Saturday, January 19, 2008
Plummeting temperatures mean frozen balls and sleeveless jerseys
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Baby, it's cold outside.
So cold, one team has practiced with footballs straight out of
the freezer. But not so frigid that many players say they will go
As for the plummeting temperatures being an advantage for the
Green Bay Packers in Sunday's NFC championship game against the New
York Giants, the hosts aren't quite so sure.
"It's not like they're coming from Florida," guard Daryn
Of course, Colledge is from Alaska, so zero degrees might be
balmy to him.
Forecasts are calling for thermometer readings around 3 degrees
for the 5:30 p.m. CST kickoff; yep, a night game in January on the
Green Bay tundra. If the wind kicks up, temperatures certainly will
dive below zero, and head toward the NFL records.
The coldest game in NFL history was not the 1967 NFL title game
at Lambeau Field when the Packers beat Dallas 21-17 in the Ice
Bowl. It was minus 13 that day and the wind chill factor was
estimated at minus 48.
But in the 1981 AFC championship game, while the temperature was
minus-9, the wind chill plunged to minus-59 at Cincinnati as the
Bengals beat San Diego 27-7.
"You know in football we all like to think of ourselves as
tough guys," Packers cornerback Charles Woodson said. "So no
matter what the weather is, I think most guys will probably go out
there no sleeves and play it just like it was 80 degrees."
Even if it's 80 degrees colder.
Brett Favre, who had little trouble in last week's
divisional-round win over Seattle played amid snowflakes the size
of golf balls, is 43-5 when the temperature in Green Bay is 34 or
lower. He will make his 275th consecutive start Sunday in
conditions suited for, well, staying inside. The NFL's career
leader in most passing categories would take 34 -- or even 24 --
degrees for the final step to the Super Bowl.
And, no, Favre is not a big fan of icicles hanging from face
"First of all, I don't know if I have ever gotten used to it,"
said the Mississippi native who last took the Pack to the Super
Bowl 10 years ago. "It is for three hours during the week. We
practice indoors -- not a whole lot different than anyone else.
Yeah, you live in it. I'm not out making snowmen."
Packers coach Mike McCarthy recalled how poorly his team played
on Dec. 23 in a 35-7 loss at Chicago, a game that even Favre
admitted he was cold throughout. So McCarthy used some frozen balls
at practice this week to help simulate likely conditions Sunday.
"Is that what was going on?" veteran wide receiver Donald
Driver said with a laugh. "Basically, they never told us that the
balls were coming out of the freezer, we just kind just felt it as
we caught it: 'Wow, the balls are cold.' We thought most likely the
balls had been outside all day, but they were in the freezer.
"Mostly, I think it's for concentration because when it's warm
weather you basically don't have to concentrate too much on the
ball. If you've got good hands, you're going to catch. But I don't
care how good your hands is, in cold weather you have to focus on
the ball and make sure you catch it before you run with it.
"You know you can't control the conditions, you can't control
the weather, so you've just got to go out there and play regardless
of the situation. So I think we've just been successful in it
because we live here and we play and we wake up in the morning
every day in it. But you still have to go out there and play."
The Giants (12-6) will show up and play, and likely play well
considering they've won nine straight road games, including two in
the playoffs. Both of those, of course, were in Tampa and Dallas,
where anything below freezing is cause for panic.
Star defensive end Michael Strahan promises there won't be panic
even if it is the coldest day any of the Giants have encountered.
"This is going to be a game of will, a game of whoever wants it
the most," Strahan said. "That is what the playoffs are all
about, so this is going to be a very interesting battle. Us, a team
that has a strong will and plays well on the road, and that team
that has a strong will and plays well at home."
The Packers (14-3) are 8-1 at home. None of those games was
played in anything close to the bitter cold they will face Sunday,
not even last weekend's snowfest.
One of the team's corporate partners, Mills Fleet Farm, is
donating 30,000 hand warmers for fans entering the game. Dr. Don
Hartig of the Bellin Health Family Medical Center in Howard advised
spectators to dress appropriately, wearing loose, dry layers, a
hat, mittens instead of gloves, and waterproof insulated boots.
So don't go sleeveless? When told fellow end Justin Tuck was
planning the same fashion statement as many of the Packers, the
veteran Strahan shivered.
"I told him I'm wearing layers," Strahan said. "These guys
can wear short sleeves. I'm not trying to impress anybody. For
what? Oh, I'm strong!
"I guarantee you Justin Tuck's goose bumps will be bigger than