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Packers, 49ers will have to overcome brutally cold temperatures

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) celebrates

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) celebrates with wide receiver Randall Cobb (18) after a game against the Chicago Bears. (Dec. 29, 2013) Credit: AP

Colin Kaepernick grew up dreaming about playing quarterback for the Packers, winning playoff games and championships at legendary Lambeau Field. But in those moments of childhood imagination, there always was one constant.

He was warm.

But when he takes the field with the 49ers for Sunday's wild-card playoff game against the team he used to root for in the place he used to picture, he won't be toasty. The temperatures at kickoff is expected to be around zero and dip throughout the game, possibly rivaling the 2008 NFC Championship Game against the Giants, played at minus-1, for the second-coldest contest in Lambeau Field history. The coldest, of course, was the minus-13 kickoff in the Dec. 31, 1967, game against the Cowboys -- the "Ice Bowl."

"I don't think my dream was to play in freezing weather," Kaepernick told reporters this past week. "But to be in the playoffs and have this opportunity, yes, it's part of it."

There are plenty of story lines for the game, including a rematch of last year's playoff win by the 49ers at cozy Candlestick Park on their way to the Super Bowl and a rehashing of the regular-season opener in which Kaepernick threw for 412 yards and three touchdowns in another 49ers victory (temperature at kickoff: 69 degrees). The narrative this time will be more about Fahrenheit than football, though, as both teams have prepared in different ways for the historic chill.

The 49ers, who practiced in 60-degree temperatures and wore shorts in California for most of the week, decided to try to ignore the weather.

"Your job is to catch the ball, I don't care if it's raining or snowing, cold, dry, hot," said Anquan Boldin, who had 13 catches for 208 yards in the season opener against Green Bay. "Whatever it is, I think if you prepare the right way, you don't have to go out and think about it. Just go play football."

Kaepernick said he will not wear a glove on his throwing hand. The team suggested that he will be prepared for the cold because he played collegiately in Nevada, where the temperature for some games dipped into the 20s.

The Packers, meanwhile, are embracing their home-field advantage.

"I think we're just a little more adapted to it," receiver Jordy Nelson said. "Being out in it the last few weeks, practicing in it twice a week, especially this week. It's hard, especially with how cold they're saying it could get. I mean, that's not enjoyable for anyone. But we are kind of accustomed to it. We walk in it and practice in it a little bit. I don't think it's going to help us too much, but it won't hurt us, I guess."

The Packers won't be shying away from layers, either.

"I don't really subscribe to 'the less clothes I have on, the tougher I am,' " tight end Ryan Taylor said. "The guys who think they're the toughest guys in the world go out wearing no sleeves. It doesn't make any sense. Being cold doesn't make you tough. It makes you stupid."

While the Packers would seem to have the icy edge, quarterback Aaron Rodgers -- who grew up in Northern California near where the 49ers practiced during the past week -- reminded everyone that just because guys play for the Packers doesn't mean they thrive in such conditions.

"You know, not everybody in this locker room is from the great state of Wisconsin," he said. "We do practice in it, live in it, I think we're going to be better adapting to it initially, but once the game starts, it's about who can execute in the cold weather. It does some different things to the football."

Rodgers was asked by San Francisco reporters how he deals with the cold on a daily basis. His answer was that he eats a lot of chicken noodle soup.

That strategy was brought to 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis, who took it under advisement. He changed the flavor, though, saying he would prefer alphabet soup.

Well, just one letter in the alphabet soup, actually.

"Just get me a 'W,' " he said, "and that'll give me all the warmth I need."

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