With the forecast calling for a high of 1 degree on Sunday, the Seahawks are preparing to stay warm and adjust to the elements heading into their wild-card game against the Vikings.
Seattle Seahawks running back Fred Jackson is no stranger to bitterly cold football games. Jackson spent eight years in Buffalo, after all, and he relays a simple piece of advice for teammates accustomed to milder climes.
“No sleeves,” Jackson said. “Never wear sleeves. It could be minus-30 out there, and I’d never wear sleeves.”
Factoring in the wind chill, Sunday’s wild-card playoff game between the Seahawks and Vikings at TCF Bank Stadium might come closer to challenging Jackson’s hypothetical than he’d prefer.
The high in Minneapolis is expected to be 1 degree under partly cloudy skies with a 10 percent chance of snow and a low of minus-8 degrees.
As of Wednesday night, the weather forecast was calling for highs around 1 degree and a low of minus-8. There have been only nine games in NFL history during which the temperature never broke zero, and Sunday’s matchup in Minneapolis is on pace to set the record for the coldest playoff games ever for the Vikings and Seahawks franchises.
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The temperature would have to drop drastically to break the league record of minus-13 set by the fabled Ice Bowl between the Packers and Cowboys in the 1967 NFL Championship Game.
“I think it’s the proper handling of the ball over a long period of time,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said when asked which aspect of the game is most affected by cold weather. “It always seems to make coaches feel like it’s going to be a more vulnerable situation. … The sensitivity — whether you’re handing the ball off or tossing it or however you do it.
“Certainly it does affect the traveling of the ball in the kicking game. It doesn’t go as far.”
Seattle kicker Steven Hauschka said the kicking team has been experimenting by leaving football outdoors all night, even going so far as to stick a few in the freezer at Virginia Mason Athletic Center.
“There’s only so much you can do,” Hauschka said. “You can’t practice all that. You can’t just tell Mother Nature to make it zero degrees here then go kick outside. We’re working on it.
“It’s a fine line, preparing for the weather but not changing anything.”
Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner recalls a college game when he was at Utah State, when frigid temperatures were compounded by a wet field, when he and his teammates resorted to wrapping cleats in plastic bags to keep feet dry.
Receiver Kasen Williams played for Washington at the 2014 Apple Cup, when temperature registered at 18 degrees at kickoff.
“Once you get warmed up you are fine,” Williams said. “We are playing on a good turf, it should be dry. So the only time weather really affects you is if it’s snowing or it’s raining. But if it’s straight cold, that’s something that the heated benches will fix.”
Does it feel any different, taking hits in the freezing cold?
“If anything, it gives you motivation to stay up and not get hit,” Williams said with a laugh. “So if I’m moving a little extra with the ball in my hands, it’s because I don’t want to go to the ground.’’
The worst part, Jackson cautions – and unfortunately for him, since first-string running back Marshawn Lynch returned to practice on Wednesday – is when you’re standing stationary on the sideline.
The starters get their blood pumping early, adrenaline counteracting the cold. The benchwarmers, though, struggle to live up to that moniker.
“Cold is cold,” Jackson said. “Once you get out there, though, you tend to focus on just playing football. You forget about what the weather feels like. When you get tackled by a 300-pound guy, the weather tends to go towards the back of your mind.
“There’s nothing you can do to change what minus-2 or zero degrees feels like. You just have to go out there and play.”