MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - The prospect of winter football’s return to Minnesota _ the mountains of snow, the vapor of exhaled breath, the courageous fans braving the elements _ sounds great to the NFL.
But the fabled frozen tundra of the pre-Metrodome days doesn’t sound nearly as good to the Vikings and Bears, who say the league may be downplaying the injury risk of a rock-hard field at TCF Bank Stadium for Monday night’s game even as labor negotiations include a proposal for a longer season.
“The whole season has been talked about _ player safety, player safety, player safety,” Vikings linebacker Ben Leber said Thursday. “We’re talking about going to 18 games. And then they’re going to say, ‘Hey, go play on some concrete and enjoy yourselves.’ If that’s the surface we have to play on, then we’ll play it. But I think those things need to be addressed.”
Hours earlier, the NFL said the University of Minnesota’s outdoor stadium remained its preferred venue for a game displaced by the Metrodome’s snow-damaged roof. Heating coils under a tarpaulin will be used in a bid to thaw the artificial grass field at TCF Bank Stadium at least a bit for a night game expected to be played in single-digit temperatures.
Grubman was in Minneapolis to tour the university stadium, which he described as “terrific” after laying eyes on it. He also looked at the Metrodome, where repair work was temporarily halted because of unsafe conditions four days after the roof collapsed under the weight of snow and ice _ an accident that forced the Vikings to play this week’s game in Detroit (a loss to the Giants) and a lot of scrambling to figure out the logistics for the NFC North game against Chicago.
Grubman declined to talk about backup plans or deadlines for a final decision because, he said, they wouldn’t come into play unless TCF is deemed unsuitable. He said ESPN, the game’s broadcaster, had signed off on TCF Bank Stadium and team officials in Indianapolis and Atlanta both said they had not heard from the NFL about hosting the game.
The plan, however, isn’t exactly going over well with every player.
Bears safety Chris Harris said he understood why the Vikings want to play their home finale in Minnesota “but at the end of the day you’ve got to be safe.”
“The NFL is cracking down on all this player safety and fining people $75,000, $50,000 for a hit because they want the game to be safer,” Harris said. “I don’t think it’s very safe to play on a frozen field.”
Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, who suffered a concussion in a game earlier this season, said the condition of the field was “the main concern with the guys in the locker room.”
“We don’t want to go out there and play on a concrete-type surface,” Cutler said.
University officials said they planned to use a tarp over heating coils to soften the field before the game, which will come on the 29th anniversary of the Vikings' last home game played outside at Metropolitan Stadium in 1981.
A spokesman for the NFL Players Association said the union will monitor the issue and that “the health and safety of our players is paramount,” director of communications Carl Francis said.View Entire Story
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