EAGAN, Minn. – The Vikings 2022 season opener will mean a little extra to Za'Darius Smith and Chandon Sullivan.
The former Packers defenders will suit up for their first regular-season game since signing with Minnesota in free agency. But the cherry on top? They'll be playing against their former team.
Smith, who spent the past three seasons in Green Bay, said he "can't wait" for Sunday's 3:25 p.m. (CT) kickoff.
"Very excited, man," Smith told media members Monday. "I've been preparing for this time to come for a while now, so it's finally come, and now I'm ready."
Added Sullivan: "You know, it's my first chance to really show myself in a Vikings uniform – first game of the season … and then I get to play my old team [on top of that], so a lot of emotions. I'm just ready to go."
Both are looking forward to facing former teammate and 10-time Pro Bowler Aaron Rodgers, with whom Vikings fans have almost as much familiarity.
"He's a great quarterback, and hopefully we get a chance to take him down a couple times," said Smith, who totaled 26 sacks from 2019-20 — his first two seasons in Green Bay. (Smith missed most of the 2021 campaign due to injury.)
Sullivan said Rodgers has "seen everything" after 18 seasons in the NFL and is incredibly smart – not to mention the arm strength he continues to demonstrate at age 38.
"It's going to be a challenge for our defense, but we're going to be ready, for sure," Sullivan said.
"We know how great he is, but we're going to just disguise, we're going to make it tough to see what our defense – the shell – we're going to present to them, and we'll try to force some turnovers, for sure," he added.
Smith said he hasn't yet exchanged a ton of trash talk with his former teammates but did connect with Packers defensive end Preston Smith, whom he remains close with.
Smith's energy is contagious to his new teammates.
Harrison Phillips, another new addition to the Vikings this season, appreciates the extra juice Smith adds to the defense. Especially this week.
"He's got a different energy already. I don't know if he just took a three-day nap, but he is fired up," Phillips quipped.
Look back at photos through the years featuring games between the Vikings and Packers.
Vikings receiver K.J. Osborn used the same word, calling Smith "a high-energy guy" in the locker room and on the field.
"We're super grateful to have him. I'll probably get some questions in about Green Bay this week," Osborn said. "Just having him around, him being a leader and seeing what he brings to the field, it's great."
He added that Sullivan, whom he played against when he was in Green Bay, has been a positive addition to the team.
"Really good, instinctive player. Really smart. Obviously very talented," Osborn said. "He's a really good asset for us to have on our team, and I'll be picking his brain this week, as well."
As Sullivan and Smith prepare for Sunday's Border Battle, they're expecting big things from the U.S. Bank Stadium atmosphere – and hopefully plenty to celebrate when the game clock hits 0:00.
"I'm just ready to hear those fans," Sullivan said. "The preseason game I got my first taste of it, and I had chills all over my body. I'm just ready to hear that [SKOL] Chant and make a play."
Smith added that he's raring to go after an entire season away from the field.
"I'm just excited. I get the opportunity to go back and do something that I love. Just happy. Can't wait," Smith said. "My birthday coming up [on Thursday], so hopefully we get a 'dub' for my birthday."