Panthers Face Freezing Matchup
There is no snow in the forecast for the Panthers' trip to Minneapolis this weekend, but it will be the second-coldest game in franchise history.
When Panthers coach Ron Rivera walked out to Wednesday’s practice, he appeared ready for this weekend in Minnesota. Dressed in a heavy coat and wearing a hat and gloves, Rivera was asked about the coldest game he ever played.
The former Bears linebacker recalled the 1988 NFC Championship that featured a game-time temperature of 17 degrees, with a wind chill of minus 26. Not only did Rivera lose that game to the San Francisco 49ers, his wife Stephanie also developed frostbite on her cheek while sitting in the stands at Chicago’s Soldier Field.
As of Thursday night, the forecast for the Panthers’ game Sunday in Minneapolis called for a high of 16 degrees. That is a lot colder than the practice Rivera was dressed up for, one that was overcast with temperatures in the 50s. But for a team that does not practice or play in northern-like conditions all that often, at least it wasn’t spring-like day.
“I love the fact that it was wet and cold and cool and the whole bit like that,” Rivera said.
This weekend's game looks assured of becoming the second-coldest game in Panthers' history. It will not beat out the most frigid — the 1996 NFC Championship. It was 3 degrees in Green Bay when the Panthers fell to the Packers that day.
While plenty of the current Panthers have played in below-freezing temperatures before, many others have not.
“I’m from Atlanta, so cold is cold, “Newton said. “If you’re wearing a coat, it’s cold,” Newton said.
Since he entered the league in 2011, the chilliest game-time temperature Newton has faced was 36 degrees during a Monday night win in Philadelphia in 2012.
But a couple Panthers are perfectly familiar with NFC North weather.
Tight end Greg Olsen, who played his first four seasons in Chicago, had his coldest experience in 2008. When the Bears hosted the Packers three days before Christmas, the game-time temperature was 2 degrees, with a windchill of -13. Olsen ended up catching five passes for 49 yards and a touchdown in a Bears’ win.
“Put on long sleeves, don’t try to be a tough guy, and go play,” Olsen said, when asked for tips about playing in freezing conditions. “There’s cold and then there’s cold. Chicago and Minneapolis — that’s a different level cold.”
Quarterback/receiver Joe Webb spent his first four seasons in Minnesota before signing in Carolina this offseason. He was fortunate to play with the Vikings before they were forced to play two seasons outdoors while their new stadium is built.
But the Birmingham, AL native experienced enough of the cold weather just living in Minneapolis, plus, he played a handful of games in Chicago and Green Bay.
“You can’t describe it. It’s brutal, man,” Webb said.
“But it’s all mental. If you go out there saying it’s going to be a cold game, then you’re going to play like it’s cold. But if you go out there saying you can’t do nothing about it, and just go out there and play, then you’ll be all right.”
‘All right’ may be relative when temperatures fall below freezing. But Webb does have a point. The Panthers can’t do anything about the weather, but they can try to snap out of their two-month funk. And if they do it in the cold, they’ll be plenty warm on the plane heading back home Sunday night.