TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The Bucs are opening the season on the road for the second year in a row, kicking things off Sunday afternoon in Minneapolis against the Vikings.
This week one game always comes with high anticipation after weeks of training camp and the preseason, leading up to this first opportunity to put it all together in the first game that counts.
The Bucs are looking forward to this road test right out of the gates, in what’s expected to be a loud and lively environment.
“I think it’s fun,” said Bucs defensive lineman Will Gholston. “Hearing everybody screaming at you, chanting, getting the whole game energized. I think it gives you a little bit of extra electricity playing. I don’t mind playing in a different environment. Like I said, I think it’s fun. Hopefully, we get juiced up off of their emotions.”
“I think any time you go on the road, it’s a special opportunity – especially in that environment,” said Bucs quarterback Baker Mayfield. “I’ve only played there once but their crowd is awesome. The stadium’s great, and you’re going up against a good team. Defensively, they’ve been good in the past. We’re looking forward to a new challenge with [Defensive Coordinator Brian] Flores calling it. So yeah, you look forward to the challenge of all the pressures – the crowd noise and all the different variables that they’re going to throw at you. It’s just something about just your team—it’s your guys only in that stadium, against theirs. So yeah, it’s always special.”
Mayfield went on to share what he remembered from the time he played at U.S. Bank Stadium.
“The ‘SKOL’ chant is awesome,” Mayfield said. “It’s one of those traditions that you kind of look around and you enjoy it as an away team. They’re extremely loud on third down and when you’re backed up in the red zone or close up, about to score. It’s just a fun environment to play in and those are things that you always look back…it’s one of those football moments that you truly enjoy as being an opponent.”
The noise on third down and critical moments in the game is something the Bucs prepared for this past week, piping in sound during practice and making sure they can effectively communicate despite the roar of the crowd.
“I think that’s probably the biggest challenge,” said Bucs receiver Chris Godwin. “It’s going to be hard to communicate, but I think there will be things that will help us later on in the year [that] we’ve been working on– our silent communication. You don’t really know until you get there, so it will be cool to see how everybody responds. This will be the first time our full group is together, playing, and it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Bucs offensive lineman Tristan Wirfs also spoke on how the noise will affect their O-line in particular— especially with players in new positions and a new offensive system on top of that.
“[Robert] Hainsey, really,” Wirfs said about the key to having success amongst their position group Sunday. “He’s going to get us all on the same page. We’ve got to be good with our silent communication, with our hand signals and everything and everyone being locked-in coming out of the huddle. I think that’s going to be huge for us.”
As excited as the players are for the chance to silence the home crowd, Bucs Head Coach Todd Bowles was even-keel in his response to playing in the boisterous atmosphere.
“For us, we don’t look at road or home, other than the fans,” Bowles said. “The field’s the same. The grass or the turf is the same. It’s 100 yards. We know what we’ve got to do. We’ve been on the road before. Even the new guys that have come in, they’ve probably been in bigger crowds than we’ve been in because some of [those] stadiums hold over 100,000, so we’re comfortable where we are playing, so we’ve just got to have a good plan and be ready.”