MINNEAPOLIS -- As the Minnesota Vikings prepare to play their next two seasons at TCF Bank Stadium -- moving outdoors before a return to indoor home games at their new stadium -- there might not be two players on their roster who are affected by the move more than kicker Blair Walsh and punter Jeff Locke.
The two specialists have already made three trips to their new home field, traveling to the University of Minnesota campus the last two weeks with long snapper Cullen Loeffler, to learn about the tricky wind patterns caused by the stadium's unusual alignment. TCF Bank Stadium is on an East-West alignment, rather than the typical North-South orientation of football stadiums. The stadium's setup -- closed on the East end, open to the Minneapolis skyline on the West end -- creates some tricky cross-winds.
"Jeff and Blair went down there back during the first minicamp," special teams coordinator Mike Priefer said on Wednesday. "It was a real windy, cold, blustery day and they got a really good idea of what the winds are going to do. Jeff's got this elaborate drawing of what the winds are going to do that he and Blair put together, I mean, these are smart guys, a lot smarter than me. It's never going to be easy, especially late in the year when it's really windy. If you know where the winds are going, you have your sight lines, we're going to use that as a home-field advantage."
As Priefer said, the Vikings won't have a true idea about how TCF Bank Stadium will play in cold weather until late this season (though you'd be surprised how close some of Minnesota's spring weather came to wintry conditions this year). But the Vikings are trying, on many levels, to embrace their two-year residency at a college stadium, and their specialists' work to learn about the facility's wind patterns is ultimately geared toward giving the Vikings an edge.
"Coaching in Green Bay, against Green Bay, coaching in Chicago during bad weather, it's going to probably be very similar," Priefer said. "We will have a good idea going into every pregame of how strong the winds are, what the crosswinds are going to be like, tailwind, headwind and what we need to do to be successful. It should be an advantage over our opponent.