Ideal conditions aren’t ideal for everyone.
As the Minnesota Vikings get ready to start training camp practices on Friday, they also will be preparing for their first season at the new U.S. Bank Stadium. The $1.1 billion facility has all the luxuries of modern-day NFL stadiums with an innovative roof that brings the team back indoors after playing two seasons outdoors at TCF Bank Stadium on the University of Minnesota campus.
After losing a brutally cold playoff game to the Seattle Seahawks at TCF Bank Stadium, the natural assumption would be that players prefer an indoor stadium. In general, that seems to be the sentiment.
“I think I’m going to like that the most. Negative 35 degrees, hopefully I never have to feel that again,” said nose tackle Linval Joseph. “I didn’t like it too much. I feel like when it’s colder you move and play slower.”
Count free-agent guard Alex Boone in the minority among Vikings players. He likes playing outdoors. However, remember that Boone was not part of the Vikings’ nasty cold-weather playoff loss last year. He was already starting his offseason after his final season with the San Francisco 49ers.
“I like being in the elements. I like being outside. I enjoy the rain, the snow, the wind, the humidity,” Boone said. “I think you can always use things like that to your advantage. But playing in a dome has an advantage. It can get louder a lot quicker. It’s going to be hard for opposing teams in here.”
Interestingly and humorously, Boone actually thought the Vikings had at least one more season of playing outdoors when he signed a four-year, $28.6 million contract with them in March. While sitting inside U.S. Bank Stadium, he laughed about that incorrect assumption.
“I’m like, ‘Alright, we get to play outside. Alright, sweet!’ Guys are like, ‘Dude, you’re an idiot. No. We’re going to be inside.’ It’s OK,” Boone said. “We still get to go to (Green Bay and Chicago). It will be fun here.”
Receiver Adam Thielen, a Minnesota native who played college ball for Division II Minnesota State-Mankato, didn’t get to experience luxurious playing conditions until he reached the NFL, but as an offensive player, he is in favor of playing indoors.
“I’m a big fan of that,” he said. “No wind. I’m a big fan of that.”
The Vikings still have the option of opening five pivoting doors that are each 55 feet wide and range from 95 to 75 feet high, but it’s unclear exactly what effect that would have on playing conditions at field level. Joseph believes it would be an advantage to open those up for late-season games when playing against teams from warm climates.
Like Boone, veteran linebacker Chad Greenway “loved everything” about playing outdoors.
“I just think this game is meant to be played outdoors. When I heard they were putting a roof on, I understand the business side of it. … It made sense and obviously now you get things like the X Games or you get things like the Final Four where obviously you wouldn’t have had that,” Greenway said. “But having said that, you still go back to the stat that we haven’t played in the Super Bowl since we left the Met and that home-field advantage is a critical thing to have late in the season.”
Center John Sullivan put a thoughtful twist about playing indoors now that the Vikings are considered one of the better teams in the league.
“I prefer the controlled environment, especially with the way we’re trending when you feel you’re going to be one of the best teams in the NFL,” he said. “Obviously there’s an amount of luck involved with winning and losing football games. That’s just the way it is, but the better you are the luckier you seem to be. Let’s take the potential harsh weather that seems to equalize things – let’s take that out of the equation. Let’s get rid of that variable and let’s just let football happen on the field because when it comes down to football we think we’re going to beat everybody in the league.”