Dealing with the cold

Jon Ryan

Harsh, wintry conditions nothing new for Canadian-born punter

A heavy snowfall and plummeting temperatures Thursday was an appetizer.

A wind-chill advisory is in effect this weekend for Northeast Wisconsin. Temperature in the late afternoon Sunday for the kickoff of the NFC Championship at Green Bay's Lambeau Field isn't expected to be higher than 3, with a wind chill well into the negative numbers.

For Packers punter Jon Ryan, it will be reminiscent of a high-school football game he played in his native Canada. He remembered the temperature being minus-20 as he played running back and handled the punting and kicking chores for his team.

"I did wear gloves that day," Ryan said.

The second-year player, however, is planning to not wear gloves on his hands in the bitterly cold matchup against the New York Giants. Never mind that Ryan -- and the rest of the Packers -- suffered through a forgettable game in blustery conditions at Chicago four weeks ago.

Extremely strong winds wreaked havoc with the Packers' punting, turning hard snaps from Rob Davis into curveballs for Ryan. He was unable to get one punt off and had two kicks blocked, which fueled the Bears' 35-7 upset victory over their NFC North rival.

Despite being accustomed to the wintry elements on a daily basis during the season, the Green Bay players were done in by Mother Nature.

"I thought the problem we had in Chicago was clearly focus, and our fundamentals were very poor. And, you could apply some of that to the focus," head coach Mike McCarthy said this week. "I thought wind factored very much in that game, and hopefully, it won't factor this week."

The Packers have tried to not think of how bitterly cold it will be as Sunday's game starts and continues into the evening.

Per McCarthy's approach throughout the late season, he hasn't taken the team outside for practice, whereas the Giants have spent the last two days in much warmer conditions at their training site in New Jersey.

The Packers believe the harsh lesson they received playing at Chicago and then having the experience of persevering in a snowstorm last Saturday in the divisional-round win over Seattle will help them make do Sunday.

"Saturday was a winter wonderland -- 30 degrees, no wind, snow. That's a nice day in Green Bay, Wisconsin. That's what it's supposed to be," McCarthy said. "As you remember, as a kid playing in the backyard when it's zero degrees, windy, it's different. It's a totally different atmosphere, and that's what we have to prepare for."

The team did practice inside Thursday with footballs that were put in a freezer overnight.

Ryan and kicker Mason Crosby kicked in Lambeau on Wednesday and were to do the same Friday.

Ryan, though, is preparing to kick Sunday without protection on his hands.

"I'm not a huge fan of the gloves yet," he said. "I just don't get the same feel on the ball. I worked on it a little bit (Wednesday). But, I think I'll probably be bare hands on Sunday."

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