When Bud Grant coached the Vikings in playoff games in freezing temperatures, conditions the current Vikings will face Sunday against the Seahawks, he said his teams prided themselves on embracing the cold.
“Remember the old Met, the teams were on the same side of the field. Next to us, the teams had heaters and any kind of thing to keep hands warm. We did not have them,” Grant said. “Our players were looking at the field. When I looked down at the other team, they were huddled around their heaters, they weren’t watching the game. Our players wanted to get in the game, not out of the game. A little different.”
Did his players ever complain?
“Good-naturedly, yes, they said they were cold, I said fine, but I said they’re cold too, you know how to play when it’s cold,” Grant recalled. “That’s the only difference.”
Grant, has taken calls from a number of media outlets about playing in the Minnesota cold. He said he doesn’t think it was so big of a deal when he coached.
“We talked about it, didn’t have meetings about it,” he said. “We didn’t make a big deal out of it like they’re making now. It’s a big deal. But it’s not. It’s the same for both teams. It’s the same.”
One difference was that Grant’s Vikings did have to practice outside.
“That was by necessity. We didn’t have an indoor practice field,” said Grant, who will serve as Vikings honorary captain for the wild-card game. “… The benefit of that was we didn’t practice very long. Ordinarily you practice an hour and a half or an hour and 40 minutes. We maybe had 45-minute practices. The players liked that part of it. It also gave us some time to get well at the end of the season, we didn’t have a lot of time practicing.”
Still Grant, thinks that the Vikings won’t have any weather advantage when they take to TCF Bank Stadium.
“Pete Carroll has been in New England, New York, he’s been here, he’s been all over, it’s not going to bother Seattle at all,” Grant said of his former assistant coach. “They play in worse than cold — to be wet is worse than being cold. Also being hot is worse because if you play in Miami or Tampa or Texas in the hot weather, when a player becomes dehydrated, you can’t hydrate them enough to get them back in the ballgame.
“But if we’re a little cold out here, cold never keeps anybody from playing. Hot weather keeps players out of the game, cold weather doesn’t bother them.”
So it’s not the same game today as it was in Grant’s days?
“Don’t make it a comparison, what it was, today is not the same,” he said. “Players are bigger, players are better, players are faster.”
Line’s role will be key
With the news that tight end Rhett Ellison is out for the season because of an injury suffered last week, third-year fullback Zach Line’s importance as a blocker will only increase against the Seahawks, but Line is excited for that.
Line’s effectiveness blocking both for Teddy Bridgewater so that he has time to find receivers and also for NFL leading rusher Adrian Peterson could be one of the keys in the Vikings having an opportunity to advance in the playoffs.
“I love this job, it’s what you want,” Line said. “You want to be a part of the offense and have your hand in the offense as much as you can.
“My job is to make a hole for Adrian. I try to play fast so he can make quick decisions fast, and I also try and contribute on special teams as much as I can.”
Line, who had six carries for 10 yards and two touchdowns and six receptions for 95 yards and one touchdown this season, is a unique player for the Vikings.
“Sometimes I get the ball, too, so those guys block for me,” he said. “So when the ball is not in my hands I want to do the best I can to make that guy have success.”
Much different from his role with the Vikings, Line was a standout running back at Southern Methodist in college, where he chased a number of records that Eric Dickerson holds at the Dallas school. Line finished with 47 career touchdowns, compared to Dickerson’s 48, and his career rushing yardage of 4,185 is second to Dickerson’s 4,450.
Now Line blocks for Peterson, who in 2012 finished only 9 yards short of breaking Dickerson’s single-season NFL rushing record.
“He came to SMU a couple of times,” Line said of Dickerson. “He’s a good guy. He was very complimentary of the way we were playing and he liked the way I ran.”
How has Line’s career changed from being the primary back to a blocker?
“In college I was the back so I got the ball about 20 times a game,” Line said. “Here I’m not the back, but hopefully Adrian is getting the ball 20 times a game. He’s chasing the same guy in the record books, so it’s kind of fun to help him chase some Eric Dickerson records.”
Does he ever miss the attention of being the featured back?
“Oh no, I’m a team guy,” Line said.
• There is no comparison in salaries between Russell Wilson and Bridgewater, the two quarterbacks in Sunday’s game. Wilson, a Super Bowl winner already in only his fourth NFL season, is making $21.9 million this season after getting an $87.6 million extension over the summer, with $61 million guaranteed. He made an average of $750,000 the past two years. Bridgewater, in Year 2 of his rookie deal, is earning $1.4 million this season.
• After the loss to Seattle last month, Vikings defensive end Brian Robison was asked what makes Wilson so good. “He is quick, you have to be so in tune to which way he wants to escape,” Robison said of the Seahawks star. “He makes moves and just goes with it. A lot of times, it is hard to contain a guy like that.”
• Jimmy Shapiro out of Las Vegas notes the Vikings have only been a home underdog in the postseason once, when they lost 26-14 to the Eagles in 2009 and failed to cover the spread as a three-point underdog. Also, Adrian Peterson has averaged less than 4.0 yards per carry and is 1-3 straight up and 2-2 against the spread in his playoff career.
• Seahawks safety Earl Thomas on staying motivated under Carroll: “You have to get your players to respond. You have to keep them motivated. I’ve been in this system for six years. Some of the philosophy gets boring, but when it comes to games and what he brings to the table, it’s always interesting.”
• Offensive lineman J.C. Hassenauer is the lone player from Minnesota who will play in Monday’s national championship game between Alabama and Clemson. The 6-2, 295-pound Alabama sophomore from East Ridge has played in seven games this season, including the semifinal rout of Michigan State.