The Vikings have found themselves breaking a lot of new ground this season. From the off-the-field distractions that broke the team down to the collapse of the Metrodome to playing the first Tuesday game in the NFL since 1946.
This is a team that has become accustomed to adversity. After returning to the Twin Cities about 3 a.m. Wednesday, they started preparing for the Lions about six hours later. The Lions, meanwhile, have been preparing for the Vikings since Sunday night. While teams play Thursday games throughout the year (the Lions do it every year), teams are usually on a level playing field. They both have similar disadvantages of a short week. But this time, the Lions will have seven days to heal and prepare, while the Vikings will have just four, not including having a travel day on Saturday.
Running back Lorenzo Booker said that Thursday typically would be a Tuesday – a player off day – but said he thinks the time constraint could actually be helpful, since the Vikings were given no time to enjoy their stellar performance against the Eagles on Tuesday.
"We'd be in the house today," Booker said of the 48 hours following a game. "It's like playing a Thursday game. I've played on Thursday before and most of the guys here have done a few times. Those are actually tougher because you don't get any days off when you have a Thursday game. You come in on Monday and start right up. At least with this, we were given a little time yesterday for guys to heal up and get themselves some rest. To be honest, we have a little more time than we would for a Thursday game, so we have to move on to prepare for the next opponent. It's hard on your body, but it's something we can handle."
While under a tight time schedule, wide receiver Percy Harvin said that the Vikings can't dwell on the apparent competitive disadvantage and have to view Sunday's game as though both teams have a short week of preparation.
"We have to prepare the same way," Harvin said. "I'm sure there was a game where they had a short week and had to play. You know it's coming. We knew it was coming when we played the game (Tuesday night). We're fine, we'll rest up and we'll be ready to play."
One of the complaints coming out of the Eagles camp prior to the game was that, if they didn't lock down the second seed in the NFC playoffs (the Vikings fueled that debate by ending the discussion – the Eagles are the No. 3 seed and will play Wild Card Weekend), they could potentially play three games in 12 days. It's a much different situation for the Vikings, who will be able to kick it up a notch on limited rest and recovery.
"Being that it's the last game, you can stir up enough energy to be 100 percent healthy – or as close to healthy as you can be at this point in the season," wide receiver Greg Camarillo said. "You know you have to put it all out there because it's your last shot. The guys won't have a problem getting ready even on shorter notice than we expected."
The biggest difference for the Vikings is that they are breaking new ground. Had something like this happened earlier in the year, it could have become an issue, but, given what the Vikings have been through the last month (or the entire season), the uniqueness of their situation doesn't give time for comparison.
"The big difference is that we're not at the same spot we've ever been in before," linebacker Heath Farwell said. "Nobody plays on Tuesday night, much less a road game where you fly back in the middle of the night. You have to adapt to it, because you don't have a choice. They'll be better rested and healed up, but we'll be ready. We have to be."
As much as the physical toll of a short week has on players, it can be just as much mental. Knowing the Lions have had much more time to heal and prepare for the Vikings can't factor in. The players have to block out any perceived disadvantage and use that perception to their benefit.
"It has to be your mindset that it won't be an advantage for them," Abdullah said. "We've got used to adversity this year, so this is just another example. When it comes down to it, it's still just playing football and going up against the guy opposite you. Yeah, you're still a little sore from the last game, but, once the ball is in the air to start the game, you forget that and give it everything you've got."
The team has found a way to embrace their nomad status, where a three-game homestand ends up with three games being played in three different stadiums and two of their last three games not being played on the day they were scheduled. It won't be easy, but the Vikings have rallied around their adversity.
"It's definitely difficult," Harvin said of the short week. "But we've got to do what we've got to do. That's definitely been our motto these last three weeks with the field changing and the weather. We've just got to rest as much as we can. I think Coach will do a good job of that – mentally, be prepared and be ready to play."
In the end, when Sunday's game gets underway, it won't matter that the Vikings have markedly less time to get ready for the Lions than they have for the Vikes. It's not an ideal situation, but, given what has happened over the last month, there's no such thing as an ideal situation for the 2010 Vikings.
"We're going to go out and play hard," cornerback Lito Sheppard said. "Would we rather have seven days to prepare instead of four? Sure we would. But the good thing is that it is a division opponent. We have a lot more familiarity with their personnel and what they do than we would if it was a team we only play every three or four years. That would be a bigger advantage I think. But, in the end, you have to go out and execute. The team that does that better will be the team that wins."
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for 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.
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