GREEN BAY, Wis. – Ryan Pickett isn't concerned about looking like a tough guy Sunday. The Green Bay Packers' nose tackle is going to be all bundled up.
"I tried the no-sleeve thing in the '08 (NFC) championship with the Giants," Pickett said this week. "I wore no sleeves and it took me three days to thaw out."
The temperature at kickoff for that Jan. 20, 2008 game was minus-1 – the second-coldest game recorded at Lambeau Field, behind only the "Ice Bowl" in 1967 – with a wind chill of minus-23.
Conditions could be even worse by the end of Sunday's NFC wild-card playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers. The National Weather Service forecasts a daytime high of zero to 5 degrees, dropping to 25-below overnight with wind chills reaching minus-50.
Kickoff is set for 4:40 p.m. Eastern. A wind chill warning goes into effect at 7.
"I think the only trick is prepare yourself mentally," said Packers receiver James Jones, one of seven other players on the active roster who were on the 2007 team.
"Tell yourself that it's going to be freezing, but you can't run now. They pay you to go out there – hot, cold – and you've got to go out there and do your job at a high level."
The equipment staff provides thermal gear, stocking caps, gloves and hand warmers. There are heaters under the field, on the sideline and in the benches.
"But when that wind starts blowing," kicker Mason Crosby said, "you can't get away from it."
It was howling during the Packers' outdoor portion of practice Friday. That was a good thing, coach Mike McCarthy said, since players needed work in those conditions on handling the ball, which can become slick, swollen and hard as a rock.
"Not everybody in this locker room is from the great state of Wisconsin," quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. "But we do practice in it and live in it, so I think we're going to be a little better at adapting initially to it."
The 49ers arrived Friday and planned to get some exposure to the cold by holding a walkthrough Saturday one of the Packers' practice fields, though conditions were mild compared to what's expected on game day.
"We're aware of it and we'll pack all our shoe options, and the guys will put clothes on that they'll be able to move around in and then start playing," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said.
"The heart rate ramps up, the hot blood races to the arteries, to the vessels, to the capillaries, and there distributed to the fingers and the toes. In an athlete, the age and the health of these guys, that hot blood will be racing around."
Even players who say they adapt well to cold conditions know subzero temperatures and wind chills can be a different deal, though.
"I'm usually able to maintain the rest of the game at a good level, a good temperature. I've never really had that type of problem out there," Packers cornerback Tramon Williams said.
"For the NFC championship game, I did, though, for a little bit. The first drive, I froze to death. I ain't going to lie to you. I froze to death."
Crosby said the key is limiting skin exposure, which is easier for him, since he's only on the field for 30 seconds at a time. The National Weather Service warns frostbite can occur in as little as 5 minutes.
But multiple Packers players, including rookie running back Eddie Lacy and defensive end Mike Daniels, said they're sticking with no sleeves as usual.
"We'll be cold. They'll be cold. But we have more experience preparing to be cold," Daniels said. "OK, my hands are numb. Well, I still have to play while my hands are numb. Somebody who's not used to it might say, 'Oh my God, my hands are numb – what are you going to do?'"
The Packers are offering fans free coffee and hot chocolate at Lambeau's concession stands. Despite the forecast, they sold out the few thousand remaining tickets Friday, with help from some corporate partners.
Asked if players were thinking of buying up remaining tickets to give to the needy, Jones said, "Not me, because I was not going to allow anyone to sit in that cold."
Players don't have a choice. And the conditions likely will get worse as the game progresses.
Crosby remembers changing his cleats multiple times during the title game against the Giants because the field was becoming harder and a frozen layer developed on top of the grass.
He'll be dressing and undressing all day Sunday, shedding his insulated pants whenever the Packers have the ball. The K-balls can be placed in front of heaters to help with snap and hold.
If it comes down to a game-winning field goal attempt, there's a good chance Harbaugh will try to ice the kicker. In this case, quite literally.
"Who knows? In these conditions, when it is this cold, I could run over and get in front of the heater," Crosby said. "I might actually warm up."