EAGAN, Minn. — Two years ago, Vikings cornerback Cam Dantzler opened his NFL career at U.S. Bank Stadium against the Green Bay Packers with no fans in the stands.
This time, the opponent will be the same, but the energy will be much, much different.
The Vikings kick off the 2022 season on Sept. 11 at 3:25 p.m. (CT) against their division rivals, and Dantzler is ready to get back on the field again.
"I'm going to be fired up. I feel like the team's fired up as a whole and is very confident going into this game," Dantzler said. "Every game means a lot. It's the first one, so it means a little more. A new team, so a new look, and we get to show what this team is all about."
Defensive lineman Harrison Phillips' third pro game in Buffalo was against Aaron Rodgers. He said playing against the Green Bay quarterback was a "Welcome to the NFL" moment for him.
"We had a funny altercation. He made a jab about Stanford. I said something about Cal. He tried to get us to jump offsides, and I knew it," Phillips said. "That's one of the things he's most successful at, is dictating those things, picking out pressures."
Phillips added that Rodgers is extremely capable of picking up on the minute details that other quarterbacks might not notice.
"When you play a quarterback this advanced, the small things matter. If I'm playing a rookie quarterback or someone on a younger deal, maybe I'm not worried about what hand I have down or what foot I have back. They aren't picking that stuff up," Phillips said. "But when you play someone like this, he can see all of that stuff, he's so advanced and can tell 'Hey, he's normally in a 2i, he's in a shade right now, what does that mean, is there pressure coming?' So you have to be very, very on your Ps and Qs when you're playing a guy like that, and I love that."
Phillips said with emotions riding high this week, his advice to his younger teammates is to limit the distractions around them going into the game.
"It's easier said than done, for sure," Phillips said. "There's pregame jitters all the way up early in the week; to open up with such high stakes, I know it's one-week seasons every week, but to open up with guys that have been winning the division the last couple of years, I think it's important to showcase our best stuff. It's a big week."
Vikings Head Coach Kevin O'Connell was involved in several rivalry games during his tenure with the Los Angeles Rams. He said from watching previous Minnesota-Green Bay games, he can tell there's "a level of physicality there" and that the Vikings need to be prepared and go out and execute.
"I know with any rivalry game it comes down a lot of times to the little things, the execution, the detail and sometimes the emotion of it, you don't want to let it get the best of you or your team," O'Connell said. "It comes down to how you're going to win the football game, how you think and what you think it's going to take to win the football game. We'll work through that this week."
Going into his first regular season game as a head coach, O'Connell added the energy around the state is already there.
"I'm excited to get to U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday and just feel that energy. I already feel it within the Twin Cities," O'Connell said. "You don't have to be out and about long to know that people are excited about this team and excited about this game to start it all off."
Dantzler said just being in a packed U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday will bring out their best.
"I feel like the fans play a huge role in football in general," Dantzler said. "I feel like we have some of the best fans in the country, so just going out there and being able to perform in front of the fans is a great feeling."