Packers-Falcons

Sunscreen, shorts, and tank tops are certainly not the norm for fans at Lambeau Field during football season, but they were on Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons in the 2002 regular season opener.<p>

With temperatures hovering in the upper-80 degree range by the end of the game under an intense mid-day sun, heat became a large factor for players and fans alike as a crowd of 63,127 watched the Packers hold off the Falcons, 37-34 in overtime.

"I just wanted to get off the field," said safety Darren Sharper. "Don't get me wrong, we were excited that we won the game, but guys were drained. With the heat the way it was and the humidity, it was just natural."

"(The heat) was a big factor. I was to a point where I was riding on my last fumes.

Sharper was not alone. Several players cramped up during the game and had to be treated with IV's. Among them were the Packers' Ahman Green, William Henderson, and Antuan Edwards, and the Falcons' John Thierry. No one was serious hurt as a result of the heat, however.

The kickoff temperature of 83 degrees was the warmest ever for a Lambeau Field opener and it made playing conditions difficult.

"I think every player felt it out there in the overtime and the fourth quarter," said Green.

Green may have been most affected by the heat having to leave twice because of cramping. The first time he had to leave the field on a cart to get treatment in the locker room, where he took two IV bags.

"It was a hot day out there," said Green. "All week I've been loading up on salt and drinking a lot of fluids, so I'm surprised that I still cramped up out there. I was drinking so much Gatorade and water to where I was sick of it. It just goes to show you how hot it was out there for both teams on the football field."

Green had to leave a second time after a second half carry. He carried a heavy workload for the Packers' offense with 33 touches that totaled 197 yards. The 27 rushing attempts he had were the second most of his career in a single game.

"When I got the ball and when I got tackled, I was kind of in the fetal position getting up," said Green, who estimated he went through four jerseys in the game due to perspiration. "I felt them (abdominals) start cramping, and every time I stood, I had to bend over. So that wouldn't have worked getting hand-offs and getting fakes... bending over I would've still been cramping."

Quarterback Brett Favre, whose impeccable record in cold weather (31-0 when the game-time temperature is 34 degrees or below) has been often noted, proved he can perform in the opposite just as well. Though he was visibly tired by the end of the game, he got his personal season off to a good start completing 25 of 36 passes for 284 yards and two touchdowns.

"It was a rough one," he said. "Fortunately we won. On top of it being extremely hot and humid, we went into overtime. But we found a way to win it."


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