How limited crowds could change how offenses and defenses operate, call plays and use hand signals

Kenny Vaccaro knew some of the calls.

He played in New Orleans, so he knew the tendencies and how the Saints communicate. Not everything was the same when the Titans played the Saints last season, and it's not like he could hear everything Drew Brees was saying since Nissan Stadium gets pretty loud. Still, there were a handful of plays and calls the Tennessee safety was able to identify.

"I knew some of the stuff Drew was doing last year," Vaccaro said. "But the key is, can you get it to the whole team to understand what he's doing? This is not just if I know. I have to be able to relay that to everybody, and it's loud, and you only have a couple of seconds."

What happens this fall if stadiums are empty enough that everyone on the field can hear everything and there isn't enough crowd noise piped in? What if the microphones pick up more during broadcasts than they already do with a non-existent or altered source of crowd noise? All of these things will change the game and create one of the season's more interesting subplots.

People are already thinking about how to exploit and protect against all the eavesdropping. If you believe this is an overrated plot point, ask former Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma what kind of advantages might exist for smart defensive players and watch his eyes pop.

"Oh, hell yeah. I'd love that," Vilma said. "It's like practice against Drew Brees for 17 weeks. It would be so awesome if there were no fans in the stadium, and I get to sit there and listen to everything the quarterback says the whole time.

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