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Notebook: Game Is Big Regardless

While no one is denying that Monday night’s game at Minnesota will have some added excitement with former Packers quarterback Brett Favre on the opposite side of the field, there will be plenty on the line with playing a divisional rival that stands a game ahead of Green Bay in the NFC North. - More Mike McCarthy Press Conference Transcript - Oct. 1


While no one is denying that Monday night's game at Minnesota will have some added excitement with former Packers quarterback Brett Favre on the opposite side of the field, there will be plenty on the line with playing a divisional rival that stands a game ahead of Green Bay in the NFC North.

Minnesota enters the contest in sole possession of first place in the division with a 3-0 record, including a thrilling 27-24 win in the closing seconds over the San Francisco 49ers in the Vikings' home opener last Sunday. The Packers are coming off a 36-17 win at St. Louis that improved them to 2-1.

"For us it was always going to be a buzz game," guard Daryn Colledge said. "This is a divisional game for us, this is a rival, and this is the fastest way for us to get into the playoffs. There is no more added importance that you guys are going to put on it that we didn't already have on ourselves.

"We knew if this game was at 9 a.m. or noon that this was going to be an extremely important game for us, and we plan on going out there and competing that way."

Linebacker Aaron Kampman said the players are not oblivious to the fact that Monday night's game has taken on added importance with fans and media because of the Favre storyline.

"I think obviously to say that no, it won't be a big game is foolish," Kampman said. "I think all of us realize the implications and the attention and the storylines and how easy of a job this makes for (the media) to be able to build the momentum for this.

"The reality is that the game will be played on the field, with execution, and that's the team that is going to win. The team that makes the fewer mistakes, the team that establishes the running game, the team that stops the run, that's what's going to happen."

Head Coach Mike McCarthy pointed to the fact that for as much as has been made about the Packers facing Favre for the first time, quite a few of the players were never teammates of his. Of the 53 players on Green Bay's current roster, 21 of them never played with Favre, while another 10 played alongside him for only one season.

The Packers have their bye next weekend, so gaining some momentum as they head into the off week is another priority. After the bye, Green Bay hosts Detroit (1-2) and travels to Cleveland (0-3) before the Vikings come to Lambeau Field on Nov. 1.

"It's a divisional game that is going to set up nicely as the season continues to take shape here," Kampman said. "It's a big game just from that standpoint alone.

"It's never a good situation to end up with a disappointment going into a bye. We're doing everything to make sure that doesn't happen, and that's just extra incentive."

Since McCarthy took over as head coach in 2006, the Packers have won five of the six matchups against the Vikings. Five of those games have been decided by a touchdown or less, with the lone exception being the Packers' 34-0 shutout of the Vikings at Lambeau Field in 2007.

The competitiveness of the games is obvious going back a few more years, with 12 of the last 13 games between the rivals decided by seven points or less, and seven by a field goal or less.

"When it comes down to it, fourth quarter, the game is going to be close, it always has been up there, who is going to execute and who is going to finish," wide receiver Greg Jennings said. "We didn't finish last year (28-27 loss at Minnesota) and we fortunately have another opportunity.

"It's more than just Brett over there, and that's what we have to make sure we understand. It's not a game of the Packers vs. No. 4. It's a game of the Packers vs. the Vikings. If we play like it's the Packers vs. No. 4, we probably will get beat because their other players will take advantage of that."

Not the motivation

In a conference call with Wisconsin media on Thursday, Favre said getting revenge against the Packers was not the deciding factor in his signing with the rival Vikings.

"It had nothing to do with it," Favre said. "The fact that I had a torn bicep obviously played a part in how I finished last year (with the Jets), how I played, how our team ended up. Quite frankly I really was not willing to have the surgery. I felt like it would be too long of a recovery and it wouldn't guarantee to begin with that I would be back as close to normal as possible, especially at 39 years old.

"I didn't use the word 'revenge', but to prove that you still could play, to prove someone wrong or prove a group wrong. You can call it what you want. That's been documented enough, but that's not motivation enough. It never would be for me. It's too long of a season regardless."

{sportsad300}Favre said what made Minnesota the most attractive situation was the opportunity to join an already talented team that had a chance to win a Super Bowl.

"I've said it 100 times and I'll say it again: you can't take away the 16 years that I spent (in Green Bay)," Favre said. "It was outstanding. I know I left everything I possibly could leave on the field. Was honest and genuine, didn't always play the best, but I'm proud of the career I had there.

"There are people disappointed and that have picked sides. I'm not surprised by it, but you can't take that away."

Closing in

With five catches on Monday night, wide receiver Donald Driver will sit atop the Packers' all-time list for receptions.

Driver enters the Minnesota game with 591 career catches, behind only Sterling Sharpe (595) for the top mark in franchise history.

"I would have never thought it would happen," Driver said. "To be able to play as long as I have played, you think of all the things that all the great receivers before you (had), and to be close to those guys and now only five catches from passing Sterling for all-time, that's big."

Driver also ranks second in team history with 8,222 career receiving yards, trailing only James Lofton (9,656). He has had some memorable performances over the years in Minnesota, including a career-best 191-yard day on six receptions in the Packers' 23-17 win over the Vikings on Nov. 12, 2006. His 74 receptions against the Vikings are the second most against any opponent behind only Detroit (77).

Getting ready

The Packers practiced inside The Don Hutson Center on Thursday in preparation for Monday night's game at the Metrodome.

Injury/participation update

Safety Atari Bigby (knee) and running back Brandon Jackson (ankle) are out for Monday.

Tackle Chad Clifton (ankle), defensive end Cullen Jenkins (groin), linebacker Jeremy Thompson (knee) and cornerback Charles Woodson (foot) did not participate.

McCarthy said there was still a chance that Clifton could play at Minnesota, but how he came out of Thursday's rehab workout will determine if he can practice this week. McCarthy reiterated that if Clifton does not practice at all this week, he will not play in the game. Colledge would start at left tackle for the second straight week if Clifton is unable to go.

McCarthy said he anticipated that both Jenkins and Woodson would practice on Friday.

Jennings (wrist) participated fully in Thursday's practice.

For the Vikings, guard Steve Hutchinson (back) and wide receiver Darius Reynaud (hamstring) did not participate in practice on Thursday.

Favre (foot), cornerback Cedric Griffin (hand), linebackers Erin Henderson (calf) and E.J. Henderson (shoulder), tight end Jim Kleinsasser (hand), punter Chris Kluwe (illness) and fullback Naufahu Tahi (back) were all limited participants.

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