Pat Fitzgerald adjusting for Wrigley

Updated: November 17, 2010, 4:59 PM ET
ESPNChicago.com

Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald isn't just game-planning for Illinois, he's also adjusting his strategy to compensate for what could be dangerous conditions Saturday at Wrigley Field.

The right-field wall -- which will be padded -- is just a few feet past the east end zone, so don't expect any Wildcats receivers to sprint full-out on routes when they're near the east red zone.

Wrigley wall
Scott Powers/ESPNChicago.comThe proximity of Wrigley Field's right-field wall to the east end zone has Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald wondering about safety.

"It will definitely be a factor," Fitzgerald said on "The Afternoon Saloon" on ESPN 1000. "I don't think we're going to be trying to run a lot of go routes. It's a recipe for disaster.

"We talked already about [having a] 'Going-east red-zone game plan', [and a] 'Going-west red-zone game plan.' You have to adjust to it. It's kind of like having the elements, whether it's rainy or snowy or windy, sometimes you have to adjust your game plan."

Fitzgerald wasn't complaining.

"Having the Friendly Confines be a part of the game plan is fine by us," he said.

Illinois coach Ron Zook said it's similar to indoor football, which has less ominous walls surrounding the field.

"I just told them they're getting ready for the Arena League," Zook said. "If they don't make it to the NFL, you go to the Arena League.

"I don't think it's as big a deal as everybody's trying to make it, myself. Now, in looking at the pictures, there are a couple areas that are tight. But I really don't think it's quite as big a deal as it's made out to be. Now, I may get there and think differently after the game."

Northwestern athletic director Jim Phillips said safety was the most important aspect when planning to have the first football game at Wrigley since the Chicago Bears moved out following the 1970 season.

"I know both staffs are aware of it," Phillips said. "From the very beginning, the players' safety was paramount. That's what took us the longest time. We had risk managers here; we had civil engineers, safety engineers. We had so many people look at it because nobody wants or wanted to put the student-athlete at harm's way at a riskier type of environment.

"We vetted it through all the experts at both universities and felt everyone was comfortable with the dimensions."

The players also sought answers.

"I talked to Dr. Phillips about the stadium and things, and he said it's completely safe," Northwestern senior defensive tackle Corbin Bryant said after practice on Wednesday. "So nobody is going to be out there worrying about running into walls, running into people and things like that. There's going to be a huge pad on the wall. It's going to be like running into a pillow."

ESPNChicago.com reporter Scott Powers contributed information to this report.