When you look at the Vikings' season as a whole, it's hard to imagine a team just one year shy of an NFC Championship game, spiraling out of control the way the Vikings have. At 5-8, down to their 3rd string quarterback and mathematically out of playoff contention, the Vikings are a mess. And some would suggest that they are just one game, against the Chicago Bears, away from a guaranteed losing season.
I won't blame the Bears, or the players, for the media's coverage with regard to the issue of where Monday night's game would be held, or the fact (opinion) that the entire issue has been blown out of proportion. The concerns with TCF Bank Stadium are real and legitimate. The issue of a frozen field, without heating coils, is a major issue, no doubt. But, since this whole situation began, the reports from the ground crews, the Minnesota Vikings and the NFL, has been that of support and optimism with regard to TCF Bank Stadium hosting the game. The media's take, has been that of concern and high criticism.
I'm going to say it one more time for those who didn't hear me the first time, the concerns with regard to TFC Stadium are real and legitimate. But, I'm a man who's learned over the years that sometimes your not smart enough to have all the answers. And usually, the people in the thick of the situation are going to have a better handle on the current conditions, than the guy feeding you reports over the internet. Yeah, I know that's me too.
Some have asked the question, "But, why even go through all this trouble? Just play the game in another dome." That's a very solid point. And the only real answer seems to be that the Vikings do not want to have to give up a second "home" game this season. Especially, on a night booked and billed as a 50th anniversary celebration. Concurrently, the NFL seems to have enough reason to believe that TCF Stadium will be in safe enough condition to host the game to not want to take that away from the storied franchise.
Whatever your personal take on the issues at TCF are, my concern is this: With all the play this story has received, where are the player's heads? No matter what, a player is always going to be concerned with their own safety; rightfully so. But, at what point do the players focus on the task at hand? Which is, beating the Minnesota Vikings, and possibly securing the division title.
Bears' safety Chris Harris was very outspoken on Thursday with regard to the apparent conditions at TFC, and the player's lack of input: "They tell you what to do in the NFL, you don't have a voice, it's pretty much a dictatorship. It's unfortunate." Except here's the thing Chris, you do have a voice. The NFL Player's Association is reportedly working directly with the NFL to ensure the player's concerns are being addressed. The NFL has said that it, also, shares those same concerns.
Bears' QB Jay Cutler on the thawing of the artificial turf at TCF: "They can heat it up all they want. We're going to be out there for three hours, it's definitely going to be a hard surface. I think that's the main concern with the guys in the locker room." Except that the modern infill systems used in artificial grass, like that in TCF Stadium, are designed to freeze exponentially slower than grass and dirt under the same conditions.
Bears' kicker, and NFLPA rep, Robbie Gould was probably the most logical when addressing the players concerns: "There's no protest. There will be no protest. As long as the environment is safe and the conditions for the field are safe, then obviously, the show must go on." Perfect answer Robbie.
The player's role in this whole issue is to prepare for the Minnesota Vikings, and I hope that is where their heads are this week, and on Monday night. As I said before, of course the players are going to be concerned for their safety. The way you address that, is to voice those concerns, sincerely, with the NFLPA and the NFL Commissioner, and move on to football.
Here's some food-for-thought: Remember all the conversation about the weather conditions leading up to the Bears' 36-7 shellacking to the New England Patriots last week? Tom Brady offered a very telling comment after that game, as to the Patriots' mindset heading in: "We were playing the Chicago Bears, not the weather, not the stadium, not the refs, not the crowd, the Bears. That's what we were focused on."
I hope just this issue does not take precedent over a team who the Bears should clearly roll on Monday night.