Harrison Smith had just spent 2 hours and 50 minutes playing sleeveless football in the seventh-coldest game for a Vikings franchise that once upon a time played 22 outdoor seasons long before anyone had even heard of global warming.

“You got to go ‘tough guy, guns out,’ ” Smith joked after Sunday’s 31-13 victory over Carolina at TCF Bank Stadium. “Once you put sleeves on, you already kind of give in to the cold. That’s kind of my mind-set.”

Asked if his fellow defensive backs considered him crazy considering the 12-degree kickoff and/or the minus-7 degree windchill, Smith gave a frostbitten nod to cornerback Xavier Rhodes, who went sleeveless, and half of another one to strong safety Robert Blanton.

“I guess Blanton was sleeveless, but he rocks the one-sleeve look,” Smith said. “That’s kind of his thing.”

That left cornerback Captain Munnerlyn as the only starting defensive back to discuss. Munnerlyn just happened to be at the locker next to Smith.

For full disclosure, Munnerlyn is from Mobile, Ala. He played collegiately at South Carolina and professionally for five seasons in North Carolina with the Panthers.

“How many layers did you wear today?” Smith asked.

“Three,” Munnerlyn said.


“Seriously,” Munnerlyn said.

Munnerlyn then turned the table on a reporter and began asking questions.

“So,” Munnerlyn said, “how cold was it on the field today?”


“How many years we got to do this?” Munnerlyn said.

“One more,” Smith jumped in. “And we got two more games this year, including a Dec. 28 game.”

“Oh, my God,” Munnerlyn said. “Pray for me.”

Judging by the volume of empty seats at TCF Bank Stadium on Sunday, many modern-era fans share the feeling. As for those of us who don’t have to tackle or even sit in the cold on game day, we’ll take this opportunity to point out that fans should appreciate Mother Nature as a longtime friend of the Purple.

In fact, in the eight coldest home games in franchise history, the Vikings are 6-2 with two of the wins sending them to the Super Bowl.

The coldest home game on record was minus-2 with a windchill of minus-15 on Dec. 3, 1972. The Vikings held the Bears to 1 net yard passing on two completions. Two.

A week later, the second-coldest game was played with a temperature of zero at kickoff. The level of competition and cold-aversion was steeper as the Packers picked off three Fran Tarkenton passes in a 23-7 victory.

Three of the eight coldest home games were playoff games. On Dec. 27, 1970, John Brodie and the 49ers ignored the 9-degree cold while knocking the Vikings out of the postseason 17-14.

But the Vikings won the other two.

They advanced to Super Bowl IV by beating the Browns in 11-degree weather to win the NFL title on Jan. 4, 1970. Then, on Dec. 26, 1976, they beat the Los Angeles Rams 24-13 in 12-degree weather en route to Super Bowl XI, their last of four Super Bowls.

Thirty-eight years later, rookie head coach Mike Zimmer was asked if he felt like Bud Grant when he walked onto TCF Bank Stadium and saw his breath.

“A little bit,” said Zimmer, the Grant fan in him smiling through.

“Except I heard he didn’t let you wear gloves or anything like that. It was like some of those old NFL Films shots where the breath is coming out, and it’s pretty cold. It was actually kind of fun.”

Meanwhile, a new Vikings stadium was being built downtown. It will have a roof because, well, you tend not to spend a billion dollars on things you can use only 10 times a year.

Barring a catastrophe between 2016 and the next time the Vikings need a new stadium, we’re looking at probably less than a handful of opportunities to watch outdoor football, albeit outdoor football played on rubber pellets and plastic grass.

So bundle up, Captain. Rock that sleeve, Robert. Or go sans sleeves, Harrison.

“However they feel like they can play the best on Sunday,” Zimmer said. “I’m all for it.”