Along with the usual assortment of cargo that goes on every NFL road trip, the Seattle Seahawks are collecting every parka, hand-warmer and beanie to be found.
Good reason. The NFC wild-card matchup Sunday at Minnesota could end up being the coldest game in Seahawks history.
“To be honest with you, I don’t have too much experience with this type of weather. I grew up in Florida. I don’t really know if there’s a way to prepare for it, other than just being aware that it’s going to be difficult,” Seattle wide receiver Doug Baldwin said. “We’re going into it with the best mentality that we can, knowing that it’s going to be a cold game.”
The Seahawks – who said late Friday that star running back Marshawn Lynch has been ruled out while he recovers from abdominal surgery – have never played in temperatures lower than the 16F when they visited Denver in 2006. But with temperatures forecast to be around zero in Minneapolis on Sunday, the Seahawks are preparing for a cold most of them have never experienced with no easy way to replicate it other than standing in a storage freezer for an extended period of time.
The Seahawks released a statement late Friday saying Lynch did not make the trip for the Sunday game.
Seattle opened all the doors to its indoor practice facility and pumped in cold air during the week, but even that was mild compared to what they’ll face this weekend.
And this is not a group that has extensive experience playing in frigid conditions. Under Pete Carroll, the Seahawks have played only two games in temperatures under 25F. Linebacker Bobby Wagner remembered one game in college at Utah State that was so cold and snowy, players wore plastic bags over their feet to keep the moisture from soaking through their cleats and getting their socks wet.
Russell Wilson played his final year of college ball at Wisconsin and had a few chilly practices inside Camp Randall Stadium.
“Once it gets below 20 it’s all about the same,” Wilson said.
Even with the freezing conditions don’t expect to see players deviating from what they’ve done in the past. Sleeves? Forget about it if you are one that has traditionally not worn them.
When asked why he wouldn’t add arm coverings, linebacker Bruce Irvin joked: “I can’t look like no punk, man.”
And that seemed to be the sentiment throughout the Seattle locker room. Fred Jackson, who spent nine seasons in Buffalo, planned to forgo the sleeves. Rookie wide receiver Kasen Williams played the final regular season college game of his career in 19F conditions in kickoff, but still planned to only go with three-quarters sleeves in Minnesota.
Some of the reasoning seems to be psychology of trying to keep the chill from getting in their heads. Some of it – especially for ball carriers – is tactical in wanting to feel the ball against their skin rather than having a layer of material in the way.
Of course, that’s assuming they’re able to feel their skin in the first place.
“There’s nothing you can do to change what -2 or zero feels like. You just got to go out there and play in it,” Jackson said.
Richard Sherman downplayed the cold because of the advances in technology including massive heaters and heated benches on each sideline. But the idea of trying to tackle Adrian Peterson in such conditions is not an enviable thought for anyone playing defense.
Yet it’s the offensive side where most impacts of the cold are likely to be noticeable especially in the passing game and trying to catch a ball that’s going to feel like a brick.
“We’ll see what happens. Unfortunately, that’s something that we can’t control, but we’ve always dealt well with the things we can’t control,” Baldwin said.