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Players can bundle up and stay nimble

By TERRY TOMALIN, Times Outdoors Editor
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 12, 2002

Click for larger graphic
Football players from the Big Ten are used to being cold and wet. But those who played in the SEC, well, sometimes they need a little help.

"Guys from Florida and Florida State aren't use to playing in cold weather," said Darin Kerns, equipment manager for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. "So we do everything we can to give them what they need."

Before they headed off to Philly for their NFC wild-card game against the Eagles, every Buccaneer was issued an Adidas duffle bag filled with more than a dozen pieces of the latest high-performance, technical outdoor wear.

"We make it available," Kerns said. "What they wear is a matter of personal preference. They are grown men and can dress themselves."

The key to staying warm, be it on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field or the wind-swept plains of the Meadowlands, is layering.

"It is just like your grandmother used to say . . . layer, layer, layer, layer," Kerns said.

The foundation of the Bucs' cold-weather arsenal is the MAXIT body suit, a one-piece garment that protects players from neck to toe.

"Some guys like the full-body suit, while others just go for tights," Kern said. "You want comfort without restricting mobility."

The MAXIT bodysuit, as well as Underarmour tights, keep heat-robbing moisture away from a player's body. Cotton T-shirts can soak up sweat and add as much as 4 pounds to a player's body weight. The synthetics that are used in today's long underwear, however, transfer moisture and dry quickly.

"If you get wet, you get cold," said Red Batty, the veteran equipment manager for the Green Bay Packers. "We offer our players nine different cold weather choices in four different fabrics. A lot of what we use comes out of the ski industry."

Batty, who spent 10 years in the Canadian Football League before moving to the NFL in 1981, said the most critical part of a player's body is the head.

"You lose 30 percent of your body heat through the head," he said. "Keeping it covered makes a big difference."

Buccaneers are given several options, from an Adidas skull cap to a Polar Wrap Exchanger mask. The latter, a Balaclava-style headgear, actually warms the air breathed in by the player.

Players are also issued hand and toe warmers to put inside their shoes and gloves.

"There is only so much you can do to control the temperature on the field," Batty said. "But you can always control the temperature on the bench."

Propane and kerosine heaters keep the players warm between plays. Some teams have benches that use an internal heat source. Batty also sets up an "ice shanty" on the sidelines.

"It is the same thing guys use when they go ice fishing," Batty said. "Then, if we have to work on a piece of equipment, or a trainer has to work on a player, we have some place warm to do it."

Equipment managers readily share technology.

"There are no secrets between us," Kern said. "We talk to each other all the time."

The players have their own tricks, too. Some put petroleum jelly on their faces to ward off wind burn. Others spray anti-perspirant on their feet to keep them dry, and subsequently, warm.

But some players rely on Mother Nature's most efficient insulator -- fat -- to keep them warm. Offensive guards are usually seen sleeveless regardless of weather.

"Old school guys like (Jeff) Christy and (Randall) McDaniel are out there with bare skin," Kerns said.

Prior to the last Chicago game, there was speculation how the rookie lineman Kenyatta Walker, born in Mississippi and schooled at the University of Florida, would perform in the cold.

"He played well," Kerns said. "The cold didn't seem to be a factor. Hopefully, that will hold true in Philadelphia."

Bucs can't shake the cold
Tampa Bay's results in games played below 40 degrees:
39 12/24/89 L 31-22 vs. Pittsburgh
38 11/26/78 L 14-3 at Chicago
37 11/19/00 L 13-10 at Chicago
37 12/7/86 L 48-14 at Chicago
34 12/31/00 L 21-3 at Philadelphia
34 11/26/95 L 35-13 at Green Bay
34 12/17/95 L 31-10 at Chicago
33 12/2/84 L 27-14 at Green Bay
32 11/13/83 L 20-0 at Cleveland
32 11/29/92 L 19-14 vs. Green Bay*
30 12/1/85 L 21-0 at Green Bay
29 11/28/93 L 13-10 at Green Bay
29 11/23/97 L 13-7 at Chicago
28 12/5/76 L 42-0 at Pittsburgh
28 12/14/91 L 27-0 at Chicago
28 1/4/98 L 21-7 at Green Bay
23 12/12/82 L 32-17 at Jets
18 12/11/88 L 10-7 (OT) at New England
15 12/24/00 L 17-14 (OT) at Green Bay
11 12/23/90 L 27-14 at Chicago
* at Milwaukee

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