One would think the primary line of questioning for Minnesota Vikings players as they prepare for their Wild Card playoff showdown with the Seattle Seahawks would center on how they can reverse the outcome they sustained during a 38-7 beat-down a month ago at TCF Bank Stadium.
That’s been one storyline. But the constant theme has been on something the Vikings and Seahawks have no control over – the weather they will face Sunday.
Forecasts have the game-time temperature at or near zero degrees, which would make it one of the coldest games in NFL history. While Minnesotans are accustomed to bitter cold, with the exception of a game play at The Bank when the Metrodome roof collapsed, the Vikings were an indoor team for almost 35 years.
They’ve played two seasons at TCF Bank Stadium, but have yet to endure the type of cold that is expected Sunday.
For players like Adam Thielen, a lifelong Minnesotan who grew up in the Northern Minnesota town of Detroit Lakes and played his college ball at Minnesota State-Mankato, it won’t be as brutal as it will for many of his teammates because he’s lived through weather like he’ll play in Sunday all his life.
“It will be like a normal day in Detroit Lakes,” Thielen said. “It will be warm out there for me.”
Other players are looking to make adjustments. For players like guard Mike Harris, that will include a little extra equipment on Sunday to try to cut into the chill.
“It doesn’t bother me,” Harris said. “I’ve played in enough cold games in my career here at Minnesota. I see it as an advantage for us, with us being used to it. Whatever the temperature is, we just have to go out there and execute the best we can. It’s going to be a tough matchup.”
Some players are attempting to embrace the cold as being part of playoff football. When the season began in the sweltering heat of early August, it seemed like a lifetime from the frigid temperatures that are heading Minnesota.
The forecast is getting some surprising support from players like safety Andrew Sendejo, who grew up in San Antonio and played his college ball at Rice University. He’s not intimidated at all by the gloom and doom being predicted for Sunday.
“I like it,” Sendejo said. “I just feel that cold weather is football weather. Even though I’m a Texas native, I like this kind of weather. It’s playoff weather.”
Some players are taking extra practice precautions. For those like Stefon Diggs, who catches footballs for a living, the weather will provide a new set of challenges that are hard to simulate on the indoor practice field, even if the doors are open.
Once a ball is put into play, it won’t take long for it to take on the feel of a frozen brick. For that reason, Teddy Bridgewater and his receivers will be putting in some extra work on the outdoor practice field to closer replicate the conditions they will be playing under when it all counts on Sunday.
“It’s cold out here, so you go out in the cold and catch a lot of passes,” Diggs said. “Being indoors catching passes doesn’t really help you as much as being outside and (practicing) in what you’re going to be in. You’re comfortable (inside). It’s a little warmer. You might feel your hands a little bit more. But, when you’re outside, you are cold and your hands are cold. You just have to get used to it. You’re playing at the highest level, so cold definitely shouldn’t be an excuse.”
The Vikings are looking to make the frostbite-worthy weather their ally. For some of the bigger players, they’ll be counting on their internal body heat the cushion the sting of the chill blades and try to make the most of it.
“For me it’s an advantage,” Harris said. “I’m going to be wearing long sleeves, be prepared and have layers on. It doesn’t bother me. I sweat enough. I have a high body temperature. I’ll be fine.”
For the rest of the Vikings, they’ll just try to make the best of a bad situation because complaining about it won’t do any good or change anything.
It’s going to be brutal for both teams and they’re going to have to endure the cold as best they can.
“You just have to deal with it,” defensive end Everson Griffen said. “We’ve got to play in it. There’s no way to get out of it, you just have to play in it.”
In a sport where players can convince themselves that adversity is nothing more than mind over matter, no pep talk from Mike Zimmer or Norv Turner will be required. For those players who survived the “Polar Vortex” winter of 2013, where every day was a below zero day for long stretches of time, a little bite in the air Sunday won’t be a problem – or at least that’s their story and they’re sticking to it.
“This is nothing,” defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd said. “This is what we do. This is why we’re in Minnesota in the first place – for a home-field advantage. Cold, snow, it doesn’t matter. We’ve got to go through it, we’ve got to fight and it’s just an element we have to get through. We can’t make it an advantage. Mother Nature did that. We just have to embrace it.”