GREEN BAY – It’s really loud at CenturyLink Field. Or maybe you haven’t heard.
From the ceremonial raising of the 12th man flag just before kickoff to the acoustics of the stadium’s design to the artfully crafted marketing of the cacophony, the Seattle Seahawks love the decibel level created by their frenzied fanatics.
“We really like working with our fans,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said, as if his team’s athletes are in a partnership with their athletic supporters. “We love playing at home.”
And the Green Bay Packers fully understand that the noise is likely to be a factor at some point during Thursday night’s NFL season-opening game against the defending Super Bowl champions. Avoiding false start penalties, miscommunication and general eardrum-induced panic will be important.
But here’s an interesting thing about the noise: The Packers don’t believe it’ll have an impact on their no-huddle offense, which they intend to use extensively and make no secret about.
“We’ve done no-huddle all preseason,” wide receiver Jordy Nelson said, pointing out that in the two games starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers played, the No. 1 offense was almost exclusively in the no-huddle. “I don’t think a team would prepare all preseason and not do it in a game.”
No, the no-huddle won’t be a revelation. But the fact that the Packers are largely unconcerned about its operation amid the deafening din is interesting. In fact, quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt suggested that it might be to the Packers’ advantage that they run the no-huddle, which relies on hand-signals to notify perimeter players of the call and can also use similar non-verbal communication with those at the line of scrimmage.
“Really, it’d be tougher to huddle and communicate verbally,” Van Pelt explained. “A lot of ours are visual and signaling, so I think it’d actually be easier. Think of someone who’s hearing impaired, to go out and do sign language, they can understand you from across the field, as opposed to if you’re in the huddle trying to yell it.
“We’ve practiced in it, we’re ready for it. Obviously we know the challenge that we’re going to face, and that’s part of getting ready in training camp and all the practice we’ve had on Seattle.”
Indeed, not only did the Packers use a large portion of their training-camp practice schedule on prepping for their opener against the Seahawks, they also went into super-secret mode with their No. 1 offense every day of practice, working that unit inside the Don Hutson Center for roughly 15 minutes each day. Not only were they away from the prying eyes of media and fans, but inside, they were blaring crowd noise and working on their no-huddle non-verbal communication to combat it.
In fact, coach Mike McCarthy and his staff were so committed to running the no-huddle effectively regardless of the noise factor that they put in different hand-signals for preseason no-huddle use and will use a completely different set of hand signals for Thursday night’s opener. In addition, the offense has been using non-verbal communication in preparation for this game not just in practice, but even during walkthroughs in the CRIC facility, Nelson said.
And that’s why the Packers aren’t worried about the noise disrupting that.
“It’s not so much the communication. You’re going to get communicated what you need to get communicated,” offensive coordinator Tom Clements said Monday. “It’s more potentially being late off the ball and them being quicker off the ball. But as far as communicating, there’s not a problem.”
Well, maybe not a big problem. According to Nelson, the wide receivers could go an entire game without talking to Rodgers and get every play that’s being called.
“As far as getting the play relayed out to us, to be honest with you, it’s pretty simple,” Nelson said. “You’ll have to talk to the offensive line about the deal with them, but on the perimeter, we’re all non-verbal, home or away, for the most part. And we don’t listen to the snap count, we look at the ball the whole time. So as long as I can see [Rodgers], I’ll get the play.”
It’s a little trickier on the line, where it’s generally easier to make the line calls and declarations verbally. And while the Packers expect to be able to do that some of the time with rookie center Corey Linsley making his NFL debut, there also will be times when the crowd is so loud that the offensive line will have to rely on non-verbal
Or, mental telepathy.
“What we do is we’re all synced in in our brains. So Aaron just thinks it, and we all go. That’s the little secret I’ll give you. You should write that,” second-year left tackle David Bakhtiari said. Then, actually being helpful: “We’re to a point where we don’t need a whole lot [of verbal communication]. The no-huddle, would we like to be able to talk? Yeah. But can we completely function 100 percent without talking? Yeah. We have our ways of getting our things out to each other.
“It’s going to be loud and noisy, but we’ve been in loud environments and we’ve still been able to function in the no-huddle. So I don’t see why we won’t be able to.”
Asked what worried him about the loud conditions, guard T.J. Lang had communication low on his list, too. Whether it’s a nod or a tap or a full third-base coach signal routine, Lang believes he and his linemates can get the word out – even without words.
“The starting point is making sure everybody knows the snap count. It’s tough to hear Aaron, it’s tough to hear the center making calls sometimes, and I know that their crowd forces a lot of false-start penalties,” Lang said. “Obviously when you’re in first-and-15, second-and-15, it’s not a very favorable down-and-distance.
“You have to find a way to communicate with the guy next to you. You’ve got to make sure everybody’s on the same page.”
Another advantage? The Packers won’t underestimate the impact being ill-prepared for the noise can have.
“A couple years ago (2012) when we played out there, we didn’t really anticipate the noise level. We didn’t really know how loud it was going to be,” Lang said. “We’re going into this game anticipating that we’re not going to be able to hear [expletive].
“Whether it’s trying to scream something out or hand signals like Aaron does, it all comes down to the same thing. I don’t want to give away anything we’re planning on doing, but we have a system in place right now that we feel pretty comfortable with.”
While Carroll was dismissive of the challenges the no-huddle offense might present – “They play no-huddle offense; we play no-huddle defense. That’s it,” he said – Rodgers said the Seahawks have every right not to be worried after the way they handled Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos’ no-huddle attack in the Super Bowl in February.
“They played against a no-huddle team the last time out when it meant something and I’d say they had pretty good success that night. I was there and watched that. It was impressive,” Rodgers said. “It’s the kind of defense that you’d love to have if you were playing offense. I’m excited about our guys and see what they can do when they’re unleased this week. But you know when we play a defense like this, it’s about very, very tight execution and not turning the football over.”
“The non-verbal communication is at a premium, and it's important that you find ways to try and get the crowd out of it,” Rodgers said. “But those fans are very smart football fans. They know when to cheer. You're not going to be able to quiet them down unless you put up a lot of points.”
Listen to Jason Wilde every weekday from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. on “Green & Gold Today” on 540 ESPN, and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/jasonjwilde.