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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs face daunting opponent, ‘12th man’ at Seattle

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Published:   |   Updated: November 1, 2013 at 10:49 PM

TAMPA — For every visiting team that trudges off the turf at the home of the Seattle Seahawks, the irony of the stadium name becomes readily apparent: CenturyLink Field.

CenturyLink,which bills itself as the third-largest telecommunications company in America, owns the naming rights in a facility where you can’t hear yourself think.

As the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are about to discover, winning in Seattle might represent the NFL’s ultimate challenge, and not only because the Seahawks are among the league’s elite.

“It’s as loud a stadium as I’ve ever heard and those fans keep it up virtually the entire game,’’ said former Bucs executive Tim Ruskell, who served as general manager of the Seahawks for five seasons.

“Maybe it’s the remoteness of the region, but that’s their team. Those are not transient fans. And the way that stadium is configured, it’s like facing two giant speakers.’’

In an effort to replicate the anticipated crowd noise on Sunday, Bucs players worked this week with loud music piped onto the team’s practice fields.

“I went to one of the games probably my sophomore or junior year and it was crazy,’’ said Bucs middle linebacker Mason Foster, who played at Washington. “I’m excited to be up there, it’s a great environment to play in.’’

The Seahawks have reeled off 11 consecutive home wins by an average margin of 19 points. Since 2003, Seattle is an NFC-best 59-24 at home, including three 8-0 slates at CenturyLink Field, which was known as Qwest Field until 2011.

Ruskell credited former Seahawks CEO and current Tampa Bay Lightning CEO Tod Leiweke for building Seattle’s passionate fan base.

“Tod’s the best marketing guy I’ve ever been around,’’ Ruskell said. “The 12th-man concept was Tod’s baby because he wanted the franchise to re-connect with its fans.’’

Before each home game, Seattle supporters turn to the south endzone to see who will raise the team’s signature “12’’ flag. This year’s flag raisers include former Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander and ex-Sonics center Jack Sikma.

“I think it’s the toughest place to play,’’ said Bucs safety Dashon Goldson, who faced Seattle twice a season during his six years with the 49ers. “The fans do a good job of cheering, making it hard for offenses. That stadium is pretty much built to trap all the noise in there.”

With 89 consecutive home sellouts, the Seahawks rely on their fan base to impact the game by causing communication breakdowns for the opposition.

“I think it’s underrated, to be honest with you,’’ said quarterback Russell Wilson, who has yet to lose in 11 career home starts. “It really is something special. I’ve played in a lot of big stadiums and a lot of big games and it really is something unique.

“If you love football, you have to go to a game in CenturyLink. That energy, we feed off of it as a team and it’s a beautiful atmosphere.’’

Of course, that kind of beauty is in the eye of the beholder as Bucs rookie quarterback Mike Glennon enters the NFL’s version of the Chamber of Horror.

Poise under pressure will be key for Tampa Bay, especially up front. Since 2005, Seattle’s opponents have been flagged for 126 false start penalties on the road.

“We certainly have a big challenge,’’ Bucs coach Greg Schiano said. “It’s going to be a really great opportunity and a fun experience for everybody involved.’’

In Week 3, the Seahawks were favored by 20 points against the Jaguars at home, posting a 45-17 victory. Facing the NFL’s only other winless club on Sunday, Seattle is a 17-point favorite against the Bucs behind a talent-laden roster and that ubiquitous 12th man.

“The idea that Seattle fans have their own number ... now you’ve put them directly in the game,’’ Ruskell said. “What a tool to give a fan.’’

ikaufman@tampatrib.com

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Twitter: IKaufmanTBO

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