EAGAN — Most NFL players will end up playing their home games in a handful of NFL stadiums over the course of their career. Few, though, get to experience three different home fields with the same team.
Minnesota called the Metrodome home for over 30 years before embarking on their ambitious stadium build that cost over $1 billion. After the 2013 season, the Vikings moved off their downtown property for two years — 2014 and 2015 — to play at the University of Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium before returning to their now-permanent home of U.S. Bank Stadium.
There are only four Minnesota Vikings left who have played games in all three facilities as a member of the team: Everson Griffen, Kyle Rudolph, Harrison Smith and Xavier Rhodes. Griffen debuted in 2010, Rudoph in 2011, Smith in 2012 and Rhodes in 2013.
With the Vikings set to open their fourth season at U.S. Bank Stadium with Sunday’s preseason contest against the Seattle Seahawks, Zone Coverage caught up with all four veterans to hear about their experiences at each facility.
On the Metrdome…
Smith: “The Metrodome, I think it depends what time in your career it was. That was my intro to the NFL, so I’ll always remember the Metrodome for that. I didn’t realize how bad it was for the fans and stuff until I got hurt and went to a game, and I was like, ‘I get it now.’ I loved playing there, it was loud. Everything was kind of in tight.”
Rudolph: “As a player, I enjoy playing inside. It’s loud, you always know what kind of environment, atmosphere, temperature. It’s going to be dry, so I enjoy that part of it. I know the Metrodome’s limitations from a fan perspective, missing an entire quarter to go to the bathroom, stuff like that, but for us as players, the turf got replaced after the dome collapsed in 2010, so when I got here in 2011, we got brand new turf, it was a great surface, and like I said it was loud. It was a great advantage.”
Griffen: “I think just being in the NFL period was exciting. Being able to step on an NFL field and being a part of the group that I was a part of: Jared Allen, Kevin Williams, Pat Williams, Brian [Robison], Jayme Mitchell, so it was a special group back then just like it was a special group that we’ve got now.”
Rhodes: “Fans came to every stadium we played at, supported us. The Metrodome was [a part of] history.”
On TCF Bank Stadium…
Griffen: “That was fun too. We had to learn how to play in the cold year round. It was a different adjustment, a different environment, and it went great.”
Rudolph: “Being outside I feel like we kind of embodied that personality. We ran the ball a ton in 2015, and we won the division doing it. We really embraced being back outside again. I think we were the first team in NFL history to make the playoffs in a temporary venue.”
Smith: “TCF was awesome. It was. Playing outside, we had that cold playoff game. A lot of good memories there though, great facility, locker rooms were awesome, everything was great, field was great. Playing in the open air was just cool in the NFC North.”
Rhodes: “I wouldn’t compare [playing on campus] to playing in college. Only thing I would say that was great about it was playing within the cold. We had teams that really weren’t used to playing in that cold, and we had that advantage because we practice in it. If you’re not in the Midwest you’re not really used to it at all, so we used that to our advantage.”
Rudolph: “Most of the time when I’m driving in [at U.S. Bank] there’s a few people out tailgating in the surrounding areas. You see that a little bit more when you go to TCF because everybody’s parked around campus, whereas at U.S. Bank we go right to our parking lot and we kind of pass whatever that bar is on Chicago Avenue, but that’s really the only time we see people out tailgating from an atmosphere standpoint.”
Smith: “I think it was cool for everybody to play some outdoor games. I don’t know how sustainable that would be in the long run, but it was fun for the time.”
Rudolph: “It’s easier to embrace the cold when you’re only doing it for two years and you know you’re going to this Taj Mahal that they’re building right down the road.”
On U.S. Bank Stadium…
Smith: “It’s definitely my favorite of the three. It’s good for everybody. Players, fans, we got the Super Bowl in there. Even the drive there feels different for some reason because it’s the same spot [as the Metrdome]. But the big glass and all that stuff, it fits the city.”
Griffen: “U.S. Bank is the best stadium in the world right now. The fans, the team, coaches, everybody.”
Rhodes: “U.S. Bank Stadium is just beautiful. It’s so much different [than the Metrodome]. If you were here and you played in that stadium and then you come back and you see it being knocked down and something being built over that, it’s like, ‘Wow, it’s a totally different view.’ I think the whole area is just brand new.”
Rudolph: “It’s state of the art, yet it’s still very traditional. I think they did a great job in that balancing act. It’s the best there is in football right now, but it’s not over the top with all this crazy stuff. It’s a great fan experience, and for us as players, when we play there at noon and the sun’s out, you feel like you’re outside. The doors can be open, you get a little fresh air, so an incredible home field advantage.”
On the noise…
Rudolph: “The Metrodome was loud but I don’t know if I’ve played in a stadium louder than U.S. Bank Stadium.”
Smith: “I don’t know which one’s louder. Both are really loud. U.S. Bank is crazy loud. I might have to say U.S. Bank is louder.”
Rhodes: “It gets pretty loud in U.S. Bank. I think the Skol Chant alone gets us pumped up.”