August 28, 2014

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Super Bowl XLVIII: Players say brrrrrrr-ing on the cold

JERSEY CITY, N.J. — So much for all the hand-wringing about a snowed-in Super Bowl.

How would freezing spectators deal with the cold at MetLife Stadium?

What sort of havoc would a big storm wreak on transportation and other game-day logistics?

What if the NFL decided to postpone its championship game between the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks for 24 hours?

If the National Weather Service’s forecast is correct, the buzz about a blizzard at the first cold-weather, outdoor Super Bowl — the official host committee logo features a snowflake — will turn out to be just talk. As of Wednesday, no snow, or even rain, was predicted for Sunday.

“It would have been cool in the snow,” Seattle linebacker Heath Farwell said. “That’s, I guess, how football’s supposed to be played.”

Players on both teams have experienced chilly conditions during games, of course, although they don’t regularly brace for the sort of brrrr that’s anticipated for this Super Bowl, even if there isn’t any snow. Sunday’s high temperature is expected to be 38 degrees, which would make it the coldest of the 48 Super Bowls so far.

With the opening kickoff scheduled for about 6:30 p.m., the mercury could drop into the 20s by the time the game ends.

The only time the temperature dropped below 40 degrees for a Super Bowl came when it was 39 in New Orleans in January 1972. The Dallas Cowboys beat the Miami Dolphins 24-3 in that game, and Miami’s scoring output remains the lowest for one team in a Super Bowl.

“I was expecting unbearable cold,” Broncos safety Duke Ihenacho said, looking ahead to Sunday. “It’ll be cold, but it’s nothing we haven’t seen in Denver.”

Similar to the setup for cold-site games during the regular season, there will be 70 feet worth of heated benches on each sideline, half for the offense, half for the defense, according to the NFL. (Attention, kickers: The league did not mention special teams.)

The benches can reach a temperature that is 90 degrees warmer than the air. Each club gets to decide how hot it wants to make them, the league said. The seats generate heat in the area surrounding the benches, so even standing nearby can help fight the freeze.

There also will be “heated torpedo fans” on each sideline.

Football uniforms have short sleeves, and only one of the 15 players interviewed for this story, Seattle defensive end Cliff Avril, said he would even consider wearing long sleeves underneath to provide some protection Sunday.

“I’m a 315-pound man. The weather doesn’t bother me,” Broncos defensive tackle Sylvester Williams said in explaining why he’d never go for the long-sleeved look.

Instead, players did offer various other options for finding warmth.

The remedies range from common-sense solutions for when the temperature plunges, such as wearing extra-thick jackets or gloves on the sideline, to more far-flung options such as spraying anti-perspirant on feet to keep them dry and prevent sweat from freezing. Even more far-flung: Seattle’s Harwell said he’s heard of players putting cayenne pepper and baby powder on their feet.

Many players said they will use some combination of Vaseline and a product called Warm Skin, described on the company’s website as “a unique barrier cream that soothes and protects your skin,” to seal up pores and act as insulation.

“At first, I didn’t think it would work, but I was surprised that it really protected me from the elements, especially from the wind and everything. I felt good. I felt warm,” said Denver defensive tackle Sione Fua, who sported a thick gray hoodie under his orange jersey at his team’s interview session Wednesday, when the high was 25. “It rubs in pretty good, so it’s not like your skin’s slick. The referees check for that, anyway, so if you’re too slick, they tell you to wipe down.”

Broncos safety David Bruton said he started using creams on his arms before playing in the cold during high school in Miamisburg, Ohio.

“My Dad suggested it. He was a truck driver, and sometimes he’d have to hook the trailer up when it was blistering cold, like when he would go to New York in the winter,” Bruton recalled. “He would have thick gloves and Vaseline on.”

No matter how they try to weather Sunday’s weather, players doubt the conditions — whatever they turn out to be — will influence the game’s outcome.

“Both teams are going to be prepared, and they won’t really care about it,” Bruton said. “Hey, it’s the Super Bowl. Who’s going to care about the weather? And no one is ever going to say, ‘Such-and-such won, and it was negative-2 degrees at the end of the game.’”

Maybe so.

But at least one player is holding out hope for a few flakes.

“I really got excited about the Super Bowl,” Broncos kick returner Trindon Holliday said, “thinking it was going to have some snow.”

Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich.
AP Sports Writer Tom Canavan in New York contributed to this report.

SUPER BOWL XLVIII

WHO: Denver Broncos vs. Seattle Seahawks
WHEN: Sunday, 6:30 p.m.
WHERE: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.
TV/RADIO: Channel 8; WKRK 92.3-FM