Packers bid adieu to dome

Packers bid adieu to dome

Sure, it’s easy for them to say, now that the place has been reduced to a pile of rubble and cleared to make way for the Minnesota Vikings’ sparkling new $1 billion home set to open in 2016.

Nevertheless, there was almost wistful feeling in the Green Bay Packers’ locker room Wednesday as the team prepped for its first outdoor game against the Vikings since 1981 – two years before Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was even born – after the Vikings vacated and razed the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome after last season.

“A lot of good memories,” Rodgers said.
“I didn’t really mind the place, to be honest with you,” wide receiver Jordy Nelson said.

“I liked the Metrodome,” coach Mike McCarthy said.

For McCarthy, who went 5-3 as the Packers head coach in that building, and Rodgers and Nelson, whose first action inside it came in 2008, it’s not hard to understand why the building didn’t bother them. It was never the house of horrors it became for coach Mike Holmgren’s otherwise outstanding teams from 1992 through 1998 (composite Metrodome record: 1-6).

So many strange things happened there over the years – from Eric Guliford seemingly coming off the sideline to get behind Terrell Buckley, to T.J. Rubley’s audacious (and awful) audible, to Packers fans seeing Brett Favre in a purple uniform for the first time against his former team – but recently, the weirdness had given way to more normalcy. Loud, eardrum-splitting normalcy, but normalcy nonetheless.

“I thought it was a great environment. It definitely leads the away games for taking Advil after it,” McCarthy said Wednesday, as his team began preparing for Sunday’s game at TCF Bank Stadium on the University of Minnesota campus. “The crowd noise, real and not so real, I thought really beats you up by the end of the day. But the environment in there was incredible.

“I mean, you think about all the Packer fans that are at the game, it was always exciting to play in the Metrodome. I definitely enjoyed it. I thought it was unique. It was a unique home-field advantage for the Vikings. I’m not going to say I’ve missed it, but I enjoyed playing there.”

So, too, did Rodgers – as his statistics will attest. Although he was just .500 (3-3) in his six career starts at the Metrodome – later, the name Mall of America Field was added – his production was off the charts: He went an astonishing 139 for 193 (72.2 percent) for 1,812 yards with 15 touchdowns and just one interception in those six games for a passer rating of 125.0.

“I liked the environment,” Rodgers said during his weekly radio show on 540 ESPN and ESPNWisconsin.com. “It’s loud, it’s a hostile environment. It’s exciting playing in those type of environments.”

No wonder Rodgers added Wednesday, “[I] look forward to that being a road dome game at some point again.”

That’ll happen in 2016, although there was at least one dissenting voice that is actually happy the Packers will be outside on Sunday.

“No, man, I don’t miss a damn thing about that place,” veteran guard Josh Sitton said. “I’ve never been a fan of domes. They’re loud and turf sucks. I won’t miss it at all.”

Listen to Jason Wilde every weekday from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. on “Green & Gold Today” on 540 ESPN, and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/jasonjwilde.

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