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From Time Zone Jumps to Heat Waves, Preparation Fuels Vikings Road Wins

EAGAN, Minn. – In Week 4, the guidance was to caffeinate upon arrival in England.

In Week 6, the directions were to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate long before landing in Miami.

From handling a time zone six hours ahead of Minnesota for its London game to playing in a temp of 86 degrees Fahrenheit with 55-percent humidity Sunday, the Vikings have prepped for drastically different environs.

Vikings Head Coach Kevin O'Connell told media members he'd emphasized preparing all week for the Florida heat – which distributes a little unfairly inside the Dolphins stadium.

"Somehow, some way, at 1 o'clock, at kickoff, their sideline is completely in the shade, and you're looking at probably a 25-degree difference," O'Connell said.

Thirty, to be exact.

Early in the broadcast, cameras on the broadcast showed the stark difference between Miami's bench (hot) and Minnesota's (hotter).

O'Connell and Tyler Williams, the Vikings Executive Director of Player Health and Performance, encouraged the team in the days prior to consistently hydrate and take additional steps to ready their bodies.

"I think we were well prepared," receiver Adam Thielen said. "The way that we practiced inside all week, and a lot of guys had long sleeves and sweatshirts on, just trying to get used to playing in a little bit of warmth."

Quarterback Kirk Cousins mentioned an emphasis from Minnesota's health and performance staff on using the sauna and steam room multiple times during the week. Players were also advised to drink water every 15 minutes throughout the day, rather than "crushing three bottles" consecutively.

Players were provided options for hydration that included Gatorade slushies and various recovery drinks, and they also could receive fluids via I.V. treatment.

At the game Sunday, Vikings Vice President of Operations and Facilities Chad Lundeen was among staff who held sunshades over the benches. Cousins joked he felt like Pharoah being fanned. (They were not, however, hand-fed any grapes.)

"I felt a little bit privileged sitting there, but it made a difference," Cousins said. "We kept going three-and-out, I didn't feel like I deserved an air-conditioned bench and a sunshade, but Chad Lundeen and the gang did a nice job."

Cousins acknowledged the team's offensive struggles, saying precautionary measures against the heat likely paid off more in the 35:29 Minnesota's defense was on the field.

"When you're three-and-out all game long … we were pretty fresh, I think," Cousins said. "Defense, though, was just tremendous. I don't know how they did it, but they did."

Linebacker Eric Kendricks had a strong outing against the Dolphins, tallying 11 tackles that tied Jordan Hicks for the team lead, despite the humidity.

"[It] was a little sweaty today," Kendricks said. "Obviously we had our work cut out for us on defense, but I didn't think about it. You can't think about it.

"They did a great job of keeping us cool," he added. "Got to make sure you're extra hydrated … but we made it through."

Preparation has been the name of the game for the Vikings over the past few weeks, between navigating a six-hour time difference in London and staving off dehydration and cramps in Miami.

Tight end Irv Smith, Jr., credited Williams, Head Athletic Trainer Uriah Myrie and Director of Player Performance Josh Hingst for all the groundwork they've laid to ensure the Vikings are well-equipped for every scenario.

"Each week's been so different," Smith said. "We played in a Monday night game, then went to London, and then we had to go to Miami. The season's been kind of sporadic in terms of a normal schedule and normal situation.

"Tyler was on us all week to be hydrated, and we knew going into the game it was going to be hot," Smith said, "so there was no excuse [if you weren't prepared]."

O'Connell has gotten into the habit of giving out game balls to individual players following big games, and after Sunday's win he doled out a number, including "to the entire defense."

He smiled when asked about handing out game balls Oprah-style.

"I get excited after a win like that," O'Connell laughed. "And, shoot, I probably could have given some game balls to our sports performance staff, but then Tyler Williams will expect them every week and we don't want that."