Ryan Longwell talks about his decision to retire with the Green Bay Packers during a news conference at Lambeau Field on Tuesday morning. H. Marc Larson/Press-Gazette Media
In announcing his decision to retire with the Green Bay Packers on Tuesday morning, Ryan Longwell said he has no plans to kick again in the NFL.
“I’m done,” said Longwell during a press conference. “I’m done kicking.”
He was the Packers' kicker from 1997 to 2005 and is the team's all-time leading scorer with 1,054 points.
Longwell grew up in Seattle, and he got the chance to kick one playoff game with the Seahawks last season as an injury fill-in, something he called the perfect ending to his career.
Longwell thanked Packers vice president Russ Ball for being instrumental in bringing him back into the Green Bay fold. He also thanked Packers general manager Ted Thompson and former GM Ron Wolf, who signed Longwell in 1997 as a street free agent.
“I literally would not be here without Ron Wolf, the guy who took a chance to help out a buddy who happened to be my agent,” said Longwell. “Lo and behold I got the job and lasted.”
When Longwell ended his nine-year career with the Packers, he signed with the Minnesota Vikings and made a joke about Applebee’s being the best restaurant in Green Bay. Many Packers fans were not amused, and Longwell acknowledged his attempt at humor was a mistake.
“This place, people ask me what’s the difference,” Longwell said. “Everybody knows the fan base, everybody knows the season-ticket waiting list, but this is much more of a family than just a big-city sports team. Because of that family, a stupid comment by a kid about Applebee’s gets people not liking you – and rightfully so. What was meant to be an off-the-cuff joke was taken out of context and turned into something, but that happens in a family where in a big city, you’re just put on a tabloid or whatever and they make it a big deal. There’s genuine hurt in a family. So, this atmosphere around here is different. It’s just different because of the size of the town, it’s different because of the passion of the fan base and it’s different because of the people in this building.”
Longwell was asked about former Packers who sign with the Vikings and then take pot shots at their old team. Brett Favre and Greg Jennings are two recent examples.
Longwell said: “I think as an athlete, you’re ultimately very competitive and on that competitive coin on the other side is you have full 100 percent confidence in your abilities. I think it’s only natural if you get let go or not wanted or not signed by your news organization or your job or your NFL team that there’s going to be some animosity. You could go to any other team on the planet but when you happen to go to the team right across the border, it kinda amps up that thing. I know a lot of us have migrated that way, and most of us migrate back. It’s just one of those things. The rivalry between those two organizations and two teams is what it is. It’s a great rivalry. Guys are seen from them and seen from here playing a lot, and it just leads to some emotion that you don’t get if you go elsewhere.”
Longwell talked about a variety of other topics.
On his relationship with Brett Favre:
"Brett’s a great friend. I talked to him again this morning. He’s as excited for me being here in this situation as anybody. I think as a Viking we knew what piece we needed and the best guy available was Brett. Obviously, it got a little bigger than we anticipated. But Brett’s a great friend. I was sad as a friend to see what happened here. I knew there were two sides to the argument, one that Brett wanted to play and we got a great player in waiting that we want to go onto. It wasn’t like you could pick a side of the argument and say, ‘You were wrong.’ Both of them were right. And ultimately it was just one of those tough, tough decisions that had to be made. People deal with those all the time in life. There’s just those big decisions that have to be made. No matter what decisions are made some people are going to be happy and some people are going to be mad. It was interesting when Brett was done with the Jets and then came to Minnesota, another curveball. It was fun to be part of, it was crazy to be part of. Someone actually contacted the Vikings to try to buy the car I picked up Brett in. It’s like this crazy stuff never happening in your life. Helicopters were following you and it just became such a huge story that I think people lost the overall picture that it was just a tough decision that had to be made."
On the current Packers kicking battle between Mason Crosby and Giorgio Tavecchio:
"I think that comes with the territory that Mason and Georgio know what they’re in for. I’ve kept in touch with Mason. I think the world of him. I’ve gone to bat for him a ton even when I was with the Vikings over here. He is much, much better than his stats show because of the length of the field goals he attempts. I think the world of the guy. I think he’s a tremendous talent. It will work out like it’s supposed to work out. I think as long as his rhythm is fine, he’s one of the best in the league. I think Georgio has had an unbelievable camp and his mindset is so refreshing that you don’t see how the guy could ever fail. I think it will work out. I’m looking forward to seeing how it plays out. I think they need live kicks in a live situation. As long as they both have the mindset right, I can see it work out the way it should."
On the mental aspect of kicking and Crosby's recent struggles:
"Kicking is, I’ve always said, 10% physical and 90% mental. I think the good Lord gave me an above average ability to swing my right leg and a really, really strong mind and faith. That’s what it takes to kick in this league. I remember in ’01, we went through a tough stretch of missing kicks and it doesn’t become as much physical. You don’t really get the yips kicking because your leg and hip joint can only go a certain direction. So it really becomes how you handle the pressure you put on yourself and it becomes a mental game of getting yourself in the same mindset, the same routine and the same rhythm. So for me, I was never a guy that watched film and never studied technique. I would always go back to rhythm."
On why he thinks the Packers didn't re-sign him in 2006:
"I think you can see just track record-wise of what the Packers have done that they have been willing to part with guys as they kind of reach their peak and maybe are trending on the way down to bring in a young guy that’s got a ton of talent. And it’s hard to argue, they’ve had extreme success with it. I just feel big-picture wise, everything happens for a reason, I felt our nine years here were awesome, but we were supposed to go elsewhere. We didn’t know where that was going to be, but it was time to do it. And it made it very easy that there wasn’t a decision to come back here. I mean, there wasn’t an option, so we just felt like, ‘That door’s closed, there’s another door open somewhere. Let’s see what the good Lord has in store.’ And it ended up being next door. But we didn’t really have hard feelings about it because it was kind of just the next job."