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Crowdless Superdome still presents obstacles for Bucs in opener at New Orleans

Coach Bruce Arians will prepare for crowd noise to be pumped in when the Bucs open the season Sept. 13 at the Saints.
New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton, right, greets Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians after an October game in New Orleans last season.
New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton, right, greets Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians after an October game in New Orleans last season. [ BUTCH DILL | AP ]
Published Aug. 14, 2020
Updated Aug. 14, 2020

TAMPA — Something will be missing when the Bucs open their season at New Orleans in a month: Fans.

The Saints announced Wednesday that they will play their first game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome without fans in the stands because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Superdome is regarded as one of the loudest venues in professional sports with noise levels that have reached 128 decibels.

Arians said Thursday that playing at the Superdome absent of fans will be different, but teams might be able to pipe in crowd noise to compensate. Arians half-joked that some teams already do that — the Falcons were fined and lost a draft pick for pumping in crowd noise in 2014 — so it might not be that different.

Related: Bucs coach Bruce Arians is watching the clock, eyeing Saints

“Sometimes I rather wish there’s fans than piped-in crowd noise,” Arians said. “There’s a bunch of stadiums that pump that stuff in anyways, and some of them have gotten caught and some haven’t. It’ll be different, but it’s still going to be loud if they’re allowed to do it. And we’re gonna get ready for it like we always have. (With) crowd noise, we’ve always been a pretty good team as far as the silent-count offense. It hasn’t bothered us in the past so we’ll be ready for it.”

The Bucs have yet to announce their plans for fans this season at Raymond James Stadium, though the Tampa Sports Authority recently estimated that Bucs games might have crowds of about 14,000 people.

“For the fans, I want them all in there,” Arians said about Bucs fans filling Ray Jay. “So as many as we can get in there I’d love to see.If it’s not safe, obviously we’d have to take the right precautions for their safety first.”

Bucs foggy on COVID shields

Over the weekend, the team tested visors and mouth shields designed by Oakley to mitigate COVID-19 transmission. Arians said there’s “still a lot of work to do” with the shields and added, “I don’t think we had one player like it.”

“The whole team tried it,” Arians said “They all gave feedback. Obviously, with a lot of humidity, there was a lot of fogging problems. Oakley is working extremely hard to find something that’s going to work. And we’ll see if it works or not.”

Arians honored

Arians will receive this year’s Champion for Equality award from the Women’s Sports Foundation for his work with gender inclusiveness. Last year, he hired two female assistants, assistant defensive line coach Lori Locust and assistant strength and conditioning coach Maral Javadifar, making the Bucs the first NFL team with multiple female coaches on staff.

Related: Bucs assistant coach Lori Locust isn’t interested in labels

Arians met WSF founder Billie Jean King, who will present him with the award in October, last year when the Bucs played in Atlanta. Arians called King “one of his idols growing up.”

“She was one of the coolest people ever and one of the toughest competitors I’ve ever seen,” he said. “She had a ‘No risk it, no biscuit’ T-shirt on and it made my day. It might have made my year. She’s very special and it’s a great, great honor.”

Contact Eduardo A. Encina at eencina@tampabay.com. Follow @EddieInTheYard.