Walsh, Locke discuss cold-weather prep

The Vikings will move to the open-air stadium of TCF Bank the next two seasons, and the weather in Minnesota lately is a reminder of just how bad it could get. Kicker Blair Walsh and punter Jeff Locke discussed the effects of cold weather on their craft and how to counter it.

Sunday's weather in Green Bay for the wild-card round of the playoffs could be a precursor to some of the late-season contests the Minnesota Vikings will experience in 2014.

The Metrodome is scheduled to be deflated in 12 days and the dismantling process has already started inside. For the next two seasons, the Vikings will move outdoors to TCF Bank Stadium on the campus of the University of Minnesota.

The December cold will be a challenge for all players, but the combination of cold and wind will be especially trying for kicker Blair Walsh and punter Jeff Locke.

"It will be a challenge. It will be different. The wind and the cold are definitely some elements we have to get a hang of," Locke said. "I'm sure Blair and I will be taking many trips out (to the U of M) to kind of gauge where the wind comes from, the tunnels in the stadium. This offseason, we've got to work on really being able to control ball flight and where we want it to go with the wind in mind, so it's a little different."

The San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers kicked off their wild-card game Sunday with a temperature of 5 degrees and wind chill of 10 degrees. A brutal blast on Monday had forecasters predicting temperatures in the middle 20s below zero with a wind chill in the middle 40s below, which caused Gov. Mark Dayton on Friday already to close all schools on Monday.

Weather that bad isn't necessarily commonplace, but it also wouldn't be out of the question for the Vikings in late December or January in TCF Bank Stadium. In fact, their regular-season finale against Detroit on Dec. 29 – which was played in the 67-degree comfort of the Metrodome – kicked off with the temperature outside at minus-3 and a wind chill in the middle 20s below zero.

"That's just a totally different monster. That's just something that you're going to have to deal with when the time comes," Walsh said. "Hopefully global warming comes into effect next year."

The Vikings got a little practice in the cold and snow with their Dec. 8 game at Baltimore. That game kicked off with a 33-degree temperature (wind chill of 28) but featured snow on the field throughout the game and light snow in the air for much of the game.

"We had a couple bad-weather outdoor games this year and we did well in those games. I think we can build on that for next year," Walsh said. "Obviously we're going to spend a lot of time (at TCF Bank Stadium) in the spring to figure out the winds and patterns and other stuff like that. I think those bad-weather games this year and the success we had in those is going to be a definite platform for us to build on."

For the season, Locke averaged 44.2 yards per punt. At Baltimore, he averaged 44.1 yards. Walsh hit both of his field goal tries – from 39 and 40 yards.

The Vikings had their own, not-as-brutal game at Lambeau Field on Nov. 24. It didn't rival Sunday's wild-card game, which the 49ers won, but the late November temperature for Vikings-Packers was 19 degrees with a wind chill of 7.

That and the Baltimore games could be "warm-up" for Novembers and Decembers at TCF Bank Stadium the next two seasons.

"A lot of it is just staying warm. On the sideline, you're not up and moving as much. You're on the bench trying to keep the body temperature up. So that's really the biggest thing," Locke said. "You're going to lose feeling in your foot (with) anything below 10 degrees or 20 degrees, so that doesn't matter at that point. It's just kicking a rock anyways, so a lot of it is just keeping the muscles as warm as possible and keeping the hands loose. That's the biggest difference with the cold."

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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