By ARNIE STAPLETON, AP Sports Writer
December 9, 2002
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) -- Even on a frigid December night at Lambeau Field, tempers were red hot.
After the Green Bay Packers secured their 26-22 comeback victory over Minnesota, the teams brawled in front of the Vikings' bench while Chris Hovan and Brett Favre nearly got into it near the Packers' tunnel.
The Packers (10-3), who kept pace with Philadelphia and Tampa Bay for homefield advantage in the NFC playoffs, trailed all night until rookie Tony Fisher's 14-yard touchdown run with 1:06 left.
Then, Darren Sharper intercepted Daunte Culpepper's desperation pass as time expired and instead of going down, ran 66 yards to the Minnesota 16.
The Vikings (3-10), losers of 17 straight road games, didn't appreciate that and tight end Jim Kleinsasser ignited the fracas with a two-handed shove of Marques Anderson, who had blocked Vikings on Sharper's return.
Vikings coach Mike Tice said he thinks the feud was sparked one play before that. Antuan Edwards put a hard hit on Chris Walsh even though Walsh had taken a knee at the Minnesota 43 with a second left to give the Vikings a chance for a long pass.
``I don't know how that started, but I do know that in this league that when a player declares himself down -- that's a rule -- then the whistle should blow, the play should end,'' Tice said. ``I guess that once our player declared himself down he was hit. I think that started the emotion.
``I didn't see what happened to start the activity after the game.''
Two things happened.
Several players took issue with Sharper's return and the blocks his teammates put on the Vikings on the way down the field, and Hovan and Favre crossed paths on the way to their respective tunnels.
Hovan said he just wanted to shake Favre's hand but Favre taunted him while surrounded by coaches that looked like bodyguards, then ran off.
``I think he wanted to see our locker room,'' Favre said. ``I guess he heard we had a nice locker room.''
Favre said he didn't say anything disparaging to Hovan, with whom he jawed three weeks ago in Minneapolis. Hovan disagreed.
``Yes, he did disrespect me,'' Hovan said. ``I can't wait for next year. I walk off the field, the guy wants to get in my face. The coaches are all around him. Real tough guy with four guys all around him.
``What do you think I'll be thinking about all offseason? He's running away from me. You're a real big man when you run away.''
In front of the Vikings' bench, Kleinsasser shoved Anderson. Packers receiver Javon Walker, who was deep on defense on the final play, was clipped and ended up on the bottom of the pile.
Packers defensive end Vonnie Holliday said the pushing and shoving escalated when the Packers saw a Vikings player twisting Walker's leg while he was down.
``That's what really sparked it all. That's when guys were even throwing punches, unfortunately,'' Holliday said.
``When you get that many guys with that type of adrenaline and intensity and testosterone running around out there, it's going to get out of hand.''
Packers coach Mike Sherman, who confronted Warren Sapp after a game in Tampa last month, said little about the brawl.
``I'll look at the tape,'' he said. ``I just wanted Darren Sharper to end the play and take a knee.''
So did Holliday, but he knows that's not Sharper's style.
``It's Darren, that's who he is. He's going to try just to do something spectacular,'' Holliday said.
Anderson called the Vikings ``sore losers'' and Sharper made no apologies for his risky runback.
The NFL will certainly want to review the tape to dole out fines.
The Packers trailed 13-0, 19-6 and 22-13, but Favre shook off two early turnovers and threw two touchdown passes to Robert Ferguson, who had career bests with six catches for 105 yards.
Fisher, an undrafted free agent from Notre Dame, gained a career-best 96 yards in 25 carries in his first career start in place of Ahman Green (knee),one of four starters who were sidelined.
By 30 days, this was the latest in the year that the league had ever scheduled a night game in Green Bay. The temperature at kickoff was 11 degrees. ... Favre improved to 34-0 in home games when the temperature at kickoff was 34 or lower. He also surpassed 3,000 yards passing for the 11th straight year, extending his NFL record. ... Minnesota's Randy Moss, who caught a 3-yard TD pass in the first half, is the only receiver in league history to surpass 1,000yards receiving in each of his first five seasons.
Updated on Monday, Dec 9, 2002 4:32 am, EST
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