The Minnesota Vikings changed up their final practice of the week prior to Sunday’s game against the San Diego Chargers.
Usually the team holds Friday practices at their facility in Eden Prairie, but head coach Mike Zimmer decided to hold it at U.S. Bank Stadium. Sunday marks the first time an NFL game will be held in the stadium and Zimmer wanted to make sure his team got a little taste of what it would be like to play in there beforehand.
With the way the stadium is set up, players can be staring at a giant video board when driving down the field toward either end of the stadium. The bigger of the two video boards sits just above the lower level of seats on the west end, easily within eyesight of the players.
Zimmer knew this beforehand and wanted to make sure his players got used to playing with that distraction. You could see some players watching the board as the play was going on during practice, but the head coach is hoping that will be a non-issue come game time on Sunday.
“The one video board on this one side is pretty big, so we’re gonna have to get used to that a little bit,” he said.
“I think it’s great for the fans, but I think it’s kind of the same thing. Distractions are what you let them be. If you’re focused on what you have to do, that’s why I had the offense go this way today because that screen down there is bigger. Just to get their input on things and so they can get a better feel for it.”
Zimmer also wanted to make sure his team could get used to playing with the ETFE roof at U.S. Bank Stadium. Since it is a translucent material, the sun is able to shine through onto the field and it could be an impact for players. Friday wasn’t a sunny day, but the sun was still very bright when you looked up at the ceiling.
“It’s really bright in here. I don’t think today is a real bright day,” Zimmer said.
It could really play a factor for receivers trying to track and catch a ball, as well as players trying to field punts of kickoffs. Zimmer mentioned how the sun was poking out onto one end of the field during practice, but once again didn’t seem too worried. He even mentioned how he has a “sun study” sitting on his desk to help him gauge it during games.
The final thing that Zimmer seemed to really want to figure out during Friday’s practice was how the wind affected things when the doors on the west end of the stadium were open. Friday was not a windy day in Minneapolis, but the head coach said he could still feel some wind while down on the field.
Another question he had about the doors was how much they will impact the noise level in the stadium. He wants to make sure that the crowd is as loud as they can possibly be, and having those doors open could effect that.
“That’s what I’m hoping for the most,” he began. “I’m hoping our crowd is extremely loud every time. That part is a great home-field advantage. The more we can disrupt an opponent’s offense it will be better for our football team.
“We’ll have to check the noise factor keeping (the doors) open or closed.”
Zimmer really wanted to make sure he got the awe factor out of the way early with his team and check out some of the little nuances of the stadium. It appears he has accomplished both, as Friday’s practice was run pretty smoothly throughout.