Bears players figure the signing of Brett Favre gives the Vikings a better team, but they know he's not the same player who, as a Packer, engineered 10 straight wins and fashioned an 18-2 record from 1994-2003 in the Chicago-Green Bay rivalry.
"I'm not scared. Are you scared?" Bears linebacker Lance Briggs said. "Why would I be scared? I've played against him before."
As a rookie in 2003, Briggs returned a Favre interception 45 yards for a touchdown, and two years later he brought back a Favre pick 10 yards for another TD.
From 2004-07, the Bears defeated Favre and the Packers seven times in 10 games.
In his last four seasons, including last year's fold-up fiasco with the Jets, Favre has been an average and mistake-prone quarterback, tossing almost as many interceptions (84) as TD passes (88). He's also been sacked 90 times during that time.
Bears defensive end Adewale Ogunleye has 60.5 sacks in the NFL, but he's never gotten Favre. Now Ogunleye has two more chances to get after the future Hall of Famer, as long as Favre doesn't re-re-retire, and as long as he stays healthy.
"For me," Ogunleye said, "I'm kind of excited that I get another crack at it."
A Vikings team with the reigning NFL rushing champion in Adrian Peterson and a three-time NFL MVP at quarterback is potentially dangerous. But not if the quarterback plays as Favre did down the stretch last season, when he threw nine interceptions and just two TD passes in the final five games, and the Jets went 1-4 and missed the playoffs.
"Any quarterback with Adrian Peterson behind him is going to be pretty good," Ogunleye said. "The Jets experiment didn't work well, so I'm not going to jump on anybody's bandwagon right now. Brett's a good quarterback. He was good in Green Bay, but we beat him in Green Bay. The whole experiment with the Jets didn't work last year either, so I'm not going to be saying, 'Oh my God, the Vikings are the team that we've got to watch.' We had to watch them before."
Favre will also have at his disposal big-play weapons like wide receiver Bernard Berrian.
The former Bear had 48 catches for 964 yards and an NFL-best – among players with at least 33 receptions – 20.1 yards per catch. And that was with Gus Frerotte and Tarvaris Jackson throwing to him. The Vikings added another game-breaker when they took Florida's Percy Harvin in the first round of the draft.
"There are definitely going to be a lot of weapons out there and plenty of people who can make plays when they have the ball in their hands," Bears linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer said. "Green Bay last year did a lot of things on offense that are tough [to defend] and that you don't see every week. It sounds like Minnesota might be the same thing now."
Hillenmeyer is now the No. 2 middle linebacker.
Getty Images: Jonathan Daniel
But players cautioned that there could be some backlash that accompanies Favre's arrival in Minnesota, coming as it has after everyone else on the team, including quarterbacks Sage Rosenfels and Jackson, have already been through the rigors of training camp. Favre was allowed to skip all that and still have the starting job handed to him.
"I wouldn't want to have that on our team," Hillenmeyer said, "but obviously Brett Favre is a special situation. You've got a guy like that, a future Hall of Famer, [who has] a chance to come in and contribute. I think that is a tough situation, especially for some of those quarterbacks who have been working their butts off all camp."
And, with Favre, there's always the chance that he'll change his mind.
"I hope he changes his mind when he's [about] to throw the ball away, and he throws it into coverage," Briggs said. "But the bottom line is Brett Favre is a great quarterback, and the Vikings have a hell of a team over there."
NEWS AND NOTES
Ogunleye was disappointed to hear the news that former Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress accepted a two-year jail sentence as part of a plea agreement Thursday for attempted criminal possession of a weapon.
"It's a tough situation," Ogunleye said Thursday afternoon. "I'm probably going to give him a call now, but it's a tough situation."
Ogunleye and Burress worked out together this past offseason in Miami and have known each other since they competed in the Big Ten at Indiana and Michigan State, respectively. Burress was indicted earlier this month on two counts of criminal possession of a weapon and one count of reckless endangerment after he accidentally shot himself in the thigh at a New York nightclub. He faced a minimum of three and a half years in prison if he were convicted of those offenses.
"It's double-sided," Ogunleye said. "Inner cities are tough. The crime rate here in Chicago and New York is high, and they've got to have very strict gun rules. I guess he just made a poor decision, and it's really affected him now."
Ogunleye said Burress' sentence might deter others, including NFL players, from making the same mistake.
"I don't think there's a lot of players really running around with guns," he said. "I live in a lot of places. I'm from New York, I live in Miami, I play in Chicago, and I don't think a lot of guys would walk around with guns on them like that. So I don't know. But I know everybody, if you're living in the state of New York, right now you know not to bring guns anywhere into the city." …
The expectation was that quarterback Jay Cutler would make the Bears' disrespected wide receiver corps better just by his presence and strong arm. But according to wide receiver Rashied Davis, that's not the only thing that has lit a fire under the pass catchers.
"I think [what has] made the receiving corps better is everyone assumes that we're the weak link," Davis said. "So we've focused and pushed hard because we're not going to be the weak link." …
In his last six games against the Bears as the Packers' quarterback, Favre was 1-5, throwing just two touchdown passes while being intercepted 13 times – three of which were returned for touchdowns.
"It seems like that was a long time since we played him," Bears coach Lovie Smith said of the Vikings' new quarterback. "I'm sure he's anxious now to do something about it. He's the quarterback for the Vikings, the NFC North defending champions, and that's enough for our guys to get fired up about him. We know what he means to our game." …
The Bears are deep enough at linebacker that they could cut one or two that wind up playing for another team.
Hillenmeyer, a seven-year veteran, would rather not leave, but he's fighting for playing time. Pisa Tinoisamoa, Nick Roach and Jamar Williams have been listed as tri-starters at strong-side linebacker, the position where Hillenmeyer started the previous four and a half years until midway through last season when a thumb injury allowed Roach to take his spot. Now Hillenmeyer is the backup to Brian Urlacher at middle linebacker.
"I want to be in Chicago. I don't want there to be any doubt about that," Hillenmeyer said. "But the better you play, the more likely that you're assuring yourself that you're going to be somewhere. None of the linebackers on our team are in any danger of not [playing] somewhere. I don't want to [leave]. I've got a life here, I love it here. But in the NFL, there's such a small window, you've got to do what you can to maximize your time in it."
QUOTE TO NOTE
"Lot of fun. It's a preseason game. Obviously, there's going to be a little bit of drama wrapped around it." – QB Jay Cutler was asked what his return to Denver will be like Sunday night for the Bears' third preseason game.
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