Concerned, expecting cold, Vikings press on

The Vikings know they will have to deal with the elements – and one player was actually looking forward to it – the players do have some concerns about being the first to test the unheated Field Turf in TCF Bank Stadium.

For the last several days, much of the talk about the Vikings and Bears hasn't been about Xs and Os, it's been about logistics. Will the game be played at the University of Minnesota's TCF Bank Stadium? Will the game be forced to moved to a neutral site again? Will they be able to even bring "The Bank" up to code to play an NFL game? Will the field be a sheet of ice and frozen turf? Is the stadium capable of housing the trucks and holding the electrical capacity that comes with the enormous production that "Monday Night Football" has become?

All of them are valid concerns. The Vikings players, who have lived through a rollercoaster season of emotions already, had some mixed feelings about it.

The biggest issue the Vikings had this week was waiting for the NFL to come down with an official decision. That came when the NFL approved the Gophers' stadium for use by the Vikings and Bears on Monday night. After scrambling for solutions following the collapse of the Metrodome roof a week ago, linebacker Ben Leber said the Vikings were ready to play wherever they're told, but the foot-dragging was getting a little frustrating as the NFL assessed The Bank for its viability.

"Our biggest thing is just let us know," Leber said when TCF was being prepared. "It's not going to be that bad as long as we're mentally prepared for it. Just don't spring it up and dangling that it's going to be at TCF… sort of."

Both the Vikings and Bears players lodged concerns about the potential conditions and uncertainties surrounding the move to the mothballed college stadium. But Leber was quick to point out that the Bears, who are not only fighting to maintain their lead for the division title, but for a first-round playoff bye as well, have a much different reason for pushing to move the game – to take away the home-field advantage the Vikings didn't have against the Giants when last week's game was moved to Detroit.

"They're using it as an excuse to try to move the game," Leber said. "Their motivation is a little different from ours. What's unique about this situation is that it's unchartered territory."

Not everyone is upset about the situation. Linebacker Phil Loadholt, who grew up playing football in the Rocky Mountains, where cold and enormous snowfalls aren't uncommon – even in October – said it's been a long time since those days as a prep player stuck in the elements, but he's actually looking forward to the challenge.

"I think it will be fun," Loadholt said. "It will be a new experience for a lot of the guys. I played in a lot of cold weather growing up in Colorado, so there's part of me that's kind of looking forward to it. It's been a long while. In Oklahoma, snow and cold wasn't a concern. Last year, we got pretty lucky. (A December road game in) Chicago was cold, but it wasn't too bad. We're expecting much worse Monday."

While Loadholt has experience in the cold, many of his teammates do not. Quarterback Joe Webb and guard Chris DeGeare have never played in game time temperatures below 40 degrees. They will have a harsh bit of reality hit them Monday, as they try to do their jobs in conditions that they have never come close to enduring before.

"In North Carolina, we played in snow when the temperature was about 40, so it didn't stick – it just melted when it hit," DeGeare said. "It wasn't anything like the weather we've been having here and it sounds like we're going to have Monday. It's hard to say it, but 40 degrees is pretty warm when you compare it to what we're going to get Monday."

Wide receiver Greg Camarillo said he's never been involved in a major snowstorm before, having grown up in California and spending most of his professional career playing in Florida, where he makes his permanent home. He said he actually enjoyed elements of last week's blizzard, so much so that he bundled up and went for a walk around the neighborhood after the first wave came through. But he said while it might have been fun or interesting to say he survived the Blizzard of 2010, it will be a much different scenario Monday night.

"Playing around in the snow and cold and playing football in the snow and cold – those are two completely different things," Camarillo said. "But it's not going to be a surprise. We've known for a couple of days and we'll have a week to mentally prepare for that. You get your mind right and get after it."

Webb said he wishes the temperatures could magically rise 30 or 40 degrees, but said that the situation is what is and both teams are going to have to deal with the conditions – whatever they may be.

"You just have to live with it," Webb said. "You're not going to be able to change the surface you play on. They say we're playing at (University of) Minnesota stadium and we have to live with that. If they could change the weather, that would be fine."

Leber said that the players have legitimate concerns about the safety issues that may be related to being used as human guinea pigs on a surface that has yet to be played on in cold-weather conditions, saying that it kind of smacks in the face of the league policy about not putting players at undue risk of injury.

"What type of things do you have to worry about if you're playing on a surface that might be as hard as this locker room floor?" Leber asked rhetorically. "This whole season has been talk about player safety, player safety, player safety. You want to talk about running 18 games and then they're going to say, ‘Hey, go play on some concrete and enjoy yourselves.' If that's the surface we have to play on, then we'll play, but I think those things need to be addressed."

Some players hate the thought of playing outdoor football in Minnesota for the first time since Dec. 20, 1981 – ironically 29 years to the day of the last game at Met Stadium. Others are preparing themselves mentally for the rigors they're going to face. Linebacker Chad Greenway is a little more philosophical. He admits that there are concerns about the condition of the field and how it may impact the game and player safety, but joked that there may be an upside to all the concerns.

"The field could have more to do with it and make things more treacherous," Greenway said. "We won't have to worry about your feet stuck in the ground."

John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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