Saturday, May 25, 2019


Vikings hope to end outdoor woes in Green Bay
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Head Coach Mike Tice and back-up quarterback Gus Frerotte at the Vikings indoor practice facility in Eden Prairie. (Brandt Williams)
The Minnesota Vikings are the underdogs for this Sunday's wildcard playoff game with the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. That oddsmakers are picking the Packers over the Vikings should come as no surprise to football fans. The Vikings have already lost two games against the Packers this year. They have lost 20 of their last 22 games played outdoors.

Eden Prairie, Minn. — For football fans who remember the days before domed stadiums and artificial turf, there is something special about those games.

Players got their jerseys dirty, often playing in sub-freezing temperatures; their breath and sweat mixed with the cold air causing clouds of steam to rise from their bodies.

A recent practice found the Vikings indoors as they prepare for Sunday's game. In their light pads and sweats, the players are clean, warm and dry.

The coaches say the Vikings practiced was kept indoors because the subzero windchills and frozen field would have made an outdoor practice unproductive. Temperatures in Green Bay are forecast to be 20 to 30 degrees warmer this weekend.

But one former Viking thinks the team should prepare itself for the elements.

"For this team, I think it's important they should practice outdoors all week, that's where they're going to play," says Carl Eller, former Minnesota Viking defensive end and new member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

When Eller was in the NFL, every game was an outdoor game. He says weather conditions could very well make it hard for the Vikings offense to score this Sunday. So defensive players will face an even harder task.

"You don't want to get into a condition where if it's cold or the field is slippery, that affects your offense," says Eller. "You don't want your offense to be in a position where they have to put the ball in the air alot -- where they're playing catch up, because they're more likely to make mistakes."

Eller says he doesn't know why the Vikings are having such a hard time winning.

Indoors or outdoors, the Vikings have made a lot of mistakes this season. Players have committed penalties, turnovers and dropped passes in situations when games have been on the line. The team lost seven of its last 10 games.

In spite of their late season woes, the Vikings backed into the playoffs because of their early season wins against other contending teams. It's the first time the team will play in the post-season in four years and the first time ever under head coach Mike Tice.

But Tice isn't exactly jumping for joy.

"I wish I had a book that told me what it's going to take to play with a little more confidence and a little more looseness in key situations, ie: jumping offsides on the one yard-line. I think many coaches have gone to their graves trying to figure that out and I think I'll be the next one."

Historically the Green Bay Packers have been almost unbeatable at Lambeau Field. But the homefield advantage has been elusive for the Packers this year - they've lost half their home games. Still oddsmakers and sports journalists aren't talking about this as an advantage for the Vikings. Instead questions come up about the Vikings win-loss record in outdoor stadiums. Vikings linebacker Keith Newman says he understands why.

"Until we go out and start winning on the road, in the cold, on grass or whatever you know, those questions are going to continue to surface," he says. "Once you start winning, those questions die down. But until we go out there and prove we can do it we're going to get questions from the media. And guys need to understand it's just part of this business."

Sunday's game is scheduled to start at 3:30 p.m. It is the first time the Packers and Vikings have played each other in the post-season.