When the NFL released its full schedule in mid-April, it didn’t take a genius to know which game to circle for the Vikings: Sept. 18 against the Packers. It’s a Sunday night. It’s the second game of the regular season. Expectations are high for both teams.
And, oh, it just happens to be the first regular season game in U.S. Bank Stadium. It’s on track to be the most expensive game to get into in recent Vikings history.
It’s so big, in fact, that even Vikings players can’t delude themselves into believing it’s just another game. Offensive linemen Alex Boone and John Sullivan were at U.S. Bank Stadium on Thursday getting a look at the place. I asked them both about the prospect of that first showdown against the Packers.
Said Boone: “When you have your rival like that and a team like that come in here for the first game in the new stadium, it’s one of those (games) like, ‘how are we going to set the tone for the year? How are we going to set the tone for the stadium?’ You obviously want to come out on top in what’s going to be a physical fight. It’s going to be exciting. That’s about all I can say on the radio.”
(Note: He wasn’t on the radio, just talking to the print/online media, but I’d take that to mean it was all he could say in polite conversation).
Said Sullivan: “I think it’s amazing. I think there’s going to be a great atmosphere for Week 3 and week 4 of the preseason, especially week 3 game with the starters playing a lot. … But to open up against your main rival — which is tough to say because everyone in the North is a rival with each other in a highly contested, passionate division — I don’t think you can beat opening up against Green Bay in week 2.”
Boone, entering his first year with the Vikings after being brought in to bolster the offensive line, was asked by the group about expectations for this year’s team. He made it quite clear that he doesn’t mind that people have high hopes.
“I think everybody knows what the expectation is here and I think we’re excited to meet it. It’s one of those things where people say, ‘I’d rather go under the radar and show up at the end of the year.’ Why? You want everybody to know who you are right away. You want to be proud of that. You want to go into a game knowing what you can do. So I think for the expectation level, it just means we have to achieve it.”