TEMPE, Ariz. — Waiting for each Arizona Cardinals player as they arrived for work on Tuesday was a note from the team’s equipment staff taped inside their locker.
The words, typed in bold, black lettering, on the 8 ½” x 11” sheet of paper included longtime equipment manager Mark Ahlemeier’s recommendation for the proper use of footwear, specifically the cleat size that would best hold up on the field in Carolina.
“What I’m doing is, I got the seven studs, the cleats,” running back David Johnson said. “They’re a longer cleat for me to be able to grip the ground better.”
Footing became an issue during the Divisional Round game at Bank of America Stadium.
Several players from both the Panthers and Seahawks slipped on what appeared to be a very soft field.
“Last year when we played them in the playoffs, it was similar. It was wet, a soft field,” cornerback Jerraud Powers said, before adding, “The conditions aren’t going to play a part on who wins or not, it’s something we’re definitely not even worried about. They’ve got to play in it just like we do. So, I don’t think it’s an advantage either way.”
Safety Rashad Johnson agreed.
“It’s something we should be well-prepared for,” he said. “We got different type of cleats that we’ll work (with in practice) throughout the week, so, no, not worried about footing or anything like that, at all.”
The Panthers re-sodded the field during the playoff bye week; however there were several days of rain leading up to the game plus an early-morning snowfall the day of, all of which made field conditions less than ideal.
Rain again is in the Charlotte forecast, with a 100-percent chance on Friday and an 80-percent chance with the possibility of snow on Saturday.
Mother Nature, though, is expected to bring sunshine and temperatures in the upper 40s in time for the NFC Championship Game.
“I’ve got some studs that I’ll bring just in case,” kicker Chandler Catanzaro said. “It looked on TV like it was pretty wet and everybody was slipping around pretty good. I definitely have to have that leverage in my plant foot to deliver the kicks I need. But that’s just one of those things that I can’t control, but I can put the right cleat on to help out.”
In addition to the experience of last year’s Wild Card game, Catanzaro mentioned his familiarity of the stadium going back to his college days at Clemson, having kicked on that field multiple times, including the 2011 ACC Championship Game
“I got a good feel for it, so I’ll be ready, whatever we face,” he said.
The Panthers have enjoyed quite the home field advantage at Bank of America Stadium.
They are 9-0 this season and have won 12 straight overall in the building, including last year’s playoff victory over the Cardinals.
“I don’t care if we’re playing in a parking lot. It’s the championship,” head coach Bruce Arians said. “Be aware of (the field conditions) and have the proper shoes.”
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