For the first time since December 2009, local fans of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers may get to see their home team on television.
A spokesman for the Buccaneers announced that approximately 2,000 tickets are left for the Monday Night Football match-up with the Indianapolis Colts, and Tampa Bay’s front office is hopeful the remaining seats will be sold before the Friday deadline. Under NFL rules, if the game is close to selling out the team can ask the league for a 24-hour extension.
The last Monday Night Football game to be blacked out was in January in 2000 when the San Francisco 49ers traveled to Atlanta to face the Falcons in Week 17 of the 1999 season.
After a year’s worth of non-sellout games, the Buccaneers are excited to play before a packed house of 65,000-plus Tampa Bay fans. However, the 45,000 fans that were in attendance for last week’s 16-13 win over the Atlanta Falcons were plenty loud, according to several players.
“It was nice last week, it was actually pretty loud,” right tackle Jeremy Trueblood said. “I could tell when the defense was out there. As long as we give them a good game our fans are always loud. It’s going to be even louder when it is packed.”
Bucs safety Corey Lynch, who replaced the injured Cody Grimm last week, is looking forward to the noise a sellout crowd can make to aid Tampa Bay’s defense.
“When I went in I could barely hear the defensive calls with only 45,000 there,” Lynch said. “Hopefully it will be a fun night with 20,000 more fans there and hopefully we can come out with a win. We’re looking forward to it. It’s going to be a great game against a great team. Everyone is psyched. A lot of people are saying we’re going to win because [Peyton] Manning isn’t there, but they are a heck of a team and we still have to go out and play. We’re not taking them lightly and we’re going to be ready.”
Fifteen-year veteran cornerback Ronde Barber, who has seen his share of prime-time battles, is looking forward to his young teammates getting the overdue attention he feels they deserve.
“It will be nice,” Barber said. “We have been toiling down here in Tampa for a long time not being recognized. [It is] somewhat our fault. But you have to relish the opportunity to play in front of everybody. It’s the only game in town that night. Everybody is watching and you get a chance to showcase. So we will put our best foot forward and hopefully we can get up on a down team.”
Buccaneers head coach Raheem Morris, who also serves as the team's defensive coordinator, can't wait to see Raymond James Stadium packed and having a capacity crowd help his defense out by creating a very loud environment.
“It would be awesome,” Morris said. “It would be awesome to pack the house any night. That brings up a good point. [On Sunday against Atlanta] I know it wasn’t packed, sold out, blacked out – whatever you guys want to talk about it – but those guys in the stands on third down [with] the defensive chants to get us going – it was awesome. That’s what Tampa Bay Buccaneer football is all about. When we do get to the point where we pack this thing back up again it is going to be an intimidating place to play for anybody and we look forward to it.”
Sources also have told PewterReport.com that the nationally televised NFL Network December 17 match-up with the Dallas Cowboys is the team's next best hope of a sellout after the Colts game, as ticket sales are outpacing the remaining home contests against other teams.
Even though all 10 home games in the 2009 season were officially considered sellouts, is it widely known the Glazer family purchased the remaining unsold tickets each week to ensure the games would be broadcast locally. Coming off a 3-13 campaign in Morris’ first season as Buccaneers head coach, the 2010 opening day attendance for the home opener against the Cleveland Brown was 47,211, and the 10-game streak of games that were blacked out from local television began.
The Buccaneers were the only team in the NFL to have all of its 2010 games blacked out, and the only team to not sell out its home opener for the 2011 season. Tampa Bay drew just 52,274 for the Lions in Week 1 and only 46,995 for last week’s win over the Atlanta Falcons.
The Buccaneers' last Monday Night Football appearance was December 8, 2008 at Carolina. The 38-23 loss began a four-game losing streak and Tampa Bay missed the playoffs ultimately costing head coach Jon Gruden and general manager Bruce Allen their jobs. The last Monday Night Football game in Tampa Bay was against the Indianapolis Colts on October 6, 2003, which the Buccaneers lost 38-35 in overtime after blowing a 35-14 lead with just over five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.