Weather To Affect Super Bowl

Blondie band members from left to right, Clem Burke, Debbie Harry and Chris Stein, backstage after being inducted at the tweny-first annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame dinner in New York, Monday, March 13, 2006.

Hands shivering, Chris Sanders carefully lifted the steaming, Styrofoam cup to his lips.

"I don't even drink coffee," said the Tennessee Titans receiver, trying futilely to get warm. "I am today."

Indeed, this is the year they held the Super Bowl in Atlanta and the Winter Olympics broke out.

The teams arrived Monday, shortly after an ice storm paralyzed much of the metro area. That was followed by a jolt of unseasonably cold weather some 20 degrees below normal for this time of year in Atlanta.

Making matters worse, Tennessee's media functions were held in a giant tent outside the team's luxury hotel. Attempts at heating the temporary structure were futile on a 26-degree morning, with a wind chill of minus 8.

"I thought they would have heat in here," Titans tight end Larry Brown said, huddled at a table with a hood covering his head. "Oh, man, it's freezing."

The St. Louis Rams were more fortunate. They met with reporters in a large ballroom within their suburban hotel, prompting several players to show up in short-sleeved T-shirts.

All-Pro tackle Orlando Pace winced when told of the Titans' arrangements. This being the NFL, however, there was no room for pity.

"I'm just happy we're in this cozy situation," Pace said.

Both teams, however, had to practice outside, the Titans at Georgia Tech, the Rams at the Atlanta Falcons' complex in suburban Suwanee.

The only indoor facility in the area is the Georgia Dome, site of Sunday's game. But the arena was set aside Wednesday and Thursday for rehearsing the pre-game and halftime shows.

Temperatures were expected to climb above freezing on Thursday and the Dome will be available the following day if conditions worsen, NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said. The forecast called for possible snow that's right, snow.

"It's just an unfortunate circumstance that no one has any control over," Aiello said. "This is a very unusual weather pattern."

The Titans used up the ballroom space within their hotel for other team functions, so the tent was set up in the parking lot, said Jim Steeg, vice president of special events. The NFL has used similar arrangements at other albeit warmer, much warmer cities in recent years.

Steeg said 12 additional heaters will be brought in Thursday.

Back home, both teams have indoor practice facilities, but the Titans used theirs only twice this season. Coach Jeff Fisher favors working outside on grass and didn't seem too concerned by the cold wather.

Rams coach Dick Vermeil, on the other hand, said he preferred to practice inside, but was informed by the league that it wasn't a possibility at the Georgia Dome.

"All they told us," he said, "is there's 2,000 people decorating the dance floor."

Spectacle over sport.

Titans quarterback Steve McNair, vapor rolling off his lips with every word, wasn't looking forward to spending the rest of the week on a frozen practice field.

"If it's this cold, I don't want to be outside," McNair said. "But it's something we're going to have to deal with."

His teammates focused on getting warm. Good luck.

"I wish I had five jackets on, it's so cold out here," said Sanders, who wore a flimsy jacket to the news conference in the tent. "It feels like Alaska."

Guard Jason Layman showed up in a short-sleeved T-shirt, then sat rigidly at a table with his arms crossed, his hands clasping his bare elbows.

Perhaps trying to determine if Layman was frozen, a teammate asked, "Why aren't you wearing a jacket?"

Layman, slowly coming to life, replied, "I thought this was inside."

Defensive tackle Kenny Holmes went shopping Tuesday after hearing the weather forecast, purchasing an insulated coat and matching pants. He was the first player to arrive at the frigid tent and looked downright toasty in his new duds.

"This is a must have," Holmes said, looking like he was ready for a day on the slopes. "I think I need to pick up another one."

Atlanta officials don't think the frosty conditions will have a negative impact on the city's chances of playing host to another Super Bowl.

"The game is inside. Most of the events are inside. The hotels are inside," said Adam Leish, spokesman for the Metro Atlanta Super Bowl XXXIV Host Committee. "The weather is not a factor from our perspective."

Of course, it must be noted that temperatures were much balmier Wednesday in the next two Super Bowl cities: 53 in Tampa, 64 in San Diego.

"I don't want to bash Atlanta," Rams receiver Torry Holt said. "But I would like to go somewhere where it's nice and warm."

The Titans, whose home has been Houston, Memphis and Nashville in the past four years, weren't going to let anything ruin their first Super Bowl.

"We've been dealing with adversity, we've been dealing with all this other junk for years," offensive lineman Brad Hopkins said. "Cold weather at the Super Bowl is certainly not going to hinder us."

©2000 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed