As the Vikings wandered in and out of the locker room Thursday, there was a sense of a bunch of high-schoolers returning from a long field trip in which their bus broke down. The difference, however, is that NFL players stay in five-star hotels, so it wasn't exactly roughing it in South Philly.
For a lot of the players, it was like jurors that were sequestered. Most spent almost their entire time in the hotel, which posed its own set of problems.
"I think I gained about five pounds eating the rich food at the Four Seasons and cheesesteaks at a couple of places," kicker Ryan Longwell said. "I really didn't do much. I watched a couple of movies and just kind of killed time. Unfortunately, we're getting pretty good at killing time and that was taking it to the umpteenth level."
Percy Harvin said his boredom wasn't as bad because he had arranged to meet his family for a brief Christmas celebration that ended up lasting four days. Even so, he spent most of his time counting down the hours until he and the Vikings could finally play.
"I just laid around," Harvin said. "I had a chance to chill with my family and chill with the teammates a little bit more. It definitely was an experience for me."
It wasn't all bad for a couple of former Eagles. Lito Sheppard and Lorenzo Booker were able to catch up with some of their old teammates. Booker spent some time with Eagles star receiver DeSean Jackson and said that, although the Vikings were stuck in their hotel, that, given the holiday season, they may have been more focused on football than the Eagles were during the delay.
"I hung out a little bit with DeSean and some other people," Booker said. "For the most part, I pretty much just stayed in the hotel. I think we might have actually been better off than them. They were at home. We didn't have a choice but to stay around the hotel, have meetings and focus on nothing but football. For the home team, it was different because they had the distractions that come with family being around for the holidays. We were limited because we were on the road."
The biggest question many of the players had was a simple one – why? The NFL made no effort to ensure the safety of fans heading into the Vikings-Bears game the previous Sunday, a trip that turned a typical 30-minute ride into a three-hour ordeal.
"We were surprised," Longwell said. "We thought it was much more dangerous getting to (the University of Minnesota's) TCF (Bank Stadium) during that snowstorm. That was bad and it was on a business night in a big city. (In Philadelphia) that was on a Sunday night to get to that stadium. I don't know who makes the decision, but we have certainly seen worse and we happened to see worse six days prior."
The storm was predicted to drop as much as two feet of snow on the greater Philadelphia area, but, in the area surrounding the stadium, less than six inches of snow fell at Lincoln Financial Field. Most of the roads were clear and passable. For those hardened by annual snowstorms of markedly worse proportions, the postponement made little sense – to Vikings fans and players alike.
"For the amount they got, for us being here (in Minnesota), that's nothing to us," Booker said. "You get six inches of snow in Minnesota and people drive through it like it's nothing. We wanted to play it because our thought was that snow would negate their top strength – their speed. Maybe that's why the game got delayed. In the end, it didn't matter. They got beat in their own atmosphere."
Linebacker Heath Farwell said he had some questions about the motivation for the delay, which was publicly blamed on the Eagles organization trying to avoid the potential of a snow-covered field negating their speed and leveling the playing field for a more smash-mouth Vikings offense. Farwell said he isn't usually a conspiracy theorist, but he had some questions when he got the news.
"It was kind of bizarre," Farwell said. "I think they thought they would get us off of our game. They ended up with 11 inches of snow and made it sound like the end of the world. That's an average day in winter in Minnesota."
Sheppard said that, in a city where things get done by hook or by crook, the explanation given – the protection of arguably the toughest fans in the NFL – didn't seem to mix with their own tough-guy reputation. Like Farwell, he thought there was more to it than just the altruism of fan protection.
"To tell you the truth, I thought they could have come up with a better excuse for cancelling the game," Sheppard said. "They said they did what they thought was best for everybody, but the timing of it seemed little strange and the excuse they gave seemed even stranger."
One of the biggest issues many of the Vikings faced was that they were only expecting to be in Philadelphia for a little more than 24 hours. As such, they packed light – most bringing only one change of clothes and forcing many of them to brave the elements to buy extra clothes. When asked how he spent his unexpected winter vacation, wide receiver Greg Camarillo said he combined shopping with visiting an iconic piece of American movie history.
"I went and bought fresh underwear and socks and used it as an excuse to buy some new shoes," Camarillo said. "My family was there, so it wasn't so bad for me. We walked over to the statue of Rocky and the steps he ran up during the movie. I didn't run up them because people were sledding down the steps and, with my luck, I would have been taken out by a sled. They had cleaned off part of the snow, but left the snow in the middle of the steps, so it seemed like everyone was OK with it. I didn't participate, but it looked like a lot of fun."
Not everyone felt obligated to spend money for additional clothes. Farwell said he watched a lot of TV – he saw almost an entire season of "American Choppers" – but when it came to clean clothes, he improvised.
"I actually stole a pair of shower shorts and used those as boxers," Farwell said. "I wore some football shorts for most of the time we were there. That's how cheap I am."
He wasn't alone. Several players made due with the same clothes they left with and said the best part of the trip was finally getting home and being able to put on their own clothes.
"I wore out the one outfit brought," Longwell said. "Our equipment guys did a good job of bringing some our game stuff to the hotel. We had a little bit of help, but I was excited to get home and get in the shower and get some clean clothes on. No doubt."
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.
Vikings recount their Philly layover
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