The prospect of winter football's return to Minnesota may sound great to the NFL, but the fabled frozen tundra 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.
With all the talk about player safety, Vikings linebacker Ben Leber said Thursday, it makes to sense 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.”
Players for both teams expressed concern.
Earlier, the NFL said the University of Minnesota’s outdoor stadium will be the site of a Minnesota-Chicago 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 a bit for a night game expected to be played in single-digit temperatures.
“We are planning on playing here,” NFL VP Eric Grubman said as dozens of workers worked nearby to clear snow and ice from the stadium. “If we can’t, at that point we’ll figure out what we’ll do next.”
Grubman noted that several other NFL teams, including Buffalo and Kansas City, play in outdoor stadiums with no heating systems to keep their fields warm.
TCF Bank Stadium seats 50,000 fans, which means about 14,000 ticket-holders could be out of luck on Monday night. The Vikings said ticket-holders would be seated on a first-come, first-served basis until the stadium is full.
Rookie Joe Webb will likely start the game at quarterback for the Vikings. The team put Tavaris Jackson on injured reserve Thursday with a turf toe injury and signed veteran Patrick Ramsey to take his place.
Brett Favre said he plans to remain with the team through the end of the season, but numbness and discomfort persist in his throwing shoulder, making him pessimistic about his availability.
Tim Tebow is getting more snaps at practice with starter Kyle Orton nursing bruised ribs and the rookie might even get his first extended action of the season – if not his first start – when the Denver Broncos visit Oakland this weekend. ... Browns coach Eric Mangini named Colt McCoy his starting quarterback for this week’s game at Cincinnati and for the remainder of this season – home games against AFC North big boys Baltimore and Pittsburgh. McCoy hasn’t played since spraining his left ankle on Nov. 21. ... Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (concussion) was not cleared to return to practice and a final decision on his status is not expected until Saturday. ... Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel (appendectomy) was limited in practice and his availability for Sunday’s game at St. Louis remained unclear. ... The Lions signed cornerback Eric King a day after putting cornerback Brandon McDonald on injured reserve with a broken arm. ... Two people with direct knowledge of the decision say Cowboys linebacker Anthony Spencer has been fined $12,500 by the NFL for knocking helmets with Philadelphia quarterback Michael Vick. ... Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis was limited in practice by a sore right hamstring but is expected to play Sunday against Pittsburgh. ... Chargers tight end Antonio Gates (foot) was inactive for Thursday’s game against the 49ers, sitting out for the fourth time in six games. ... The Giants put wide receiver Steve Smith on injured reserve with a knee injury suffered in Monday’s win over Minnesota. ... Steelers tight end Heath Miller missed practice due to an exercise-related headache, putting his status for Sunday’s game in question. ... Unhappy with the Bills latest offer, safety Donte Whitner is eyeing the possibility of becoming a free agent.