Remmel: 1987 Replacement Game As Entertaining As Any In Series

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Come Sunday, the Packers will be paying their 24th annual visit to the Minnesota Vikings' house of horrors, the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, located in downtown

Minneapolis.

And not, it must be acknowledged, without a modicum of concern for the acoustics. The Metrodome, as the Green and Gold well know, can be deafening if the Purple Gang's faithful have cause to exercise their vocal cords.

As vocally hostile as that environment may become, the Packers have had some rewarding moments in the Vikings' cozy indoor venue over the years. As recently, in fact, as Christmas Eve in 2004, when Ryan Longwell delivered a game-ending, 29-yard field goal to clinch a third consecutive division title, 34-31.

And that, it should be noted, followed upon a 30-27 conquest the previous Nov. 2 in the Dome, likewise decided by Longwell, now a Viking.

One of the most memorable such successes - because of the unique circumstasnces - involved the "replacement" game the Packers played there in 1987 against the "ersatz" Vikings. It was occasioned when the National Football League's veteran players opted to call a strike after the first two weeks of the '87 regular season had been played.

The league's member clubs, electing to take a firm stand, responded by assembling "replacement" teams of free agents to take the place of their "regulars."

This state of affairs was to last three weeks, but our focus here is that first "replacement" contest - largely because of its storybook finish.

The hastily reruited "replacement" Packers - most of whom were literally walk-ons off the street - drew the Vikings as their first opponents - in the Metrodome on Sunday afternoon, Oct. 4, 1987 - and the Packers' replacements ultimately prevailed, 23-16.

But it was how the Green and Gold prevailed, even more than the fact that they did, which made it a memorable afternoon.

With the assistance, that is, of a hitherto anonymous defensive back named Jim Bob Morris.

The Green and Gold led all the way...after mounting an early 7-0 advantage in the first quarter on a 30-yard scoring pass from quarterback Alan Risher, a Louisiana State product, to running back Lavale Thomas of Fresno State.

Placekicker Maximiano Javier Zendejas, of the well-known Zendejas kicking family, added the extra point. He later was to weigh in with three field goals - from 35 and 43 yards out in the second quarter, and with a 34-yarder late in the fourth period, to conclude the scoring as the "stand-in" Packers forged to a 23-16 win.

Risher, a cerebral quarterback with a modest arm, played a prominent role in the victory. In addition to passing for the game's first touchdown, he subsequently scored himself on a 13-yard scramble late in the second quarter. Back to pass, he pulled the ball.down and racing to his right, swept into the end zone, thus padding the Packers' lead to 19-7. It shortly became 20-7 with a Zendejas conversion.

It was not to be quite that easy, however. The "designated" Vikings pulled uncomfortably close late in the third quarter on a 38-yard scoring reverse by wideout James Brim, a Wake Forest athlete who earlier had registered Minnesota's first touchdown on a 63-yard pass-run collaboration with Vikings quarterback Tony Adams.

The situation became even tighter early in the fourth quarter when Packers running back Kevin Wilhite fumbled a handoff and Risher, recovering in the Green Bay end zone, was downed by Vikings defensive tackle Joe Stepanek for a safety, narrowing the Green Bay Bay lead, to 20-16.

The Packers' quickly forced a "three-and-out" punt, however, and put together what became their final scoring drive of the afternoon, one culminated by a third and final Zendejas field goal.

The "Vikings," however, were not conceding.

Nor, fortuitously, was the aforementioned Jim Bob Morris.

{sportsad300}The Purple Gang, threatening late in the fourth period, penetrated to the Green Bay 8-yard line, following a 12-yard Adams run with 1:10 remaining in the game.

But, on the next play, Morris flagged down an Adams pass on the Packers' 4 and maneuvered 74 yards down the right sideline to the Minnesota 23 before being run to earth with 56 seconds to play.

Risher then took a knee on two consecutive plays to run out the clock and the Packers had their first victory of the season. The Packers veterans, who were to return two weeks later, had lost their opener to the Los Angeles Raiders (20-0) and played to a 17-17 overtime tie with the Denver Broncos at Milwaukee County Stadium in their second game before going on strike.

And "replacement" game or not, all wins and losses would be counted in the official standings, the NFL had ruled.

Morris, meanwhile, became an overnight celebrity, throughout the amorphous area known as "Packerland."

A glib and personable athlete, he was on all the local television and radio shows that night - and his heroics were covered in extensive and colorful detail in the next day's Wisconsin newspapers.

In the process, it was discovered that Morris, the nominal hero, and Adams, the losing quarterback, had a prior sports relationship.

They, it turned out, had played on the same softball team in Kansas City during the summer and prior to suddenly finding employment in the NFL. Morris was inclined to believe that his softball experience had stood him in good stead with respect to making the decisive interception.

Morris and Zendejas went on to finish the regular season with the Packers after the three-week "replacement" agenda was completed, Morris proceeding to lead the defense in interceptions with three and Zendejas to pace the team in scoring with 61 points.

Meanwhile, most of the other free agents abruptly acquired for the "replacement" period returned to their work-a-day jobs or the unemployed rolls.

Head Coach Forrest Gregg, who openly professed fondness for the "replacements," bid them a somewhat wistful goodbye, asserting "I loved those B-Teamers."

*Continuing an association with the team that is more than 55 years old, Lee Remmel was named the first official Team Historian of the Green Bay Packers in February 2004. The former Green Bay Press-Gazette reporter and Packers public relations director, Remmel will write regular columns for Packers.com as part of his new assignment.

In addition to those articles, Remmel will answer fan questions in a monthly Q&A column. To submit a question to Remmel, click here.*

**

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