"How difficult do you think it will be to beat a team for the third time this season?"
That was the question making the rounds in the Green Bay Packers locker room Wednesday and it's one that will probably be brought up throughout the week leading up to the team's showdown with the Minnesota Vikings.
Although the answers varied slightly, the consensus did not. The Packers know that beating a quality team such as the Vikings is a difficult task every time they play, regardless of when or where the game is.
Ryan Longwell, who booted two game-winners in both wins over the Vikings this season, said the game will once again bring plenty of excitement.
"We know them very well and they know us very well, too," Longwell said. "You look at our seasons and they are very similar. I just think it sets up well for an interesting game. You just don't know what you are going to get from a rivalry game like this."
Longwell acknowledged that it's difficult to compare the team's two previous games to this one because of the "win or go home mentality" that only exists with the playoffs.
"The difference between preseason and the regular season is the difference between the regular season and the playoffs," Longwell said. "When you're playing a big rival and a team that you've had such close games with even last year, it takes it to a whole new level.
"Everything is on the line now, not that it wasn't before, but it's a different mentality in the playoffs."
Linebacker Nick Barnett echoed Longwell's sentiments and admitted that there isn't much that separates the two teams.
"Every time we play the Vikings it comes down to who wants it more," Barnett explained. "That's just the way it has been in the tradition of that game.
"Of course, we're familiar with their players and they're familiar with our players also. We're just going to go out and play. It's a playoff game and just like the last game against them there is a lot on the line."
As for the "too difficult to beat a team three times in one season" theory, guard Mark Tauscher has heard it all before and doesn't agree with it.
"I don't think it should be any different," Tauscher said. "We know we can beat them and they know they can beat us. So I don't think the three in a row thing holds a lot of credence."
Tauscher is, however, glad the Packers get to experience the comforts of home.
"We wouldn't want to go up there and have to play them in the dome," Tauscher explained. "That gives them a distinct advantage and now we need to use Lambeau Field as a distinct advantage for us."
Ferguson Continues Route On Comeback Trail
In the Packers' last meeting against the Vikings, Brett Favre had to make due without one of his favorite weapons in Robert Ferguson, but that may soon change.
Ferguson, the team's starting wide receiver opposite Donald Driver, has been inactive the last two games due to an injury suffered in the Packers 28-25 defeat to the Jacksonville Jaguars on December 19th.
Although Ferguson isn't totally recovered from the head injury he suffered, he is taking large steps in the right direction.
"I've been running everyday," Ferguson said. "I've been catching passes off the JUGS machine. The hand-eye coordination was a little shaky at first, but it's coming back. All the motor skills are in tune."
When asked if he would be ready for the opening round playoff game, Ferguson admitted that it might be a little too soon, although his body is feeling pretty good.
"Very slim, but hopefully next week," Ferguson said. "I feel like I've made tremendous strides. I can run, I can burst, I can do all those types of things. Now it's the concussion point, but once I get past that point, I'll be ready to play."
Despite going through a scary injury in which he wondered if he would walk again, Ferguson has learned a few things from the situation.
"Going through something like that I just want to be a little more assertive and express my role with the team," Ferguson said. "You want to leave your mark on the game. You don't want to be just one of the guys who played, you want to tap into your talent.
I don't feel like I've tapped into my talent at all right now. I want to be more involved and show off my talent."
Few possess the passion for the game that Ferguson does, but that doesn't mean he is going to jeopardize his future to come back too soon, however.
"My job is to go out and play football," Ferguson said. "I know my body and Doc' knows what he's doing. He's been around this and he's seen this happen more than I have. I'm pretty much putting everything in the doctors' hands and what they tell me to do, I'll do."
Hunt Receives Message; Plans To Act On It
Sometimes a coach just needs to send a message and Sunday afternoon against the Bears that's exactly what GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman did.
Cletidus Hunt, the Packers starting defensive tackle all season long, was benched in favor of rookie Cullen Jenkins and at first didn't know how to take it. Now, he understands why Sherman took action.
"He (Coach Sherman) was upset about the way I played the last time against Minnesota," Hunt said. "I was too. After I saw the game, I knew what he was talking about. I mean I couldn't blame him for making the decision he made. I pretty much thanked him for seeing that and letting me get what was coming.
"He makes great decisions all the time and that was one of them. I'll just use that as a motivational tool and use it to my advantage."
Hunt said his main focus is to get back on the right track and play at the high level both he and the coaches expect, whether he is in the starting lineup or not.
"I'm ready to put it behind and just let it go," Hunt insisted. "I want to play at the level they expect me to play. If I'm backing up Jenkins or if I'm starting, I'm going to be ready to go.
"If Jenkins starts, I'm sure he's going to do a good job. If I'm not starting, I'm still going to play to my expectations."
According to Hunt, Sherman's message has come through loud and clear.
"I totally understand," Hunt said. "There's always a place for messages to be sent and he sent a good one. I just have to take heed to it and use it as a motivation point and go out there and execute.
"I will be an impact player. I took too much for granted and I have the determination that I won't be denied in making plays this week."
If Hunt's words ring true, that could be the loudest message of all.