Notebook: Specialists dealing with TCF issues

Perhaps no one will be as affected by the Vikings' switch to TCF Bank Stadium as their kicker and punter. Ryan Longwell and Chris Kluwe talked about the challenges of the new venue Monday night. Meanwhile, the NFL was celebrating a return to a cold-weather game in Minnesota with facts and figures from the past.

The Vikings' specialists are as concerned about the condition of the playing surface at TCF Bank Stadium as anyone.

Kicker Ryan Longwell and punter Chris Kluwe each said they will have to adjust as necessary to a change in venue for the Vikings' Monday night game against the Chicago Bears, which was moved to TCF Bank Stadium, home of the Gophers, after the roof of the Metrodome collapsed Sunday morning under the weight of 17 inches of snow.

"If there's bad footing, then you can't play the wind and the conditions. But if you have good footing and the field is dry, then you have a chance to at least start the ball on line and have a good hit on it. It's kind of a combination of both," Longwell said. "The question that (Kluwe) and I have been dealing with is just an unknown stadium. We've never been in there and so that's what we've got to figure out in a very, very, very short period of time."

Having played nine years at Lambeau Field with the Green Bay Packers before joining the Vikings in 2006, Longwell is used to dealing with all sorts of adverse weather conditions, and not just at Lambeau Field. However, Lambeau did provide him with the most lasting memory of hard-to-handle weather conditions.

"We played against Buffalo in Lambeau one year when it was blowing 40 miles an hour and the temperature was in single digits. It was just so tough," he said. "I remember you're so mentally tuned into that game and trying to figure it out as the game goes along. That was pretty tough. Played a couple snow games in playoff games that weren't ideal conditions. But I've kind of seen it all and done it all over in Lambeau. But just as far as freezing cold temperature, this could be essentially the coldest."

Punter Chris Kluwe agreed with the sentiment that Monday night's game could top anything that he's faced in his six-year NFL career.

"The Chicago game my second year I think was the worst. It was either '06 or '07, the one where it was just like 10 degrees with 30 mile-an-hour winds," Kluwe said. "That was the worst I've played in so far, but I'm anticipating this one will eclipse that as a measure of awfulness.

"… I don't think anyone really wants to play outdoors in single-degree temperatures with double-digit winds. That's not really fun conditions."

Longwell said they have been told to expect a "perfectly dry field," and the team is expected to conduct a walkthrough practice on Sunday at the stadium to test that theory.

One advantage is the playing surface is Field Turf, which is better in cold conditions than natural grass fields like Lambeau and Soldier Field in Chicago, according to Longwell.

"The Field Turf generally gives you better footing all the way around, no matter what," Longwell said. "The curve ball in this one is that it's been sitting under snow for six weeks. So that's why there's an issue with how it's cleaned and dried and stuff. New England is a Field Turf and Buffalo is Field Turf."

The Bears might be more used to cold-weather conditions with their home stadium being exposed to the elements, but that doesn't make it any more appealing to them. They have voiced their concerns about player safety.

"Obviously they probably had other ulterior motives. They don't want us to have a home game," Kluwe said. "At the same time, they play at Chicago eight games out of the year. They're probably not that eager to get another cold one in when they can avoid it. It's just one of those things where it sucks but you've just got to make do."

Longwell said that no player looks forward to playing in cold weather, but players need to have a mindset that focuses on the game. Kluwe put it more into locker room terms.

"Now we've just kind of got to nut up and play the game," he said.

CELEBRATING THE COLD-WEATHER GAMES

Monday night's game will be the first time in 29 years that an NFL game has been played outdoors in Minnesota. In fact, it's 29 years to the day. The last outdoor game in Minnesota was Dec. 20, 1981 when Kansas City beat Minnesota, 10-6, in the final sporting event at Metropolitan Stadium.

The game featured four future Pro Football Hall of Famers and three members of the Vikings Ring of Honor. Coach Bud Grant and Marv Levy, and Vikings offensive linemen Ron Yary and Jim Langer both played in that game and are now in the Hall of Fame. Scott Studwell, who is in the Viking Ring of Honor, also played in that game.

Other notes:

  • The Vikings are celebrating their 50th season this weekend and honoring the 50 greatest Vikings at halftime of the game. Nine of those 50 were involved in that last outdoor game in Minnesota.

  • The first regular-season game in Vikings history was also played outdoors at Met Stadium against Chicago on Sept. 17, 1961. The Vikings upset the Bears, 37-13. Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton made his NFL debut that day.

  • The coldest games on record in NFL history (in Fahrenheit): The "Ice Bowl," Dallas at Green Bay, Dec. 31, 1967 at minus-13 with a minus-48 wind chill; San Diego at Cincinnati, Jan. 10, 1982 at minus-9 with a minus-59 wind chill; and the New York Giants at Green Bay, Jan. 20, 2008 at minus-1 with a minus-23 wind chill. All three were conference championship games.


    Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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