Packers,Saints set for 'Super' kickoff
Posted: Thursday, September 8, 2011 5:34 pm
By CHRIS JENKINS
AP Sports Writer
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Look past the towering rock concert stage that engulfs part of the Lambeau Field parking lot and there’s a pair of massive banners depicting Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees hanging off the arena across the street.
Hotels will be full. Schools will close early. Coolers will be stocked and grills will be sizzling as a presidential speech goes largely ignored. As Kid Rock warms up for a pregame concert, there will be no doubt that a bigger-than-big game is hitting the NFL’s smallest market.
Rodgers and Brees are the last two Super Bowl MVPs, leading the last two Super Bowl winners into Thursday night’s opener. For the league, it’s a chance to finally put away any lingering resentment from an offseason filled with ugly and tense — and ultimately successful — labor negotiations. For the Saints and Packers, it’s a chance to send an early message that they intend to contend again.
Greg Jennings said it feels kind of like a “mini Super Bowl,” but Rodgers wasn’t quite willing to go that far.
“It’s a similar feel to a big game, a playoff game,” Rodgers said. “I don’t want to say the Super Bowl. There’s a big atmosphere outside the stadium. But the only thing that matters is taking care of business on the field.”
Brees knows no big-picture objectives will be won or lost in the first week of the season.
“I’m sure we’re going to get questions about future playoff implications and all that stuff about this game,” Brees said. “We see ourselves as a great team and as a contender. They see themselves as a great team and as a contender. The fact of the matter is it’s one game and it just happens to be the first game of the season on a Thursday night on national television. But you just try to cut through all that and understand it’s just a game, and it’s just one game.”
After last year’s stunning playoff loss to Seattle prevented New Orleans from repeating, Brees knows firsthand about the scrutiny that comes after winning the Super Bowl.
“You lose a game or something like that, it’s like people are just waiting for something bad to happen to your team so they can say, ’I told you so,”’ Brees said. “There’s pressure with that, and obviously the expectation level after winning the Super Bowl, the thought being that, ’Hey, there’s no reason why we can’t go do it again.’ You just have to be careful that there’s not a sense of entitlement there. It almost becomes even harder the next year because everybody’s gunning for you.”
What Brees doesn’t know is how the lockout will affect the Packers — or any other team, for that matter.
The Saints got together for informal, team-wide workouts during the lockout, organized by Brees. The Packers didn’t, and Rodgers and other Packers players have publicly dismissed those workouts as not being worthwhile.