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Mike Vandermause column: Extracurricular antics roil rivalry

Oct. 23, 2011
 

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Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers gets tackled on a scramble by Minnesota Vikings' Everson Griffin (97) and Marcus Sherels (35) during Sunday's game at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis. / Evan Siegle/Press-Gazette

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MINNEAPOLIS — Make no mistake, the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings don’t like each other.

The bad blood between these two teams bubbled up on Sunday during the Packers’ 33-27 victory at the Metrodome.

It went beyond the pushing, shoving and trash talking that normally occurs between bitter NFC North Division rivals.

There were cheap shots, unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, late hits and one memorable kick to the groin.

These two teams are on opposite ends of the NFL spectrum, with the Packers on top of the world with a 7-0 record and the Vikings scraping the bottom of the septic tank at 1-6 as their miserable season continues to unravel.

If anything, the Vikings’ recent plunge in the standings, coupled with the Packers’ success, has made the relationship between these two rivals even more caustic.

“We’re on the field, we hate each other,” said Vikings defensive end Brian Robison. “It’s one of those things that we get after it, it gets chippy. There’s some talking going on. There’s some pushing going on. That’s kind of the way you want it sometimes.”

Robison could have added there was some kicking going on, and he should know, because he was slapped with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for kicking Packers guard T.J. Lang in the groin in the second quarter.

“It was in the sweet spot,” Lang said with a pained smile in the locker room after the game. “In my opinion, it was a pretty cowardly move. I didn’t do anything dirty to the guy. I don’t know what he was upset about. He decided to kick me right in the groin. You never want to see that in a football game. I’m just proud of the way I responded. I didn’t throw any punches. It was really hard for me to keep my cool.”

Robison said he regrets the incident, but implied that Lang instigated the confrontation.

“As usual, they always catch the second guy,” said Robison.

When asked what Lang did, Robison replied: “From what I hear, it didn’t show on the TV copy. But if you watch the game, you can clearly see he kind of picked me up in mid-air, put me on the back, and then presumed to come toward me. So automatically I went into defense mode.”

The Vikings are clearly defensive about trailing the Packers by six games in the NFC North after seven weeks.

Their halftime lead and upset hopes fell apart when the Packers outscored them 20-0 in the third quarter.

“When we put 20 up on them in the third quarter, you could definitely see some frustration on their part,” said Lang.

The Vikings finished with nine penalties for 91 yards. The cheapest shot was a toss-up between’s Robinson’s kick and defensive tackle Letroy Guion getting flagged for roughing the passer on Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

No one would say it publicly, but about the only chance the sad-sack Vikings have against the Packers these days is if they knock Rodgers out of the game. There’s no telling if that was on Guion’s mind when he plastered Rodgers well after he released a pass, but the notion can’t be dismissed.

The Packers did their best to refrain from saying anything inflammatory. After all, they must face the Vikings in three weeks at Lambeau Field, and they weren’t about to give their hated rival even more reason to play dirty.

There is no question the Packers-Vikings rivalry is an all-out war, with the Packers-Bears series tame by comparison.

“This is maybe not as friendly — I hate to say friendly — but as friendly as maybe the Green Bay-Chicago of 2011 rivalry is,” said Rodgers of the Packers’ relationship with the Vikings. “There’s a little bit more chippiness out there. Jared (Allen) got knocked down there on a block and was pretty upset about it. That kind of snowballed into a couple of things after the play. That’s kind of part of it. But I think we rose above it pretty good today.”

The Packers have come to expect these kind combustible exchanges with the Vikings.

“Any time you mix the Vikings and Packers you can throw the record out the window,” said Packers defensive lineman B.J. Raji. “It’s going to be a fight.”

The rematch on Nov. 14 promises to be just as intense.

mvandermause@greenbaypressgazette.com and follow him on Twitter @MikeVandermause.

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