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Anyone who tells you that playing football in cold weather doesn't affect them, boy, they are lying to you and me.
I remember it like it was yesterday. The AFL Championship game at Shea Stadium — boy I do miss that place — Dec. 29, 1968. My New York Jets were hosting the Oakland Raiders. It was bitter cold that day because of the wind, and I had suffered a concussion early in the game and then dislocated the ring finger on my left hand.
That ball smacking against my hand under center — that hurts. Still hurts this day to think about it. We won that game, and this weekend the weather can be a major factor in some games. I am looking in your direction, Philadelphia.
It is an individual experience, playing in the cold. People vary; how each one handles it is up to them as an individual. For me, you can't be yourself. It takes your focus away. No one else can make you warm; you have to do it yourself both mentally and, of course, physically.
“Oh, that was cold!”
That's what you think when you're on the sidelines in bitterly cold games. It does distract you, weather-wise. It takes your focus away from what you're supposed to do.
After every play, you're jumping around, trying to stay warm. On the sidelines, you're not listening to your coach or coordinator. You're trying to find a spot not quite as cold as the other spots. Football? You aren't thinking about football. You are thinking about being warm.
Some guys will feel it more than others. Any one who says they don't feel it, I think they aren't telling the truth. Does that ball get slick? How is the wind coming down? Is it swirling? You have to be a weatherman out there at times.
Then there is the way that the cold just wears you down.
For me personally, I always had to keep moving. If you sit down under that cape on the bench, your joints get tired. You bring in a heat blower, then you've got guys getting upset with each other, trying to get warm. There is no good solution.
Winning does help you warm up faster though.
And it all takes your distraction away from the game.
With the Jets, our equipment manager's wife sewed pouches onto the front of our jerseys to keep our hands warm. We didn't have fancy gloves, and we didn't have all this technology-driven wear for under your uniforms. It was a battle; it was tough.
As a quarterback, it is important to manage the conditions as best you can.
Physically, your fingers are dry and slippery at once. You're trying to get some moisture on them. The ball is slippery; it feels harder. I think it might be harder with the conditions and the air and the conditions mixing there with the pigskin. Tossing that thing with any kind of accuracy is impossible.
If you have great gloves, hopefully they can help you. But the biggest issue is the wind. That combines with the slippage of your grip on the ball — oh boy.
You have to know how to throw it, and when to throw it.
They say that running the ball in conditions like that is the best way to move the ball.
If you can gain yardage running the ball every time, then you would never pass the ball! If the New Orleans Saints on Saturday night can establish the run every play, why put it in the air in a game like this? You don't throw the ball unless you legitimately feel you need to. If that wind is strong on Saturday night against Philadelphia, then just run the ball.
As a dome team, they need to be smart about this.
Joe Namath's Playoff Picks:
Each week throughout the playoffs, the man behind the Super Bowl III guarantee will provide his picks for the weekend. Want further insight? Check out Broadway Joe site for even more from the Hall of Fame quarterback!
Kansas City Chiefs at Indianapolis Colts: You have to think the Colts have a major advantage being at home and having that crowd behind them in a dome. Communication will be a major issue. This will be home cooking interrupting the communication of the offense. Both teams are good, and I’ve got to feel like the Colts established something by winning that first game earlier this year. Having done that, I think they have a mental edge. I like Alex Smith, and I really like the Chiefs’ running game, but with two even teams, the advantage goes to the home team and that raucous crowd.
Joe's Pick: Colts
New Orleans Saints at Philadelphia Eagles: This Eagles offense proves to me that this is the direction offenses will be going in. Neither defense is very good. History says that the Saints don't do well on the road in the playoffs. Playing on the road in these types of conditions that they will face, with that cold and wind, that can be such a challenge for a warm-weather team — oh, yes, and they are a dome team! The Eagles can run the ball and that tempo they have got, it is the future of football.
Joe's Pick: Eagles
San Diego Chargers at Cincinnati Bengals: Here, the weather — and maybe not the crowd — is going to be a factor, and the Chargers will be at a disadvantage. They will say they're not at a disadvantage, but trust me, the Chargers aren't ready or used to this. But the Bengals live in this weather; they are accustomed to it. I like their quarterback, and I really like that running back, the rookie Giovani Bernard. Boy, can he scamper out there.
Joe's Pick: Bengals
San Francisco 49ers at Green Bay Packers: On both sides of the ball, I like San Francisco. They've got that defense to harass Aaron Rodgers a bit. The Packers have to figure out how to protect the quarterback, how to get him to get rid of the ball fast. I like the 49ers’ ground game, and I think they have kept things tame this year on offense and will unleash some things. The weather won't affect them that much — heck, I spent the coldest July of my life in San Francisco!
Joe's Pick: San Francisco 49ers
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