Vikings look to pressure Rodgers
By Chip Scoggins
Vikings safety Darren Sharper knew what was coming so he started with a joke.
"I forgot who we’re playing this week," he said.
Funny, except a lot of the conversation inside the Vikings’ locker room on Thursday focused on who they’re not playing. As in No. 4, Brett Favre, the former Green Bay Packers quarterback and future Hall of Famer who terrorized the Vikings in recent years but is no longer roaming Lambeau Field after the credits rolled on his little soap opera this summer.
Vikings kicker and former Packer Ryan Longwell put it succinctly: "It will just be weird not seeing Brett there."
Gone but not forgotten, Favre’s legacy will cast a wide shadow over the Vikings-Packers clash in the season opener in Green Bay on Monday night.
Favre’s playing Broadway now, replaced by fourth-year quarterback Aaron Rodgers, whose first NFL start undoubtedly will be scrutinized to the nth degree.
"It’s going to be a lot of pressure," Sharper said.
"Not just from him trying to replace a legend but from what we’re going to apply to him. Not saying that as far as trying to talk any trash. But playing against a team on Monday night, a defense as good as ours, it’s going to be a different tone than what you saw in the preseason. We definitely want it to be some pressure."
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"I know he’s been in the league for three seasons, but this is his first year starting," defensive end Jared Allen said. "What a scene to be put into: Vikings-Packers, Monday Night football."
Favre certainly knew the drill. He had a 12-3 career record against the Vikings at Lambeau during the regular season and was 4-0 against them during Vikings coach Brad Childress’ tenure. Favre completed 62.8 percent of his passes for 1,327 yards and seven touchdowns with two interceptions in those four meetings.
The Vikings say they won’t miss Favre’s quick trigger and ability to escape trouble with an unconventional play.
"You’re talking about Brett Favre," defensive end Brian Robison said. "He can pretty much do anything. You’re talking about a guy who’s been in the league almost 20 years. He’s the type of guy who could make plays that shouldn’t be made."
Said Sharper: "With Brett, it can come from anywhere. He was great at improvisation. That’s what made him great but that’s what also got him into a little bit of trouble. One thing Aaron definitely doesn’t want to do is try and emulate Brett because Brett is a unique quarterback."
It’s unlikely Rodgers will adopt the same free-wheeling approach as Favre. He’s not exactly a wide-eyed rookie, but he’s played in only seven games and attempted 59 total passes in three seasons. Thus, the game plan for the Vikings is simple: make him jumpy.
Want to disrupt timing
"You have to put pressure on him," Allen said. "You have to force him to beat you. Whatever quarterback it is, you always want to get pressure on him and hopefully get into his head and rattle him."
Even more so for a guy making his first start on Monday Night Football in place of a legend.
"Definitely get to him early and make him get happy feet," defensive end Ray Edwards said. "If we can make him get happy feet I think that will make the game a whole lot easier for us because he’s thinking about the rush instead of where he’s going with the ball."
The Vikings say they can’t underestimate Rodgers though. He might not be Favre, but he has a strong arm and plenty of talent surrounding him.
"It’s on us to disrupt his timing," Allen said. "We can’t allow him to sit back there and get into a rhythm and make those throws on time. We’ll see if he has any Brett Favre-like plays in him."