The Vikings are preparing for a cold-weather game at Lambeau Field by practicing indoors but with the oversized garage door open on their practice facility.
Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said the footing on the team’s two outdoor practice fields would be dangerous if they cleared those fields of the snow, but he does want his players to get used to practicing in the cold.
“The footing would be too treacherous. It wouldn’t be wise,” Frazier said.
The Vikings normally practice outdoors until the weather gets down into the 40s or 50s. When Frazier got into his car to drive to work on the first day of 2013, his thermometer read minus-13 and any consideration for an outdoor practice went out the door. The temperature in Eden Prairie during Tuesday’s practice was 7 degrees.
Temperatures at Lambeau Field are expected to be around 20 degrees at kickoff at 7 p.m. Saturday.
“That’s something you’ve just got to be prepared for mentally. I don’t know how well you can prepare for it,” quarterback Christian Ponder said. “The good thing is when we’re there. We’ll have the hand warmers and stuff. I think the biggest thing in cold weather is your hands get dry and that makes the ball slick, but with the hand warmers and stuff, that’ll help.”
Of course, the Vikings of the 1960s and ’70s built a reputation as a team impervious to the cold of old Met Stadium. Former head coach Bud Grant would encourage his players to play in freezing temperatures without long sleeves, looking to intimidate opponents.
But when the Vikings moved into the covered roof of the Metrodome in the 1980s, they transitioned into more of a speed team that has struggled during outdoor games lately. They are 0-5 in outdoor games this year, but they haven’t had a truly cold-weather game yet this season.
Star running back Adrian Peterson called it mind over matter.
“Man, those guys are playing in cold as well. If it’s negative-10 degrees, then guess what? Green Bay is going to be out there in negative-10 degrees as well,” Peterson said. “It’s mind over matter. It’s just something you’ve got to not think about, accept it for what it is, know that those guys are out there too in the same weather, so we’ve just got to get through it.
But with 17 players on their 53-man roster new to the team this year, and 33 over the last two years, going to Lambeau Field for a cold-weather game isn’t old hat for everyone on the team. Their Dec. 2 game at Lambeau Field this year was 45 degrees at kickoff, and last year their game in Green Bay was on Nov. 14.
Christian Ponder is among those yet to experience the Green Bay cold.
“There wasn’t too many cold games in Florida, I can tell you that,” said the second-year quarterback from Florida State. “When the ball is slicker, you don’t want to grip it tighter because it’ll slip out of your hand. It’s definitely different. Hopefully we can do some different things in (the indoor practice facility). Obviously it was cold this morning. It was like negative-13 on my drive in. But it’s something that we can try to prepare for.”
Two weeks ago, Frazier had the heat cranked up in the team’s practice facility to prepare for a warm-weather game in Houston. Two weeks later, the place is absent of heat during practices.
Per NFL rules, the Vikings won’t issue a full injury report Tuesday, despite them getting into a regular Wednesday practice routine. The NFL wants injury reports from the playoff teams on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
However, Peterson (abdomen/rest), CB Antoine Winfield (hand/knee), S Harrison Smith (shoulder) and LB Tyrone McKenzie (shoulder) weren’t practicing.
Winfield’s status will be monitored throughout the week. He wasn’t able to play beyond the second quarter on Sunday after his fractured hand swelled up during the game. Peterson and Smith are expected to play, but McKenzie, a key contributor on special-teams coverage, had his left arm in a sling at Tuesday’s practice.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.