Last week, the Chicago Park District installed new grass at Soldier Field (located in the city's famous Grant Park). This Sunday, when the Patriots visit the Bears, will be the first time the new sod is trod upon.
Replacing grass in normal weather can be a challenge, so imagine how tenuous this surface might be given the frigid arctic-like temperatures that have settled in the Chicago area of late.
"We probably have one of the worst fields in the league at this point," Bears QB Jay Cutlertold reporters earlier this week. "We did last year, as well. We've got to deal with it, and our guys know it. They are aware of how to cut and how to move on it. So we've just got to go out there and play."
The latest forecast continues to call for temps in the low 20s, with gusty winds in the 20-mph range and a 60-percent chance of snow.
It certainly has been wintry-like in New England over the past week, but not to that extent. So, how are the Patriots preparing for Sunday's expected elements?
"I put myself in the fridge over here," WR Wes Welkerjoked, pointing to the Gatorade cooler that resides next to his locker.
"No," he continued seriously, "I mean, the main thing is just practicing in it."
"We just practice outside. It's cold out here, too," rookie TE Rob Gronkowskinoted. "So, we get adjusted to it by going out and practicing in it. And you have to wear warmer clothes out there."
But does that include shirts with long sleeves? The Patriots' offensive line contends they're going with bare arms on Sunday and are trying to convince their young teammates to follow suit.
"Um … they're telling me I can't wear sleeves. We're probably going to be sleeveless," a seemingly chagrined Gronkowski admitted.
"If I wear sleeves, you know it's cold," Welker added. "I'm not saying I'm not going to, but if I do, it means it's for my health."
"I might wear sleeves, yeah," rookie TE Aaron Hernandezchimed in with a laugh. "It might be a little colder in Chicago than it is here.
"I'm trying to get mentally prepared at this moment," he continued, donning a red, hooded sweatshirt prior to practice. "Because the cold is still affecting me, just thinking about it. But as you can see, I'm dressing warm, so I should be all right."
Head coach Bill Belichick, during his daily press briefing, was asked if he'd be wearing a double hoodie for the game Sunday. A question that drew laughter from everyone in attendance, including the man at the podium.
"That's a good idea," he replied. "I'll give that a shot today, see if that works."
The bigger concern for Belichick's players is the unpredictable field on which they'll be running Sunday, as well as the mercurial wind.
"I think so," said Welker. "The wind definitely makes a drastic change in the ball game, and the footing on the field. Gotta get out there early and find out what types of cleats you need to wear."
"You have to concentrate more because of the wind can move the ball in any direction at any time," Gronkowski pointed out.
"A sloppy field can go either way. You just have to run your route, be able to place your feet properly, and concentrate coming out of your breaks because you can slip there, too. I really can't say there's an advantage there."
But how does one run properly on a surface that could give way at any point?
"Keep your shoulder over your toes during routes, good base, you can't be out of control," Hernandez explained. "You have to be a smart football player in those type of situations."
But when the snow starts falling, it's difficult even for grown men like these to transform into kids again.
Gronkowski, a native of western New York, certainly knows what big, lake-effect snow storms produce, but he never really had to play in such conditions, he said, because the seasons typically ended before the snows arrived. So, he's looking forward to some white stuff on Sunday in Chicago.
"Yeah, definitely. They're always fun. I've played in snow games before, like pick-up and stuff. It was fun," grinning, he told reporters.
The response was a bit more lukewarm from Hernandez, who was raised in Connecticut but played college ball in Florida.
"I enjoy playing football. I just love football, so, whatever weather it's in … I prefer the warm, but …"
Welker, meanwhile, who grew up in Oklahoma, experienced one or two snow games in his high school career, he recalled.
"I don't know if anybody really enjoys them. But it's part of the game, and it can be fun. We'll see what happens and just be ready for it.
"Snow's really never that bad," he finally concluded. "If it's a snow game [Sunday], I'm all for the snow."
Fri 12/10 Practice Notebook
For news and notes from Friday's practice, please visit the PFW Blog.