The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Sports Columns

July 29, 2013

Free-agent signingss make rivalry more interesting

Jared Allen was asked about the prospect of having another couple of ex-Packers join the Vikings this season, and he brushed off the the premise of the question.

"The rivalry is more for the fans," Allen said. "There's no real rivalry among the players."

Really?

I suppose, no other team in the NFL proves Allen's point more than his own. The Vikings have acquired quite a number of significant players from their arch rivals in recent years.

Darren Sharper, Ryan Longwell and, of course, Brett Favre didn't just make guest appearances in purple. They started and won games. They became wildly popular on this side of the St. Croix and Mississippi rivers while turning into pariahs back in Wisconsin.

While Favre never came to Mankato for training camp, Sharper and Longwell quickly became popular with the fans at Blakeslee Stadium who used to adamantly root against them. Those scenes proved comedian Jerry Seinfeld's theory that sports fans really just root for laundry.

This year, wide receiver Greg Jennings made the short, four-hour trek to Minnesota, as did linebacker Desmond Bishop. Both were key starters on the Packers' Super Bowl championship two years ago and are now trying to help get Allen and the Vikings to that spot.

Both play at positions of great need for the Vikings, so the signings made sense. Jennings agreed to a fat free-agent deal — reportedly five years, $45 million with $18 million guaranteed — to become Christian Ponder's top target, while Bishop, a lower-risk signing, is hoping to return to form after losing the entire 2012 season with a hamstring injury.

That's where the rivalry gets tossed aside, of course. For both the Vikings and the players, the signings made good business sense.

Allen heaped praise upon Jennings' career up to now and recalled the "pick-six" that Bishop made against Favre and the Vikings to seal a Packers win in 2010.

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