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Texans gear up for cold at Green Bay


The Texans are anticipating a harsh, cold climate for their first-ever trip to Lambeau Field.

Texans linebackers coach Johnny Holland, a former Packers linebacker, has seen what Lambeau Field in winter can do to the uninitiated. Things like chattering players burning shoelaces and singeing gloves trying to get warm beside the sideline heaters.

"We played the Raiders there one year and it was about five below zero," Holland said. "They came from the West Coast, Mr. Tough guys. They wanted to come out with no sleeves, no gloves. That sun went down behind the stadium and we beat them something like 28-0. They were no good once that sun went down."

Holland has plenty of stories about the historic stadium. He played six outstanding seasons for the Packers and in 2001 was inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame. He's getting questions this week from young Texans who want to know how to play in frigid Green Bay.

"I tell our guys, don't go out there and try to be Mr. Tough guy," Holland said. "Put the stuff you need on and go play. You've got to put that out of your mind and go play."

{QUOTE}Lambeau has a proud history that could be intimidating, but add sub-zero temperatures and blinding snow and it can be threatening. The famous Ice Bowl game against the Cowboys was played there in the 1967 NFL Championship game. At kickoff, the temperature was minus-13 and the wind chill was minus-46. Officials could not use whistles to stop play. They were frozen.

The Texans don't expect to face such inclement weather on Sunday, although a 12-15 degree game time temperature is possible.

"Up in Chicago, 3-4 years ago (2004), we had a wind chill of minus-8," defensive backs coach Jon Hoke said. "We won the football game. In fact, on that very weekend, San Diego played in Cleveland in the snow and won. We played in Chicago and won. Jacksonville went up to Green Bay, which was even colder, and won. So it's all mindset."

So, it's true: A thin-blooded southern team can get the job done.

"You say you know it's going to be cold, so there's nothing to worry about," Hoke said. "It's not going to be a surprise to them."

How do you practice getting ready for a game in meat locker temperatures? The prevailing wisdom is, you don't.

"We've all been cold at some point in our lives before, so it's mind over matter," cornerback Dunta Robinson said. "As soon as you run around, you're not cold any more. Early in the game, guys probably will be dreading it, but that goes away when the game starts."

There are precautions and tips on surviving inhospitable conditions. Vonta Leach, a former Packers fullback, suggests Vaseline on the face. Quarterback Craig Nall, also a former Packer, puts Vaseline on his earlobes to ease removal of his helmet. There are hand warmers, heated benches and the field is even heated nowadays. No more "frozen tundra" references.

Still, don't try to tell tackle Eric Winston it's going to be a breeze.

"It's no fun playing in cold weather, you just do what you need to do," he said. "Anybody who thinks that's fun…everything just gets more hardened. Your helmet, your hands, the ground. You are smashing yourself into hard things that are now more hardened. It's bad.

"Out on the field, it's not too bad. If you can keep your hands dry, you'll be OK. As soon as your hands get wet, it's bad."

Tight end Owen Daniels grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and played college football at Wisconsin, so he knows something about cold weather games.

"When it gets cold like that, you numb up, but as long as you can feel everything, it's all right," Daniels said. "It forces you to look that ball in a little more. It's a natural thing to not worry about it when it's not cold. When you get in situations where it's wet or cold, it forces you to concentrate a little more."

Holland likes the small-town atmosphere of Green Bay and he learned to deal with the winters.

"It will be a very exciting place to play," Holland said. "You really don't get the effect of Lambeau if you go down there and it's not cold. There are a lot of stories to tell.

"There's a lot of tradition there. We're playing against a good football team. They have a lot to play for and we have a lot to play for. It will be an exciting game and there is a lot of history there."

Holland has been telling the Texans about the reality of their game.

"I tell our guys, 'You're out there four hours to play. You've got heated benches and you can't get caught up in the weather. If you think about the weather, you'll get cold. If you think about the game and what you have to do, you'll be fine. Put your clothes on and let's go play. You can't get caught up on, my hands are cold, my feet are cold, what kind of shoes am I wearing. That gets you out of your flow."'

Holland grew up playing in the Texas heat, both in high school and at Texas A&M. So he's dealt with both extremes.

"It can be unbearably cold there sometimes,'' Holland said of Green Bay. "I'll take this weather any day. I've said many times, I'll never complain again about the heat as long as I'm here."

EDITOR'S NOTE:Michael A. Lutz worked for The Associated Press for 38 years covering news and sports in Louisville, Ky. Dallas and Houston. Most of that time was spent in Houston covering the Oilers, Astros, Texans and other college and pro sports.

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