Former Vikings quarterback Fran Tarkenton played in a lot of cold-weather games in old Met Stadium. The Minneapolis Star Tribune wanted to find out how he thinks the players will react to the frigid near-zero-degrees temperature that’s expected for Sunday’s wild-card game.
I visited with former Vikings quarterback Fran Tarkenton, who played in a lot of cold-weather games in old Met Stadium. I wanted to find out how he thinks the players will react to the frigid near-zero-degrees temperature that’s expected for Sunday’s wild-card playoff game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Vikings at TCF Bank Stadium.
In short, the Hall of Famer said that because it’s the playoffs, the players will be ready, no matter the temperature.
Tarkenton went 5-1 in December playoff games playing outdoors in Minnesota and led the Vikings to three Super Bowl appearances, but he doesn’t believe weather was a big factor in any of those victories. Still, it might have been a psychological factor in one of them, because the Los Angeles Rams came to Minnesota three days early to get used to the conditions for the 1974 NFC championship game, but the Vikings still won 14-10.
Tarkenton was asked if he recalled being cold during those playoff games.
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“I’m going to tell you the absolute truth, I cannot tell you the coldest day because I don’t remember it being cold at a Minnesota Vikings game,” he said. “I’m serious. You know, I think that what happens, by living up there and playing up there and practicing outside and [playing at] old Metropolitan Stadium outside, by the time game time came, you’re so focused on the game and what you’re going to do and the excitement of it, I did not remember being cold.”
The Vikings have played 10 outdoor playoff games at Met Stadium in their history, going 7-3. Tarkenton said he thought the weather might have given the Vikings some advantage, but it’s hard to quantify.
Looking ahead to to the Vikings’ matchup with the Seahawks, Tarkenton pointed out that while the weather might seem like an advantage, it’s worth remembering that the two starting quarterbacks come from different weather backgrounds.
“You look at here we had Teddy Bridgewater, who played college football at Louisville, Kentucky, and Russell Wilson played college football at Wisconsin [for one season after transferring from North Carolina State],” Tarkenton said. “I don’t think [it makes a difference]. I think at the end of the day, you’re so excited to be playing in a playoff game that the weather doesn’t make any difference.”
When you look at the sideline Sunday, you’ll see players in long sleeves with big heaters. The turf itself at TCF Bank Stadium will be heated by underground coils. Those are luxuries Tarkenton did not have.
“I only wore a cutoff, a little bit of a warmer T-shirt but a heavier T-shirt under my regular jersey, that’s all,” he recalled. “We didn’t have any heaters or hand warmers on the sideline. At least Bud [Grant] would let me have a jacket on the sideline but as far as playing in the game, I never remember a frozen field, never remember the ball being slippery. I cannot tell you or remember a moment that I was cold because I don’t remember being cold.”
Tarkenton was asked to predict Sunday’s game. The Seahawks are favorites.
“I think Minnesota is going to win and I’ll tell you why,” he said. “The Seahawks came in and beat us pretty badly, what, three weeks ago? That game is done and over. The Carolina Panthers were undefeated playing a terrible Atlanta team a week ago and they came into Atlanta and got beat 20-13 by a very bad Atlanta team. What happened three weeks ago has no bearing on what’s going to happen this week.”
For more Vikings coverage from the Minneapolis Star Tribune, go to startribune.com/vikings.