View images from the Thursday, Jan. 7 practice at Winter Park.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. – Veteran defensive end Brian Robison said he had one thought when Minnesota drafted him in 2007: Antarctica.
"I didn't know anything about Minnesota at the time, but that's the first thing I thought of," the Texas native said, laughing.
Robison played home games indoors for the first seven years of his career before the Vikings returned to the outdoors for a two-year stint at the University of Minnesota.
"I've definitely been blessed to play indoors for as long as we did," Robison said. "I've been blessed that we haven't had a ton of cold, cold weather the last two years."
Cold weather has been part of Vikings lore.
On Dec. 3, 1972, the Vikings faced Chicago outdoors with a temperature of minus-2 degrees Fahrenheit. The following week, Minnesota played another division rival, Green Bay. The temp never got above zero. Approaching Sunday's Wild Card matchup between the Vikings and Seahawks, it feels like a sort of flashback. It's going to be cold. Old-fashioned, "Purple People Eaters," Minnesota cold.
Although the week has started out mild, forecasts are predicting one of the coldest games on record. According to Weather.com, the forecasted high for Sunday is 3 degrees, while the low is minus-2.
Hall of Fame Vikings Head Coach Bud Grant earned a reputation for coaching in frigid temperatures and remaining unfazed by the weather. Asked about the cold expected for Sunday's game, Grant said it shouldn't be an issue for the team.
"The hardest thing in cold weather is for the fans," Grant said. "But the players have no problem. They can stay active, they're running around – you can see the steam coming off them. Their bodies are conditioned to warm up."
Grant emphasized the care taken for players on the sidelines, from large coats and hand warmers, to heated benches, to heated pedestals for players' helmets. Additional action taken on the sidelines will include ingesting warm chicken broth to maintain core body temperature and using equipment such as stationary bikes and foam rollers to keep blood flow moving. Prior to the 2014 season, the Vikings paid for and installed a heating system under the field at TCF Bank Stadium that will preserve safe playing conditions.
The Vikings are providing amenities for fans, as well. With a limited number of tickets still remaining for the playoff game, the Vikings are going the extra mile to make sure fans are comfortable, including giving out hand warmers as fans enter and complimentary Caribou coffee in the Fan Zone outside the stadium before the game. Mariucci Arena will open at 9 a.m. for use as a pregame warming house.
Hall of Fame Head Coach Bill Parcells weighed in on the topic via an interview with KFAN's Dan Barrerio Wednesday, his opinion being that weather will play a role in the game.
"I think the elements are an ancillary issue, and I think the team that's able to deal with them the best will win the game," Parcells said. "I would put a great deal of emphasis on that myself – where we want to play, how we want to play, what we're trying to do, how important certain things are – based on the elements. It's not just a regular football game. There are other factors in the game that don't exist in some games."
Neither head coach for Sunday, however, is overly concerned about the cold. Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer acknowledged that while it's an aspect to consider, it won't change much about the game plan or readiness of the players.
"It will be a factor, but [ultimately] it's going to come down to blocking and tackling and execution and all that," Zimmer said. "It's going to be cold, but it's not going to be a blizzard, and it's not going to be windy – I mean, no windier than we've had over [at TCF Bank Stadium] many other times."
Ball security and concentration are two focal points for teams in low temperatures. Zimmer pointed out that quarterback Stefon Diggs has always worn a glove, no matter the weather, which will be helpful Sunday.
"Obviously there are going to be some different conditions, but we know it's the same on both sides of the field, and we'll hopefully not let it be a factor," said Seahawks Head Coach Pete Carroll.
Having served as a defensive backs coach under Grant in 1985 and Jerry Burns from 1986-89, Carroll is no stranger to Minnesota forecasts. Although the Vikings were in the Metrodome for games by then, Carroll remembers one stretch of 17 days when the temperature never got above zero.
"You just have to find some way to get through it," Carroll said. "Like everybody else in Minnesota."
While many current Vikings players are not native to Minnesota, they're now accustomed to the possibility of low temperatures and have shown they can perform well in that scenario. The Vikings have played in three extremely cold games over the past two years — last season against Carolina and this year against the New York Giants and at Green Bay — and have won them all.
Bridgewater, who grew up in Florida and attended college in Kentucky, said in December that he enjoys playing in the cold weather.
"I actually love it; we get to use it to our advantage," Bridgewater said. "It's all a mental thing, and I'm a fan of it."
Although defensive tackle Danielle Hunter played college football at Florida, he grew up tough in Philadelphia.
"This is nothing," said Floyd. "This is what we do. This is why we're in Minnesota in the first place: home-field advantage, cold, snow, it doesn't matter. We just have to go through it, and we have to fight. It's just an element, and we have to get through."
When kickoff rolls around at noon (CT) Sunday, it very well may feel like Antarctica, which is reporting a temperature of 2 degrees Fahrenheit at the South Pole.
But the Vikings are OK with that – they're prepared for the game, and they have plenty of energy to keep them warm. After all, it's the playoffs.