Vikings won't practice outdoors while looking for rare subfreezing win
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings threw open the doors of their fieldhouse about hour before Tuesday's practice at Winter Park and cranked the air conditioning.
That's as close as they'll come to practicing outdoors for Saturday night's wild-card playoff game at Green Bay, where temperatures could dip into the mid-teens.
Wind chills were near zero here on Tuesday with a high temperature of around 13 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.
"They might have to go out without me on that one," coach Leslie Frazier joked. "It was minus-10 (Tuesday) morning. I went, 'Whoa.' So, any thoughts I had about us going out there were kind of removed when I got out of my car (Tuesday) morning."
More seriously, Frazier said he'd be concerned about players' safety if the Vikings tried to clear off their outdoor practice fields, which have been covered in snow for weeks.
"The footing would be too treacherous," Frazier said. "It wouldn't be wise."
The Vikings haven't faced extreme cold often -- which isn't entirely surprising, since their only road playoff game over the past seven years was at New Orleans' Superdome. Their last game with a subfreezing temperature was on Dec. 28, 2009 at Chicago, where they lost 36-30 in overtime.
They've lost four in a row in such conditions dating to a divisional playoff game at Philadelphia on Jan. 16, 2005 -- one week after they beat the Packers 31-17 in a wild-card game at Lambeau Field, where the game-time temperature was 23 degrees.
"I think (Tuesday) they're going to open up the garage to make it cold in here," Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder said. "But that's something that you've just got to be prepared for mentally. I don't know how well you can prepare for it.
"The good thing is over there we'll have the hard-warmers and stuff. I think the biggest thing in cold weather is your hands get dry and it makes the ball slick. But with the hand-warmers and stuff, that'll help."
The Vikings did beat Philadelphia 24-14 on Dec. 28, 2010 -- the storm-delayed, Tuesday night game for which the temperature was 32 degrees. But even that seems like an eternity ago at this point.
They last practiced outdoors before their first meeting with the Packers on Dec. 2 at Green Bay, a 23-14 loss in which the game-time temperature was 45 degrees.
It was 41 degrees one week earlier when the Vikings lost at Chicago -- the coldest conditions Ponder, who grew up near Dallas and played collegiately at Florida State, has faced in eight outdoor NFL starts.
Of course, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the California native, is still looking for his playoff win at Lambeau, too. The Packers won all road games on their way to Super Bowl XLV two years ago and lost 37-20 to the New York Giants at Lambeau last year.
Their last home playoff win came in a divisional playoff game against Seattle on Jan. 12, 2008. Eight days later, they lost to the Giants in the NFC championship game -- legendary quarterback Brett Favre's last with the Packers, with a temperature of 7-below.
It wasn't clear whether the Packers would spend any time outdoors when they resumed practice on Tuesday afternoon.
"There wasn't too many cold games at Florida, I can tell you that," Ponder said. "I think when the ball is slicker, you don't want to grip it tighter because it'll slip out of your hand. It's definitely different. It's something that, hopefully, we can do some things in here ... to try to prepare for it."