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.
“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.
“I think it probably was, but if you look we played the Rams up there when I was there, beat them in the [NFC] Championship Game [in 1974 and ’76] and you might say that them being from L.A., it was a big change for them,” he said. “We beat the Washington Redskins [in NFC divisional playoff games in 1973 and ’76], and it was certainly colder here than [in Washington], but then again we lost the Hail Mary game to the Cowboys [in 1975].
“When I was not there, [the Vikings] lost a [1970 home] playoff game to the 49ers from San Francisco. So I would say that even the incoming teams, they didn’t have the culture of practicing and living outdoors during the fall and the winter, but I would imagine they had the same mind-set as the rest of us. It’s a playoff game, and they’re so focused, so juiced up, that it didn’t matter what the temperature was.”
No real advantage
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 sidelines Sunday, you’ll see players in long sleeves with big heaters on the sidelines. 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 five-point 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.
“We’ve had a couple of blips, but we’ve been, other than couple of blips — the first game of the season [a 20-3 loss to the 49ers] and a few others — we have been pretty consistent. Seattle has been up-and-down all season.
“What [Seattle] did a few weeks ago has no bearing on the game this week. I just think it’s more us than their team. I think we run it well, we have a great defense. Our quarterback is playing well. Their quarterback is playing well. I think nobody else thinks we’re going to win, but I think we win.”
• The next important step for the Vikings’ proposed new headquarters site in Eagan is an environmental study, which is due in the near future. If no concerns arise, you will see the team closing on the property maybe later this month.
• Despite Sunday’s forecast, the Vikings-Seattle game is sold out. When the Seahawks sent some tickets back, they were expected to go in a hurry. … The Vikings’ television ratings are drawing historic numbers, with an average 69 share (third in the NFL). They also are in the top three in the league for video views and top five in photo views. They have 1.8 million Facebook followers, 535,000 on Twitter and 30,200 on Instagram.
• Twins General Manager Terry Ryan reports that closer Glen Perkins, who struggled at the end of the season and had some back and neck issues, is healthy. “He’s been in Florida some,” Ryan said. “He’s been doing his work and doing the maintenance. We’re hoping for him to get close to 70 games or so next year, but he’s been doing what he’s been asked.”
• At least four Gophers seniors will get serious consideration in the NFL draft — linebacker De’Vondre Campbell, cornerbacks Briean Boddy-Calhoun and Eric Murray and defensive end Theiren Cockran. … Gophers freshman center Tyler Moore was named to the 247Sports Freshman All-America team. They wrote: “Started most of the year at center for Minnesota, including some of the most impressive offensive outputs of the season, including a 317-yard passing game against Michigan and 434 yards of offense against Iowa.”
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. firstname.lastname@example.org