EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Super Bowl Saturday? If the idea of Super Bowl XLVIII being played a day earlier than Sunday, Feb. 2, or even the next evening, seems preposterous, it could happen if a massive snow storm is forecasted for northern New Jersey that weekend.
NFL officials on Wednesday conceded that contingency plans call for the championship game to be played at any point between Friday, Jan. 31 and Monday, Feb. 3 at MetLife Stadium.
The good news is Eric Grubman, the NFL's vice president for business operations, said
if the kind of storm that dumped more than a foot of snow on most of New Jersey on Tuesday is forecasted for Super Bowl Sunday, the game would likely go off at its scheduled kickoff time of 6:30 p.m.
In other words, it would take an even bigger storm to alter the kickoff time for the first cold-weather Super Bowl played at an outdoor venue.
"What goes into whether deciding to (move) it, first of all, is public safety," Grubman said Wednesday in a news conference at MetLife Stadium, where thousands of workers removed snow from the bleachers and field. "Unless it was a state of emergency which affected public resources in a way that made it impossible to get the resources here, or any kind of declaration by any of the authorities from the states involved that made it difficult to travel safety to and from the stadium, we would absolutely respect that."
The Super Bowl Sunday weather forecast, according to Accuweather.com, calls for a 30-percent chance of snow or rain, with a high temperature of 40 degrees and low of 25, and 6-to-12 mph winds.
While that's not the kind of forecast that would prompt the NFL to reschedule a game anticipated to draw in more than 110 million TV viewers, it's certainly not ideal conditions for the 80,000 fans in attendance.
And that's why NFL officials unveiled a "warm welcome" seat cushion to be distributed at the game, kit that includes: lip balm, ear muffs, hat, mittens, cup holder, Gaiter-dana scarf, tissues, a radio to listen to the game, six hand warmers and a quarterback-style hand muff.
"In quite a number of these Super Bowls we've handed out these seat cushions, which have been great souvenirs," Grubman said. "But this is part of our 'Embrace the cold' (theme)."
While New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie called for state of emergency on Tuesday afternoon, Grubman said NFL officials used Wednesday as "a dress rehearsal" for readying MetLife Stadium in the wake of a snowstorm.
"At 7 o'clock this morning they put themselves on the clock," Grubman said of MetLife Stadium officials. "They are running about an 18-hour allotted amount of time, and we have people watching, evaluating and grading, so we're treating this as if it's pregame and we have to get the bowl cleared."
All of that meant snow needed to be removed both inside the stadium via the shoveling of hundreds of volunteer workers and outside in the parking lots, sidewalks and tent areas.
"A weather event of this magnitude is something that really tests people," Grubman said. "Not so much in, 'Can we get it done?' But more in getting it done in the way we imagined. Yes, we're taking it as a dress rehearsal but I'm not wishing for another snowstorm."
Another question is what contingency plans are in place for the events surrounding the Super Bowl, such as a Kickoff Concert featuring the Goo Goo Dolls, Chris Daughtry and The Fray at Liberty State Park in Jersey City on Monday and Media Day on Tuesday at the Prudential Center in Newark.
"I think that the various events that we have are going off without a hitch and in fact have already begun because staging this stadium is an event in and of itself," Grubman said. "We don't have a crystal ball on weather, but we're confident we'll be able to have our events."
Keith Sargeant writes for the Ashbury Park Press, a Gannett property.