games of the season.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on his Podcast once a week at www.startribune.com/sidcast. shartman@startribune.com