Whether he takes the field for the Tennessee Titans’ first possession or sometime later in Saturday’s preseason opener at Seattle, Matt Hasselbeck can expect to be greeted by cheers.
After that, he’ll be treated just like any other opposing quarterback.
“The crowd noise is definitely different and we’ll see,” safety Jordan Babineaux said. “Hasselbeck will finally get a chance to taste what it feels like playing in that stadium when they’re making noise and screaming at him and probably hitting him with a beer can or two or something like that. It will be fun to see.”
Since 2005, opponents have averaged an NFL-high 1.98 false start penalties per game at CenturyLink Field. By comparison, LP Field is not among the top four in that regard.
Hasselbeck, the Seahawks’ all-time leading passer, has seen plenty of opposing quarterbacks and offensive lines struggle with the surroundings. In 2005, for example, the New York Giants committed 11 false starts in a game.
This will be the first time he will be an opposing quarterback.
“‘The 12th Man,’ a lot of teams use that as a cliché but it’s real there,” Hasselbeck said. “The crowd noise, going back from the Kingdome days to now, is real. It’s a real advantage. There are other places where you go play and it can be intimidating, just with the crowd noise.”
Titans coaches still have not named their starter for the contest. Hasselbeck and Jake Locker, who also has significant ties to the Seattle area, continue their competition to earn the starting job for the regular season.
“Just like practice out here, they both play about the same amount of time,” Munchak said. “So I just think it’s a matter of them going out and playing the best that they can when they’re out there and the groups that they’re with.”
If the Seahawks’ fans are in midseason form, though, that can be difficult.
“I hope it is,” Munchak said. “You like teams that can add the noise factor. We were up there a couple years ago [a 20-18 defeat in the 2010 preseason opener], and I remember it being a big problem, as far as noise, for the first group. … Obviously their fans are into preseason games like it’s regular season games, so you have to be prepared for that.
“As a staff, you hope you get it, so it’s something you can work your way through rather than waiting until the regular season.”
Hasselbeck and Babineaux are just two members of the Titans who have ties to Seattle. Both signed with the team as free agents at the start of training camp last season. Others include left gurd Steve Hutchinson, defensive coordinator Jerry Gray and chief operating officer Mike Reinfeldt.
Hasselbeck maintains a home in the Seattle area and spent time there between minicamp and the start of training camp this summer.
This trip back, though, will be something different.
“It’ll feel weird for me, for sure, coming out of the other locker room, the other end zone,” he said. “I spent a lot of time there and got a lot of great memories there. At the same time I’m thankful for the opportunity to go back. When I played my last game there, I didn’t expect it to be my last game there.
“It should be fun. Anytime you get to play against your friends, it’s fun.”
Not to mention, loud.
“It’s a great place to play,” Babineaux said. “I really enjoyed the seven years I was there. He’ll have a chance to see how different it will be. … Hasselbeck may have a little trouble trying to make signals and trying to communicate checks and things like that.
“It is a hostile environment.”