Ryan Longwell retires as a member of the Packers
Ryan Longwell. Photo: Image by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
GREEN BAY - He hasn't put on a Packers uniform in seven years, but Ryan Longwell wanted to honor his NFL roots, signing a ceremonial one-day contract to officially retire in Green and Gold.
"I was blessed to be able to live what is the Packers experience," Longwell said on Tuesday at Lambeau Field. "We were so blessed to see this whole operation from the other side; from the visiting sideline, from the visiting locker room, from the other side of the state line. (We) saw just how special, you know, not just the tradition and the fan base, but the people here are."
Back in 1997, Longwell was a long shot to even make the Packers; they had just drafted Brett Conway in the third round to replace Chris Jacke. But after Conway struggled and then pulled a leg muscle, the Packers had no choice but to go with the rookie from Cal, who had been cut in training camp by the San Francisco 49ers.
Longwell wound up being the Packers all-time leading scorer, and in those nine years in Green Bay and cites teammate Josh Bidwell's battle with testicular cancer and the aftermath of the death of Brett Favre's father, Irvin, as his most indelible memories.
But after nine years in Green Bay, Longwell was not offered a contract to return for the 2006 season, and he had a choice of two teams that wanted to sign him: Tampa Bay or Minnesota.
He chose the dome, despite the Vikings being one of the Packers chief rivals.
"I think it's only natural that if you get let go or not wanted or not signed by your NFL team that there is going to be some animosity," Longwell continued. "You could go to any other team on the planet, but when you go to the one right across the border, it kind of amps up that thing.
"I know a lot of us have migrated that way, and most of us migrate back," he continued.
But that has yet to happen officially with one of Longwell's best friends, Favre. The former Packers kicker says Favre's position five years ago was that he just wanted to still p[lay but the Packers had the right and need to move on with Aaron Rodgers.
Longwell also says that he hopes there has been enough time and distance for Favre to be welcomed back in Titletown once again.
"I feel like it will happen soon," Longwell said. "I feel like everybody's in a good place about it. Time heals everything, and I think it's his desire to be here."
The Longwell Family now lives in Orlando but plan to visit Wisconsin often. In fact, he says it was a charity golf outing with former teammate Bill Schroeder earlier this summer where he checked the temperature of Packers fans to see how they felt about him after spending six years in Minnesota.
Their unwavering support, along with the Packers welcoming him back may pave the way for Favre, and perhaps even others, to make their way back home to Green Bay.