Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Coping with the Cold

The Bucs weren’t fearful of the weather in Green Bay, but it was a new experience for some of the team’s members

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RB Warrick Dunn, who has performed well in a driving rain several times this season, now must deal with the Green Bay cold

Most likely, you couldn't join your team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, in Green Bay this Sunday. Most likely, you're not really that envious.

As you watch the game from your living room sofa, here's a look at what the Bucs are experiencing in frigid up-state Wisconsin.

As the Bucs' four team buses pulled up to Lambeau Field, snow drifts caused by plowing of the parking lot easily piled 20 feet high, tall enough to block the view of the stadium as the buses got close. Those snow drifts, which had built up all week, represented the first snow accumulation that Buccaneers QB Shaun King had ever seen.

Once the team charters had found the designated visitors' entrance, the disembarking players were greeted with gleeful natives who figured the Bucs were shocked by the weather. The taunts were heartfelt but not terribly creative, 'Cold enough for you?' and 'Want a bratwurst?' chief among them.

Inside the locker room, the attention of nearly every player was immediately drawn to the new face masks in each locker. The masks cover the bottom half of the face, as the players are used to, but they are designed to warm the air before it reaches the face. The technology gives the mask a somewhat strange look. If the frequently repeated joke in the locker room is active, they have the appearance of the safety device worn by Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs.

As we discussed on Friday, each player had a long list of cold-weather gear waiting in his locker. RB Warrick Dunn, for one, plans to use most of it, especially the gloves.

"Of course," said Dunn. "I'm not even going to hesitate to wear gloves. I probably won't wear sleeves, though, to protect the football. I practiced with gloves all week long. I practiced with sleeves, too, but I'll probably leave those off because I'm much more comfortable protecting the ball without them.

"Trust me, I'll have it on. I'm going to try to stay light, but I'll have it on."

Out on the field, stadium workers began to roll the segmented tarp off the field. Underneath, the field is a brownish-green and there is still plenty of snow evident. Immediately, another worker begins driving a tractor backwards, up and down the field, clearing off most of the remainder of the snow.

With the tarp off, the players were free to come out and test the conditions, and the first Bucs to venture out were, typically, the offensive linemen. Without gloves, center Jeff Christy and T Jerry Wunsch engaged in a game of long toss, as Randall McDaniel and line coach Chris Foerster looked on.

At the same time, more workers busied themselves bringing out the heater-blowers and the heated benches to the sidelines. In both cases, the heating items were taken to the Packers' side first, but it hardly mattered as neither team had taken the field yet. Both sidelines featured two very large blowers and an assortment of smaller ones.

With clear skies over Green Bay for the first time in days, there was no threat of added snowfall before or during the game. The flat roof of Lambeau Field had collected piles of snow, however, and the wind carried flakes of it over the edge and into the stands. The flakes looked like shiny crystals as they fell in front of the luxury suite windows.

Below, the bench seating at Lambeau Field was completely covered with snow. Apparently, the stadium staff leaves the clearing off of seats to the fans when they arrive, because every single bench had a solid blanket of snow.

The fans began to filter in two hours before the game, clearing off their spaces and placing rented half-seats on the benches to provide warmth and back support. On the field, Bucs and Packers players continued to drift in and out before the official team warmups.

DE Steve White was one of the first Bucs to come out in the special face mask, and the early report from White was that it worked well. He planned to wear it during the game, but wasn't sure some of his teammates would due to 'superstition.'

Whatever they choose to wear, Dunn remained confident that the weather, as interesting a topic as it is before the game, would not have much effect after kickoff.

"I've played in cold games before," he said. "I think everybody's going to be okay with it.

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