TEMPE, Ariz. – The two most important pieces on Arizona’s offensive line have only heard about how loud CenturyLink Field in Seattle can get.
Neither right tackle Eric Winston nor left tackle Bradley Sowell have ever played in the loudest stadium in the NFL. That may present a problem at some point Sunday, when the Cardinals are fighting to keep their slim playoff hopes alive.
Arizona will go with a silent count in Seattle, like it does for every road game. That part doesn’t concern Winston, an eight-year veteran. It’s getting the plays from quarterback Carson Palmer to the huddle and then changing the blocking scheme at the line of scrimmage that has Winston worried.
“What slows you down is, all of a sudden, backers shifting around and moving, that changes calls and all of a sudden we’re trying to make calls, [and it’s like] ‘What did you say?’” said Winston, who also hasn’t played at Soldier Field in Chicago and Ford Field in Detroit. “Everybody has calls to make. That’s what can get confusing with the crowd noise in a way, for me at least. The silent count doesn’t slow you down.”
Arizona has prepared all week with sound piped into practice, including Friday in the bubble. The Cardinals need to do everything they can to make the noise a non-factor, offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said.
Easier said than done. Seattle’s noise isn’t just a myth that has made its away from locker room to locker room, the lore growing in stature each time a player retells his story about playing in vaunted CenturyLink Field.
The noise is real.
Against New Orleans on Dec. 2, the crowd noise inside CenturyLink Field reached 137.6 decibels, which set a new Guinness World Record. According to The Associated Press, a jet engine at 100 feet is 140 decibels.
“Everybody told me it’s really loud,” Sowell said. “But silent count is silent count regardless of how loud it is, we do a lot of silent count on the road. So, it’ll be the same thing this week and hopefully we’ll adjust to it.
“It’s really challenging to make it to where it’s an even jump off the ball. Sometimes if you’re a little late and they get a good jump, it could be tough.”
Sowell said he’ll be keeping one eye on the ball and another on his lineman. It’s basically the only thing he can do to make sure he gets a good enough jump when the ball is snapped.
Arizona has 17 false start penalties – including eight by Winston and two by Sowell – and going off a silent count against the top-ranked defense in the league in the loudest stadium in the NFL doesn’t bode well for that number staying where it is.
“It’s probably toughest on the guys that have to block the D-ends,” Palmer said. “You are a guy away from the ball and you are trying to use your peripheral vision. You have two very good pass-rushers, three very good pass-rushers that they have, so you have to try to jump the count, try to stay on sides.
“There is a fine line between those two and also worry about the guy that is coming at you.”
Winston and Sowell know all about it.