DON SMOLENSKI'S holidays got complicated about 6:45 Christmas morning.
"I took my dog for a walk. I came back and I had an e-mail from [team president] Joe Banner saying that the storm had flipped," Smolenski, the Eagles' chief operating officer, said yesterday from the snow-blasted NovaCare Complex.
Smolenski, who was visiting family in Connecticut at Christmas, said he took a few hours to open presents with his wife and two sons, then got back together with Banner to start discussing the implications of yesterday's severe winter storm on the scheduled Eagles-Vikings game. At first, on Smolenski's end, the discussions were about the logistics of handling the snow, how many shifts of workers to deploy, and so forth. But sometime late Saturday night, he said, after the Smolenski family hurriedly returned home, the idea of postponement started to be discussed.
There was a lot more discussing after that. "We said, 'Let's reconvene in the morning.' When weather models change, they can change quickly . . . The NFL doesn't postpone games very often," Smolenski said, although the Vikings might beg to differ, having ended up in Detroit for a home game against the Giants 2 weeks ago when snow caused their Metrodome roof to collapse.
The decision was made shortly after noon, before there was any snow on the ground in South Philadelphia - postponement from last night until tomorrow night at 8, a decision that surprised many players and fans. The list of previous NFL postponements includes notations about things like hurricanes, earthquakes and terrorist attacks, along with the odd World Series stadium conflict. The list doesn't contain any games that were postponed because it was going to snow.
The Eagles certainly have played in snow before - they famously won the 1948 NFL championship in a near-blizzard at Shibe Park, with star running back Steve Van Buren almost arriving late for the game because he got up, looked outside his home and assumed it wouldn't be played. But in 2010, with Mayor Nutter declaring a snow emergency, the game scheduled to be played in the projected heart of the storm, the team and the league didn't feel playing served the interests of public safety, Smolenski said. He noted that while the Birds took the field in the aftermath of a 23-inch snowstorm last year, and in the aftermath of a similar snow event for the NFC championship following the 2004 season, in both those instances, "it snowed the night before the game," not during, and roads were relatively clear by game time.
NBC presented its usual pregame show last night, ending with Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth and Bob Costas standing at the Linc in the blowing snow. Costas made the point that the game was postponed over concern for public safety, not because of the situation on the field, which looked pretty playable right then. Collinsworth wondered about the precedent that was being set. "I guess now, going forward, the cities have some control over whether football games are going to be played tonight," he said.
"This is football; football's played in bad weather," Pennsylvania governor and former Philadelphia mayor Ed Rendell told KYW-TV. "I, for one, was looking forward to sitting in the stands throughout the snow and seeing an old-time football game."
So now the NFL will play its first Tuesday game since Oct. 1, 1946, when the New York Giants played the Boston Yanks. The Birds haven't played on Tuesday since Sept. 6, 1944, when they defeated the Boston Yanks.
Schedules are way off kilter for Eagles and Vikings players - who woke up yesterday morning in hotels, thinking they were making final preparations for a game - and, of course, for fans, who had to adjust 2 weeks ago when the league moved the game from 1 p.m. to 8:20, and then had to adjust again when it was moved to tomorrow, less than 8 hours before the scheduled kickoff. The Eagles clinched a playoff berth and the NFC East title without playing a down yesterday, when the Packers destroyed the Giants, 45-17 - but of course, that would have been the case regardless, since they wouldn't have taken the field for more than an hour after the New York loss.
Several Eagles players tweeted their displeasure with not playing. "This [stinks]," typed running back LeSean McCoy. Wideout Jeremy Maclin tweeted that he was "[h]issed." Quarterback Michael Vick, though, said: "Just a few more days to get ready."
Eagles coach Andy Reid, interviewed by a pool reporter, said the delay was no big deal, even though the Birds now host the Cowboys next Sunday on a very short week.
Asked what problems the postponement presented, Reid said: "Really, nothing. We're OK with it. We're organized and prepared for this, and we completely support what the league did from a safety standpoint for everybody. We got the guys out of the hotel and home, and they'll come back for a walkthrough tomorrow and then to the hotel, and it will be just like a Saturday night before a Sunday game, just a normal Saturday night -Sunday schedule."
For the Vikings this is one more twist in an amazingly tangled season. They played their last game at the University of Minnesota, their roof still not repaired. But unlike that game and the New York game before it, the Vikings at least got definite parameters this time.
"I sense that the guys wanted information. They wanted to know what was going on, what was happening. Once that information was conveyed, it seemed as if they understood the situation," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier told the team's website. Frazier's team will hold its walkthrough today at NovaCare, a place Frazier knows well, as a former Eagles assistant. "They knew exactly what we needed to do to stay focused on what we came up here to do, and that's to get a win against the Eagles. I didn't sense discouragement, I didn't sense disappointment. I sensed relief in knowing [when and where] the game was going to be played."
Said Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway: "It's just another interesting twist to our season. It's been tough to deal with all the distractions and this just adds to it. We'll be staying here for a couple nights, so we'll treat it like a [college] bowl game. In a bowl game, you're typically there for about a week, and we'll be here for about 3 days. But it has that feel. Everybody is here together; we'll be hanging out. I'll probably go get a cheesesteak tonight and just hang out."
It will be interesting to see if concussed Vikings quarterback Brett Favre can play now, with an extra 48 hours, and how clinching the division and the playoff berth will affect the Eagles, who, of course, still have a playoff bye to win.
Reid said the short prep week for Dallas won't be a problem.
"I don't think it's a problem. I think we'll be all right," he said. "We've had Monday games, Sunday night games, we had a Thursday game, so we've been through a lot of this already, and that will help us. We'll be fine."
Smolenski indicated it was the NFL's decision to play tomorrow night instead of tonight, when the matchup would conflict with "Monday Night Football."
"It's hard to know what the timing of the storm is, when it ends, when the roads will be passable," he said.
For more Eagles coverage and opinion, read the Daily News' Eagles blog, Eagletarian, at www.eagletarian.com.
Follow him on Twitter at