Vikings ready for outdoor practices

The Vikings’ new outdoor-field heating system is in place and ready to be peeled away for freezing outdoor practices this week.

After the Minnesota Vikings spent last week indoors preparing for an outdoor home game against the Green Bay Packers, this week could be different.

One of the two outdoor practice fields at Winter Park was finally covered by a heating system from European-based MacLeod Covers and the Minnesota-based football team could begin practicing outside in freezing temperatures this week.

Not everyone was looking forward to it, however.

“Is it ready? Damn,” linebacker Anthony Barr said Monday.

Yes, it is ready and the Vikings could begin practicing there as soon as Wednesday. The covering for their outdoor field was in place Monday.

A support tube about 15 feet in diameter pumps heated air from a natural-gas-burning fan into the tube and ducting vents. The tube is placed under a lightweight translucent, waterproof material that covers the field.

According to MacLeod Covers, the system provides “proven and practical protection against periods of extreme rain, cold or snow or invariably a combination of all three.”

The system arrived from England late last week, but it wasn’t deployed and operational yet, forcing the Vikings inside for a week of indoor preparation for an outdoor home game at TCF Bank Stadium against the outdoor-based Green Bay Packers.

“I pulled in this morning and saw that and I said, ‘Oh, man.’ I’m ready for it, though,” cornerback Captain Munnerlyn said of practicing outdoors. “This past Sunday, the weather wasn’t that bad at all. I didn’t even have sleeves on. I was shocked at myself. I didn’t even have sleeves on so I think I’m ready for it. It’s a good thing that we’re going to be outside, get our minds right and be ready for Sunday.”

The Vikings game against Green Bay kicked off with temperatures in the high 40s, falling to the mid-40s by the end of the game. This Sunday, however, when the Vikings host the Carolina Panthers, the forecast calls for a high of 18 degrees.

“I don’t mind it at all,” receiver Jarius Wright said. “We’re going to play outside, so practicing outside won’t be too bad.”

Fellow receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, however, hasn’t been as warm to the idea of practicing outside as the temperature falls and the MacLeod system was getting closer to being a reality.

“Everything depends on the day, but, yeah, we’re prepared to go outside,” head coach Mike Zimmer on Monday. “If it’s windy like it is today we won’t go out. But if we can get out, we’ll get out.”

The Vikings have three more home games this year – against the Panthers on Sunday, the New York Jets on Dec. 7 and the regular-season finale against the Chicago Bears on Dec. 28.

The Vikings play next season at TCF Bank Stadium, too, but the Vikings’ new indoor stadium is scheduled to be ready for play for the 2016 preseason.

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