Saints, Vikings turning to vets
By BARRY WILNER
NEW ORLEANS — The last time the Minnesota Vikings made the Super Bowl, Brett Favre was in elementary school. The next trip the New Orleans Saints make to the big game will be their first.
Are you experienced? Well, yes and no.
Granted, reaching the NFL's title game has been elusive for the Vikings since 1977 and unattainable for the Saints forever. But appearing in the playoffs has been something of a ritual for some of their stars, from Favre to Steve Hutchinson to Ryan Longwell for Minnesota. And from Drew Brees to Darren Sharper to Jeremy Shockey for New Orleans.
So successfully taking that last step tomorrow in the NFC championship game shouldn't be an intimidating chore for either side.
The Vikings certainly are drawing from Favre's past: two Super Bowls and one win, and the most victories for any quarterback in NFL history.
"When you have a quarterback that steps in the huddle and has that look on his face and the body language and the demeanor like, 'Hey this is old hat, we can do this, this is nothing more than anything we practiced all week,' regardless of the situation, it kind of builds confidence in the rest of the guys in the huddle and has the soothing effect," said All-Pro guard Hutchinson, who played in six postseason games with Seattle and lost one Super Bowl.
That sure can settle the nerves. It's something Sharper, who spent eight seasons with Favre in Green Bay (one Super Bowl defeat) and four years in Minnesota before landing in New Orleans this season, has tried to do for the Saints.
"They don't come to me," Sharper said. "I give them the information that I have, any extra tidbits, tendencies, anything that I know. I always want to help any of our guys out on defense, offense and special teams.
"I think that is the main thing, a guy they have watched play for a long time, the younger guys. Having the experience factor, I think I'm a person they can look up to, can learn from, try to pick my brain, watch how I go about my day-in and day-out activities, how I prepare myself and just being a leader in that area. I think that's the main thing that you see of guys that have been in the league for a long time."
Neither coach has been the head man in a Super Bowl. Minnesota's Brad Childress was Eagles offensive coordinator in 2004, when Philadelphia lost to New England. Sean Payton went to the 2000 Super Bowl with the Giants, who got routed by Baltimore.