Dec. 31—Guard Ezra Cleveland and defensive end Kenny Willekes wore shorts and linebacker Anthony Barr had on short sleeves. So some players weren’t overly concerned about the cold when the Vikings practiced outside Thursday in 19-degree weather.
Then again, that was nothing compared to what temperatures are forecast to be when the Vikings play Sunday night at Green Bay. The high temperature on Sunday is projected to be 12 and the low zero, so it likely will be in the single digits during the 7:20 p.m. game at Lambeau Field.
“It’s not a tough-guy act, by any means,” Barr said after Thursday’s practice at the TCO Performance Center in Eagan. “Just try to continue to prepare for Sunday. I don’t typically wear sleeves.”
Barr did acknowledge “it was pretty cold out there” Thursday but he didn’t seem too concerned about what it will be like Sunday. After all, Barr did make it through a 10-9 loss Seattle in a January 2016 playoff game when the temperature was minus-6 at TCF Bank Stadium.
“The cold, honestly, once you get moving, it wasn’t so bad,” Barr said of that game.
Former Vikings cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, though, begged to differ. He played in that game, which tied for the third-coldest in NFL history.
“I couldn’t feel the tip of my hands for like the next three, four weeks,” Munnerlyn said. “I couldn’t feel my hands or my feet during the game. Every TV timeout, I ran to the sideline to the heaters. The Gatorade and the water froze on the sideline. If you spit out some water, it would freeze on your facemask.”
Vikings cornerback Patrick Peterson, then with the Arizona Cardinals, said Thursday he watched that game on television.
“Don’t see how those guys were able to survive that game,” Peterson said.
Even if it won’t be that cold Sunday, Peterson said he’s “not a complainer.” The South Florida native vowed to “deal with” the cold even if he anticipates he “can’t wait to get back in the locker room after the game.”
Wide receiver Justin Jefferson said the coldest game he ever played was for LSU on Nov. 18, 2017 at Tennessee, a night game that had heavy rain, strong wind and temperatures in the 30s. He said that was “terrible,” so it was no surprise he didn’t consider Thursday’s practice much fun.
“It’s tough just being out there and being cold, having to bundle up a little bit, especially for me,” said Jefferson, who definitely was not wearing shorts or short sleeves. “I’m from Louisiana. We don’t get that cold ever, so it’s tough. But you’ll get used to it, and you’ll suck it up.”
Vikings running back Dalvin Cook, a Miami native, also isn’t accustomed to cold weather.
“I live here but I be in the house,” Cook said Wednesday. “I don’t be outside unless (Vikings coach Mike Zimmer) tells us to go outside. For me, with this cold thing, I just love playing football. … I don’t know how this single-digit weather is going to be, but we’re going to find out. It’s like another milestone that I’m checking off (that) I dreamed about playing in when I was a kid. I’ve seen these games on TV, these cold games. It’s fun, it’s football.”
Then again, it could be a different kind of football what the Vikings play inside at U.S. Bank Stadium. Special-teams coordinator Ryan Ficken said kicking will be more difficult because the ball will be “like a rock.” And while quarterback Kirk Cousins grew up in Michigan, he said he hasn’t played many games in extreme cold.
“When you start getting down to single digits, zero, even negative temperatures, those games are really few and far between,” Cousins said.
There have been 10 NFL games with the temperature is zero or below at kickoff. Three have been at Lambeau Field and three in Minnesota from when the Vikings used to play outside.
The coldest game in history remains minus-13 at Lambeau Field in the Dec. 31, 1967 NFL Championship Game between the Packers and Dallas. In addition to the playoff game at TCF Bank Stadium, the coldest games the Vikings have played in were both at Metropolitan Stadium in 1972. It was minus-2 degrees against Chicago and zero against Green Bay.
The Vikings used to perhaps have an advantage in late-season games when they played at Metropolitan Stadium from 1961-81 and at TCF Stadium from 2014-2015 when teams came in that weren’t used to the cold. But that advantage hasn’t existed since the Vikings have played indoors at the Metrodome from 1982-2013 and at U.S. Bank Stadium since 2016.
“It definitely is a (disadvantage), I think, when you’re a dome team,” former Vikings executive Jeff Diamond said of playing a late-season game in extreme cold.
But Diamond, who was with the Vikings from 1976-98, including 1991-98 as general manager, said it will help Minnesota this week at least practicing outside. The Vikings practiced indoors on Wednesday, when the high temperature for the day was 10, but left the doors open before heading outside Thursday.
The Packers, of course, are used to playing games in very cold weather. Head coach Matt LaFleur is hoping that will benefit them Sunday.
“In my opinion, I do think it’s one of the advantages that we have, just playing in an outdoor environment like that,” LaFleur said.