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Packing to play Pack

Favre tries to keep his cool in big return to Green Bay

Minnesota quarterback Brett Favre played 16 seasons at Lambeau Field for the Green Bay Packers.  (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
Minnesota quarterback Brett Favre played 16 seasons at Lambeau Field for the Green Bay Packers. (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
Dave Campbell Associated Press

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. – Before Brett Favre’s first preseason game with Minnesota, a meaningless performance featuring all of six snaps, he was nervous and nauseous.

In the last hours before the Vikings played his former team at the Metrodome, Favre muttered to himself, “Man, I’m losing it.”

So how anxious must he be THIS week? It’s the highly hyped rematch in Green Bay at Lambeau Field, where betrayed fans will be waiting with what could be a cold welcome and the Packers are eagerly preparing to avenge their recent defeat.

“I don’t think it’ll be as bad,” Favre said, “but I don’t know that.”

The NFL’s all-time leading passer wearing rival purple and white – rather than the home green and gold – in his return to the site where he played 16 exceptional seasons, helped revive the famed franchise, and played on a Super Bowl winner will go down as one of the most memorable moments in sports history.

Just don’t expect the man around which this story revolves to reveal a mental or emotional breakdown in anticipation of Sunday’s main event.

“I think that’s probably more intriguing to everyone else,” Favre said.

He expects a mixture of cheers and boos, but insisted “there’s no sentiments” about the upcoming trip. Favre recalled scooter rides with his youngest daughter, Breleigh, around the stadium concourse to combat the winter blahs, but beyond that he wasn’t in a reminiscent mood. He’s already been in the visiting locker room at Lambeau for photo shoots, and he’s even been booed there before during a handful of bad games.

This will be a unique experience, but Favre is more concerned about the NFC North race between the Vikings (6-1) and Packers (4-2). After appearing stiff and tired during his news conference, Favre loosened up and joked about checking fan mail from Wisconsin for “something ticking” or “white powder.”

He revealed that only two of his family members are going to the game, denying that a bunch of hotel rooms for his relatives were booked this summer.

“I’m way too cheap for that,” Favre said.

Vikings coach Brad Childress didn’t plan any special talks with his quarterback.

“He’s a 40-year-old man, as you know,” Childress said.

Perhaps this classic scene from the 1980 comedy “Airplane” is the true reflection of Favre’s feelings: The lead character, Ted Striker, tells the lady sitting next to him early in the film that he’s nervous.

“First time?” the woman asks, shortly before the flight begins.

“No, I’ve been nervous lots of times,” Striker replies.

Sure, Favre will feel his stomach stirring as he takes the field Sunday afternoon with the Vikings and hears the boos – however many there are – emanating from the stadium bowl. Considering the significance of the game, the fans are bound to be at their loudest. After failing to generate any pass rush in Minnesota’s 30-23 victory at the Metrodome, Green Bay’s defense could bring a more aggressive approach.

After kickoff, butterflies usually return to their cocoon. Yes, playing the Packers is a big deal and being a visitor at Lambeau is a first, but the motivation of a 7-1 record is stronger.

“To me, being able to focus, being relaxed, kind of seeing things clearly as they’re happening, is a much better and more productive way to play,” Favre said. “Being nervous and having anxiety and things like that, I don’t think can be a plus when you’re in a decision-making role.”

Ryan Longwell, who left the Packers to join the Vikings in 2006, talked to Favre several times this summer as he mulled coming to Minnesota. By far, their longest conversation was about this particular game.

“I think it’ll be different for him, but I think he’ll know how to handle it,” Longwell said.

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