It was in one of the Bears-Packers meetings shortly after Lovie Smith’s staff was assembled in 2004 that then defensive coordinator Ron Rivera got together with Brett Favre at midfield before the game.
They are the kind of conversations that can happen on a lake fishing, on a shady porch on a hot summer day, or at the end of the bar in a tavern. Tales are told and sometimes legends are expanded.
This time, with Rivera and Favre in a group of people, Rivera reminded the quarterback just how long ago he stopped playing—1992—the first year for Favre with the Packers.
Happens to be the last of Rivera’s seven career sacks came against Favre.
The Bears were on their way to a 30-10 rout of Green Bay on Oct. 25, 1992, at Lambeau Field—just the fourth start of Favre's career—when Rivera was sent in as a rush end at the start of the fourth quarter with injuries forcing him from his linebacker position.
It was an inconsequential play in an inconsequential game—unless you consider Mike Ditka’s second-to-last victory as Bears coach noteworthy—and no one knew what was taking root in Green Bay.
``I told him that was the last sack I ever had and he just started laughing,’’ Rivera said. ``Brett said, `That just shows you how slow I am.’ I should have it on tape to show my grandkids some day.’’
``It’s a sad for the league,’’ Rivera continued. ``Because of the caliber of football player Brett is and because of the caliber of person he is. I’ve always been impressed with him as a person every bit as much as I am of him as a player.’’
Rivera knows as well as anyone how difficult it will be for Aaron Rodgers—or whoever—to follow Favre.
``When you have to come in and replace a legend it’s hard to do it unless you win and win right away,’’ Rivera said. ``The only person who really had success with it was Jimmy Johnson when he took over in Dallas for Tom Landry, and he was a coach. Unfortunately for Dave Wannstedt, he was a terrific person but he had to replace Ditka. You don’t want to be the next guy.
``Look at all the great middle linebackers the Bears have had. It was Mike Singletary and then Dante Jones and whoever else and whoever until Brian Urlacher came along. Same thing with Walter Payton. That’s just one of those things when you are following such a legacy and someone with such huge shoes to fill. The next person has to be special or it’s going to be difficult. It’s just not an easy thing.’’