Today will be the unofficial Minnesota Vikings inauguration of U.S. Bank Stadium. The first Vikings game won’t be until Sunday, but today will be a critical baby step.
The Vikings will conduct practice today in the new stadium and head coach Mike Zimmer wants to start giving the stadium the hometown feel to the players. The one thing they can’t replicate is the volume that the fans will bring, but there are some things that Zimmer wants to accomplish before the place is packed – although he is looking forward to having his hearing impaired by 66,000 friends and strangers.
“The crowd noise,” Zimmer said is what he looking forward to most once fans start showing up. “Is it going to be louder when the doors (are closed) or not as loud when the doors are open? Is it going to be loud at all? A little bit with the sunlight. Does the wind affect with the doors? We’re going to have the doors open on Friday. We’ll have the video boards going on Friday.”
The team he inherited was an indoor team forced to play outdoor football for two years – the full meaning of being an outdoor team being made painfully evident during the playoff game against Seattle.
Will the Vikings have an inherent advantage now that they’re back to being an indoor team?
Zimmer believes the crowd factor can play into the success of the Vikings defense, because, as those who played in the Metrodome learned, when the opponent has the ball, the defense has an inherent advantage of the opposing offense calling audibles at its own peril.
Indoor teams tend to have players who excel on higher speed and lack of outside elements that can trash a game plan in a hurry, Zimmer believes, and he’s convinced the Vikings have a team capable of winning on a climate-controlled track that can do a lot of damage when they’re given a home-field advantage.
“I think a little bit depends on the team that you have built,” Zimmer said. “I think you can be faster on turf obviously, so if you’re indoors and it’s loud, I think that’s a big advantage for a pass rush because they’re going on silent cadence and they’re not getting double cadence. I think the advantage goes to the defense with the speed and the crowd noise combined. Defensively, if it’s turf, usually you’re quicker and if you’ve got really good edge rushers that puts more stress on offensive tackles.”
Zimmer is a realist. He is fully aware that, even in a meaningless preseason game in the bigger picture of things, Sunday won’t be a coronation of the Minnesota Vikings in their new home. It will just be the first time they ever play there.
The expectation is that the crowd will be as raucous as a preseason game can be if the crowd is given reason for it.
That is what Zimmer and his players are looking to provide – the reason.
“I’d like it to be extremely loud,” Zimmer said. “It’s always a chance for home-field advantage for us, so that’s what I’m hoping for. We have to play good to make it loud, too. If we stink, then it won’t be very loud.”