Behind enemy lines: Longwell crosses border
By Jon Krawczynski AP Sports Writer MANKATO -- Ryan Longwell doesn't look like the kind of guy who likes to wear the black hat. He's the poster child for nice guys -- affable, unassuming, great in the community and with fans. Playing the previous...
By Jon Krawczynski
AP Sports Writer
MANKATO -- Ryan Longwell doesn't look like the kind of guy who likes to wear the black hat.
He's the poster child for nice guys -- affable, unassuming, great in the community and with fans.
Playing the previous nine seasons with the hated Green Bay Packers across the border in Wisconsin, and the annual trip to the raucous Metrodome in Minneapolis that came with it, taught Longwell all about playing that role.
And deep down beneath his choir boy appearance, and behind all that earnest charity work, Longwell had a ball being the bad guy.
"I really loved being the enemy," Longwell said. "I always thought that it was fun. And there was no better place to be the enemy than in the Dome because it was so loud and they were so against you."
So when the Minnesota Vikings lured Longwell away from the Packers in the offseason, they signed most likely the biggest target for Vikings fans' fury outside of Brett Favre.
First, Longwell appeared in yellow and green for nine straight seasons in a rather high profile position.
Second, he's had his fare share of big moments against the Vikings.
His biggest year in this rivalry came in 2004, when Longwell hit game-winning field goals as time expired in both games. He hit three field goals in the Metrodome to lift the Packers to victory in 2003, and hit two field goals during a comeback win over the Vikings in 2002.
"We had some huge wins over here back then, but at the same time, it's fun to be on the other side of the battle now," Longwell said. "I'm excited to go to Lambeau for the first time and I'm excited to play the Packers for the first time, because I still have some great friends over there."
Longwell takes over for Paul Edinger, who had two game-winners of his own against the Packers last season. The Vikings are hoping Longwell will win a few games for them this year, instead of the other way around.
After spending so much time in one place, Longwell said the change has been refreshing.
"The transition has been a lot smoother than I anticipated," he said. "It's been a blast. It's been a lot of fun. It's been really exciting just to have everything new."
He won't take his first Metrodome kick in purple until the preseason opener against Oakland on Aug. 14, but the idea of spending most of his season indoors after enduring the harsh elements of Lambeau Field didn't hurt the Vikings in negotiations.
"He's certainly looking forward to having the Metrodome as his home field, being able to get perfect conditions in those eight home games," special teams coordinator Paul Ferraro said. "He's looking forward to that. Right now we are in good shape with what we are doing right here."
And when the Vikings do venture outdoors, they shouldn't have to worry much about their kicker. Playing in the NFC North his whole career, Longwell is used to kicking in Soldier Field's wind tunnel in Chicago and, of course, on the icy turf at Lambeau Field.
"There is definitely a technique and a tact for kicking in those places and the only thing that you can do is have more experience," Longwell said. "Fortunately I have a lot of experience kicking in Soldier Field and kicking in Lambeau, so that will be an advantage for us."
The kicking thing has always come easy for Longwell, who grew up in Bend, Ore., before going to college at Cal.
This season has brought a new challenge -- breaking in a new holder. Punter Chris Kluwe is training to be the holder on field goals in camp despite never having done it before on any level.
Longwell, who has been known to call out the holder or long snapper after a missed field goal, has been working with the second-year player to get a comfort level.