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Biggest battle for 49ers, Packers may be the cold
First Published Jan 04 2014 06:50 pm • Last Updated Jan 04 2014 11:20 pm

Green Bay, Wis. • Josh Boyd isn’t into making a fashion statement, and he doesn’t think he needs to go sleeveless to show off his toughness.

All the Packers defensive lineman wants is to stay warm in the subzero weather when Green Bay hosts the San Francisco 49ers in an NFC wild-card showdown that could be one of the coldest playoff games in NFL history.

At a glance

NFC wild card

San Francisco at Green Bay

Sunday, 2:30 p.m.

TV » Ch. 13

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So many intriguing story lines between these two NFC powers, and yet the arctic cold may trump them all.

"Yeah, I’m definitely going sleeves," said Boyd, a rookie from Mississippi. "I mean, I don’t see it as a tough guy thing. I just see it as being comfortable."

The National Weather Service forecast called for a high temperature in Green Bay on Sunday of 2 degrees, with north-northwest winds making it feel more like minus-15 to minus-20.

The coldest NFL game on record is the 1967 championship game, known as the "Ice Bowl" won by the Packers 21-17 over the Dallas Cowboys at Lambeau Field on New Year’s Eve. The temperature dipped to minus-13, and the wind chill that day was minus-48.

This might be little consolation to Boyd, for whom cold games in college meant playing in 30- or 40-degree weather.

"I’m from Mississippi, so this is a whole other animal," Boyd said. "I’ve never seen negatives until I got here."

Linemen are renowned for toughing out inclement weather without sleeves under jerseys. Don’t want to give the opponent even the slightest idea that you’re soft, the line of thinking goes.

Well, 49ers defensive tackle Justin Smith is as tough as they come, and even he might wear sleeves for what he estimates would be just the second or third time in his 13-year career.


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"You’re not going to have an advantage having no sleeves. You’re not going to scare the opponent," said Smith, who has 6½ sacks.

Across the line of scrimmage, center Jonathan Goodwin said he had no problem wearing sleeves.

"I gave up on the ‘don’t wear sleeves to look tough’ a long time ago," he said.

In some ways, players might be warmer than the 80,000 fans expected to pack frigid Lambeau. Once they get to the sideline, players can take a break on heated benches. They’ll likely wear long, heavy coats while not in the game.

"This is not the norm. Anytime you get outside the norm for whatever your occupation, it’s obviously challenging mentally and physically," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "That’s definitely going to be the case Sunday."

Footing on the field will be a key issue. Lambeau does have a heating system buried beneath the turf, encompassing 30 miles of pipes. There was supposed to be a brief "break" in the cold snap with temperatures rising into the upper 20s on Saturday, which McCarthy said would give groundskeepers a key day to work on the field.

"It could be just a normal game that’s played at a little slower pace. Or it could be where there’s a lot of slipping and sliding going on, then you have to adjust a little bit," 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. "You need to wait to see Sunday exactly see how the field affects the game."

Another key for players will be to stay hydrated, though McCarthy jokingly put his index finger to his lips as if to tell a reporter to not let out the secret when asked the question Friday.

"We’ve seen it in past games where guys do cramp, so yes, it’s all part of our preparation," McCarthy said.

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