The field at Soldier Field has been a a winter concern for a long time and the NFC Championship game is no exception.
Cold, wind and frozen turf. They make Chicago’s Soldier Field such a forbidding place.
Just ask the guys who play there.
“Some people say it’s a sorry field,” Bears cornerback Charles Tillman said, adding that others prefer to describe his home turf with an expletive. “They say what they want, but at the end of the day, you’ve got to play. That’s what we do. We accept it. We just play.”
The natural grass field will be front and center Sunday when the Green Bay Packers take on the Bears in the NFC championship game, with a Super Bowl spot on the line. And it could all come down to how the kickers deal with the less-than-ideal conditions.
After being re-sodded before the regular-season finale in 2006, the Bears slipped and slid to a 39-14 victory in the NFC championship over New Orleans, which fumbled four times and lost three.
Earlier this week, Green Bay wide receiver Greg Jennings was critical of Soldier Field after watching Seattle players slip in the snow in the Seahawks’ playoff loss last weekend.
“It’s rough,” he said. “It’s probably one of the worst – probably the worst – in the league.”
Bears quarterback Jay Cutler and linebacker Brian Urlacher have made similar comments.
According to the National Weather Service, the temperature is expected to be in the upper teens at kickoff in Chicago, with wind chills in the upper-single digits.
“You know it’s going to be cold,” Bears kicker Robbie Gould said. “You know it’s going to be windy. You know the conditions on the field aren’t going to potentially be great.”
Gould joined the Bears in 2005 – coincidentally replacing an injured Brien, who was cut by the Jets a few months after his bad day in Pittsburgh – and tries not to even think about the conditions when he lines up.
“I’ve done this a million times,” he said. “I’m going to continue doing it, so I’m confident to go there and do my job on Sunday. I’ve got a lot of great guys around me that aid in that process.”
Mason Crosby has been kicking in Green Bay for four years, so cold and windy conditions are the norm for him. Plus, he has been to Soldier Field once a season since coming into the league, so he tries to maintain his usual routine – no matter how bad the field may be.
“It’s like any other game, go out and hit some balls, see if the wind’s blowing in any way,” he said. “Then, trust it once game time comes and know you’re going to hit the ball and it’s going to go where you need it to.”
AP Sports Writers Chris Jenkins in Green Bay, Wis., Andrew Seligman in Lake Forest, Ill., Ben Walker in New York, and AP Freelance Writer Chris Adamski in Pittsburgh contributed to this report.
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