When Bengals tight end Drew Sample played at the University of Washington, family and friends would always reach out to him for tickets. As Sample gets ready to make his NFL debut near his hometown of Bellevue, a Seattle suburb, only a few friends and family members have reached out.
"Honestly, a lot of family and friends already have (Seahawks) season tickets," Sample said jokingly.
Sunday's game at Seattle will be a welcome homecoming for Sample and wide receiver John Ross. Ross and Sample spent their college years at the University of Washington, located in Seattle and six miles from CenturyLink Field.
Both anticipate large followings at the Week 1 matchup Sunday, with each planning for 20-30 family and friends in attendance.
"Pretty excited, that's where I started my college career," Ross said. "To get back out there to those fans who watched me and my family will be there."
Huskies fans certainly remember both Ross and Sample. Ross helped the Huskies win a Pac-12 championship in 2016 after he recorded 17 receiving touchdowns, good for the second-highest single-season total in both Washington and Pac-12 history. Sample tallied 25 catches for 252 yards and three touchdowns as a senior in 2018 and was a three-time Academic All-Pac-12 selection.
A trip to Seattle is a rarity for the Bengals, who haven't played in the state of Washington since Oct. 30, 2011.
"It's going to be great," Sample said. "Going to play in front of a lot of family and friends is pretty cool. On top of that, the first career NFL game. I'm excited about it."
Come Feel The Noise
CenturyLink Field can be a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks as Seattle's "12s" roar to near deafening levels. While Sunday's game in Seattle will assuredly be loud, head coach Zac Taylor thinks his team will be up to the challenge.
"You have to over communicate," Taylor said. "We've worked since the spring time on our non-verbal communication. That's one of the things we stressed in everyday life, both verbal and non-verbal to make sure everybody is on the same page. It's a great test for us and we feel like we've got good answers for that process. We can't let that be a factor as to how we play on Sunday."
Quarterback Andy Dalton has played nearly every team across the league and has faced the Seahawks at CenturyLink Stadium once before. That was in his rookie season back in 2011, a 34-12 triumph.
To learn how to combat the noise, the Bengals will ramp up the music at practice, something Dalton believes only adds to the team's preparation.
"(The music) is definitely loud and it can help," said Dalton. "It won't be the same as it will be on Sunday, but it is close as you can get to simulate the crowd noise. It's good working with it than not having it."
Seattle enjoys a notable home-field advantage at CenturyLink Field, having earned a 95-41 regular-season record and a 10-1 postseason record at the stadium since it opened in 2002. In addition, the venue itself has twice held the Guinness World Record for loudest crowd roar at an outdoor stadium (136.6 decibels in 2013, and 137.6 in '14).
Taylor knows Seattle is one of the top road environments around and has taken multiple steps to prepare for the noise factor.
"As you study teams and how they do their non-verbal cadence, there's a lot of ways to go about it," Taylor said. "It's really the ways you can use the complimentary stuff so the defensive linemen can't tee off because they think they know your non-verbal cadence. That's typically the number one concern you have going on the road is being too predictable. Especially with the great pass rushers like they got, you don't want to be too predictable."
While the average age of Taylor's 53-man roster is 25.2, it does showcase 14 players with seven-plus years of experience.
Running back Giovani Bernard, who is entering his seventh season with the team, understands the grind as well as anyone. He has welcomed Taylor's new school approach and believes the team's buy in will only help in the long run.
"Everybody understands Coach Taylor's philosophy of keeping guys fresh and that's something we really wanted to do," Bernard said.
Bernard pointed out that this was the first year he didn't hear any veterans complain about general soreness or the general aches and pains that normally come with training camp. He believes the reduced practice time and true off days have allowed the team to enter the season fresh and energized heading into 2019.
"You never hear guys say 'my legs are this or my legs are that or I'm sore here or I'm sore there,'" Bernard said. "It's really that guys are excited to get out there. I don't know if that's excitement or adrenaline to go out there and play, but I think everybody is really excited about this week."