Sunday’s forecast has gone from bad to worse.
No matter which source you turn to, it’s supposed to be incredibly cold for the Green Bay Packers’ Wild Card game against San Francisco. Accuweather.com has about the worst forecast, though, with a high of minus-5. With a 3:40 p.m. kickoff and 4:30 p.m. sunset, the deep freeze should come quickly. The “real feel” temperature for late Sunday night is minus-51, according to Accuweather.com.
“You never get warm. You never get used to it,” said defensive tackle Ryan Pickett, who played in the Packers’ loss to the Giants in the 2007 NFC Championship Game, when it was minus-1 at kickoff and dipped to minus-4. “It’s going to be cold. Thankfully, we live up here and we deal with it a lot. It won’t be a big deal for us.”
Nobody is expecting the cold weather to carry the Packers to victory. The 49ers, with their powerful running game and defense, seem particularly well-suited to play in the cold. However, there’s no way for the 49ers to prepare for the cold slap in the face that’s awaiting on Sunday. From the Packers’ perspective, they practiced outside on Thursday and will again on Friday. Plus, they live in the cold, helping their bodies muster some sort of resistance.
“You guys have lived here your whole life,” offensive line coach James Campen said. “You get in and out of your car and you’ve got to go out, let alone work in it. The more frequency you have, the better you are to adjust to it. We certainly have a lot of frequency starting in October.”
Chances are, this game will be settled in the trenches because throwing the football is going to be no day at the beach. A cold football gets slick, making it difficult for the quarterback to throw the ball accurately.
“You get used to it,” offensive coordinator Tom Clements, a former quarterback, said. “It’s a benefit that Aaron (Rodgers) has very big hands. That’s always a bonus. You’re able to handle the ball better the bigger your hand is and you can take care of it and throw it very well in the weather.”
And it’s a challenge for the receivers, with diminished feeling in their fingers, to catch the ball.
“Playing in the elements, that’s a big part of football,” receivers coach Edgar Bennett said. “That’s a big part of our tradition and history up here so I think guys understand that and they know how to adapt to it.”
Bennett, a Florida native who played at Florida State, never saw snow until setting foot in Green Bay as a rookie running back in 1992. The cold was “an eye-opening experience,” he said. Perhaps his coldest game was the 1996 NFC Championship Game, which was 3 degrees at kickoff.
“Loved playing in the elements, going back to the tradition and standard we set around here,” Bennett said. “They talk about the frozen tundra and things like that, you love playing in those type elements. That’s football. This gives us another opportunity to go out there and be great.”
If the Accuweather.com forecast is correct, this would be the third-coldest game in NFL history. The famed Ice Bowl on Dec. 31, 1967, between Dallas and Green Bay was minus-13. When San Diego played at Cincinnati on Jan. 10, 1982, it was minus-9 with a staggering minus-59 wind chill. The 2007 NFC Championship Game was the third-coldest.
“For the NFC Championship Game, the first drive, I froze to death,” cornerback Tramon Williams said. “I ain’t going to lie to you. I froze to death. But once I got thawed out, got in front of the heaters and things like that when I came back on the sideline, I was good for the rest of the game.”
Packers injury report
Out: OLB Clay Matthews (thumb). Limited: ILB Brad Jones (ankle), RB Eddie Lacy (ankle), OLB/DE Mike Neal (abdomen), OLB Nick Perry (foot), DT Ryan Pickett (ankle).
It was Lacy’s first Thursday practice since hurting his ankle at the end of the first half of the Atlanta game on Dec. 8. Despite the lack of practice time, Lacy has rushed for 291 yards and four touchdowns the previous three games.
Lacy “looked good,” McCarthy said. “It’s important. Practice is very important. Practice leads to performance, so it’s important for all of our players to practice when they can.”
49ers injury report
Did not participate: CB Carlos Rogers (hamstring). Limited: LB Dan Skuta (foot), CB Eric Wright (hamstring). Full: WR Jon Baldwin (illness), LB NaVorro Bowman (wrist), CB Tarell Brown (ribs), C Jonathan Goodwin (not injury related), RB FRank Gore (knee), G Mike Iupati (knee), DT Justin Smith (shoulder).
Baldwin, Goodwin and Smith went from did not participate on Wednesday to full on Thursday.
-- Pickett, on the brewing rivalry with San Francisco: “We’ve just got to play in between the whistles, simple as that. There’s going to be a lot chatter out there. We don’t like them too much; they don’t care for us too much. We’ve got to keep it clean and beat them up inside the whistles. Everything after that, chill out.”
-- Was Rodgers close to midseason form after a seven-game absence? “I think he was very close,” Clements said. “He had two turnovers, which is uncharacteristic, but, one, he just didn’t see the guy and the second one, the ball was a little high. I think if you ask him, he was pretty much putting the ball where he wanted to put it and he was seeing things. Didn’t get surprised by any blitzes so he was playing at his normal high level.”
-- Minnesota receiver Cordarrelle Patterson and Jets cornerback Dee Milliner were named the NFL’s Rookies of the Month for December. Lacy was nominated on offense. Also, Rodgers won the GMC Never Say Never Moment of the Week for his game-winning touchdown pass at Chicago.
-- The Packers need 200 shovelers, starting at 9 a.m. on Friday, to get the stadium ready for the game. They’ll pay $10 per hour and supply the shovel. If interested, go to the Fleet Farm Gate. And in one more weather-related note, the Packers and Fleet Farm will hand out 70,000 pairs of hand warmers for fans with outdoors tickets.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.