The Buffalo Bills announced the expected Thursday afternoon: Sunday’s game against the Miami Dolphins did not sell out and thus will be blacked out on local television.
It’s the first blackout of the season for the Bills, and only the second in the NFL this year (Cincinnati at San Diego on Dec. 1 being the other).
The Bills had a reported 16,000 tickets remaining for the game as of Wednesday – more than 20 percent of the capacity at Ralph Wilson Stadium. The Bills previously avoided blackouts in their last two home games against Cincinnati and the New York Jets when owner Ralph C. Wilson Jr. agreed to buy the remaining tickets at the blackout deadline – an estimated 8,800 combined tickets.
“I know this: the fans that are there, we need ’em. We have played much better at home,” Bills coach Doug Marrone said. “I’d like to think it’s because of the coaching and all the other things, but never lose sight that the fans have done an outstanding job and have been part of the reason why we have played better there.”
Marrone said when he used to visit The Ralph as an opposing player or coach, his first thought was to try and take the fans out of the game.
“It’s because of the type of fans that we have,” he said. “The one thing that I think our fans are outstanding with is that, even if a team gets up on us right away, they’re not going to let another team get them out of it. I’m proud to have a fan base like that.”
Interestingly enough, the Federal Communications Commission proposed Wednesday to end the blackout rule.
“There is evidence that after nearly 40 years, the Sports Blackout Rule has outlived its relevance and utility,” FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn said in a statement. “Changes in the marketplace have raised questions about whether these rules are still in the public interest, particularly at a time when high ticket prices and the economy make it difficult for many sports fans to attend games.”
The NFL is expected to fight any proposed change to the blackout rule.
“Of course you want the stadium full. Guys chanting for you, being as loud as possible. We appreciate them for it. The ones that are going to make the trip, we’ll try and feed off them,” running back Fred Jackson said. “We know they’ll still contribute. We’ll still be able to feed off the crowd that is there and make some plays for them.”
Jackson said the responsibility of getting fans excited – and thus filling the stadium and avoiding future blackouts – falls on the team.
“If you’re winning football games, you’re going to fill up the stadium,” he said. “We haven’t won enough games. As soon as we get that turned around, we expect this blackout thing to go away.”
Jackson practiced on a limited basis Thursday after sitting out Wednesday. He’s on the injury report because of sore ribs.
“I mean, it’s Week 16, so it’s typical soreness that you’ve got to deal with this time of year,” he said. “This late in the season, things are going to bother you a little bit more, but I got out there to move around and it wasn’t too bad, so I’m excited about being out there.”
Quarterback EJ Manuel (knee), receiver Stevie Johnson (personal) and linebacker Arthur Moats (personal) did not practice Thursday. Marrone said he expects Moats to be available for Sunday’s game. Manuel has already been ruled out, while Johnson isn’t expected to play.
Cornerback Brandon Smith (ankle) and defensive tackles Marcell Dareus (ankle) and Kyle Williams (Achilles) were full participants in practice.
The Dolphins did not practice Thursday, but released their projected injury report. Cornerback Brent Grimes (groin) and running back Daniel Thomas (ankle) were listed as non-participants, putting their availability for Sunday into question.