GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The first few seconds Sunday had barely ticked away when Bradley Sowell noticed his gum was stuck to the top of his parched mouth.
Think he was a little nervous for his first NFL start?
It only took him a few plays -- nearly costly ones at that, however -- to settle down and show the Arizona Cardinals that life after Levi Brown at left tackle wasn’t all that bad. Sowell, in his second season out of the University of Mississippi, didn’t allow a sack while facing a combination of his college teammate, Greg Hardy, and Charles Johnson, who provided a formidable edge rush for the Carolina Panthers.
They also provided the type of matchup a first-time starter has nightmares about, but Sowell held his own.
“At the end of the day my guy had zero sacks and that’s a heck of a ball player,” Sowell said. “Every down I had to fight.
“Once I got in a rhythm I felt so comfortable I really felt like I belonged, so it was nice.”
Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer thought it was also nice that he didn’t spend the afternoon picking himself up off the manicured grass at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Panthers finished with just two sacks and both through the interior of the offensive line.
“That’s all you can ask for from a left tackle,” Palmer said. “If you can block those guys, you can block just about anybody.”
Sowell and Hardy spent the day jawing at each other, but it wasn’t your typical trash talking. They were reaching back in the memory banks for ammunition, talking about their college days together.
But now Sowell has a brand new arsenal to use when the two see each other next. His main weapon: Sowell held Hardy without a sack.
“To get out of that game with no sacks I feel very blessed,” Sowell said.
At some positions in football, the less noise you make, the better. Coaches especially want their left tackles to be seen and not heard from, an issue that plagued Brown throughout his career. The more sacks they allow, the more their names get mentioned.
Nobody heard from Sowell on Sunday, including his head coach.
“When he’s not noticed,” Arians said. “That’s a pretty good thing.”