Last year, the weather in Chicago was downright frightful for the Bears' Week 16 home game against Green Bay. The wind was howling, the wind chills dipped well below zero, and the players looked absolutely miserable.
One team played well in the conditions. The other was barely present for the proceedings. As a result, the Bears beat Green Bay 35-7.
A few weeks later, the Packers hosted the Giants in the NFC Championship. While it was clear and dry with little wind, it was very cold, with gametime temperatures close to zero. One team played like it was 70 degrees out, and that team went on to the Super Bowl, while the Packers stayed home.
Now, I'm not here to say that every team that plays in a northern climate should practice outside all the time. However, I've always been struck by how outdoor teams prepare for indoor games. They crank up the stereo and practice in a noisy environment. After all, it's going to be noisy at the game.
Despite this, the Packers continue to refuse to practice outside before playing potentially bad-weather games.
Evidently, coach Mike McCarthy is continuing to ignore the signs that his team's performances late last year were at least partially influenced by the bad weather. Meanwhile, Bears coach Lovie Smith has his team practicing outside.
Smith was asked whether his team will practice outside this week. "Of course we are, we're going outside today. They're scraping the snow off. That's how you play it. You play in the snow, you practice in it, right?"
Finally, Smith was asked whether he sacrifices the quality of practice by going outside, and whether that is made up for by getting the players acclimated to the elements. "I think you have to get used to the elements. We have a nice indoor facility. We won't practice outside all the week but we try to at least get out once a week no matter what the conditions are. Yeah, I do think it does help a little bit. We don't want it to be a shock to the guys at all if that happens. That's the way we do things, that's the way we've done it every year. So there's a lot of ways to do it. Some people stay inside the entire time. A lot of teams stay out. That's they way we do it."
When he was in Green Bay, I'm pretty sure Mike Holmgren didn't work his teams out in the weather late in the year. They were very successful at Lambeau Field. But times were different. For a few years, Holmgren's teams were better than all but two or three teams in the NFL. This year's Packers are part of a wide-open league, where there are few clear-cut favorites. That requires that preparation be maxed out every week.
To me, part of preparing to play in potentially bad weather is practicing in potentially bad weather. If it's going to rain, practice with wet footballs. If you can get out in the cold and snow before playing in a northern climate, do it. It's only going to help your preparation.
In case you're wondering, the forecast is calling for temps in the single digits Monday night.
Bears Practice Outside, Packers Inside, in Advance of Monday Night Football originally appeared on NFL FanHouse on Thu, 18 Dec 2008 21:00:00 EST . Please see our terms for use of feeds.