The Buffalo Bills avoided being the first team in the NFL to have a game blacked out from local television when owner Ralph C. Wilson Jr. agreed to guarantee the purchase of the remaining tickets for Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
The 1 p.m. game will be on Channel 4.
As of Thursday afternoon, about 5,300 tickets remained. The Bills still were making tickets available for sale, with a discount of up to $15 per ticket. The team also ran a promotion Friday in which a limited number of tickets were put on sale for $20 for a pair. Proceeds of that sale went to benefit breast cancer awareness and survivors, and that allotment of tickets sold out. In addition, some of the remaining tickets were donated to local charities and medical professionals who serve those affected by breast cancer.
It appeared Friday the first NFL blackout of the season would be in San Diego, where more than 9,000 tickets remained for the Chargers’ Monday night game against Indianapolis.
The Bills expect to decide on the availability of receiver Stevie Johnson and cornerback Stephon Gilmore during pregame warmups on Sunday, coach Doug Marrone said.
Johnson has a sore lower back and Gilmore is coming back from a broken hand. Both are listed as questionable.
“I really think at the end of the day Stevie and Gilmore will be a game-time decision,” Marrone said. “I feel good about everybody else.”
Gilmore participated in Friday’s workout. Johnson has been absent all week due to a death in the family.
Running back C.J. Spiller (ankle) is questionable. Listed as probable are safety Jairus Byrd, defensive tackle Kyle Williams and receiver Marquise Goodwin. Goodwin is expected back for the first time since injuring his hand in the season opener.
Cincinnati appears at full strength. Starting defensive end Michael Johnson (concussion) was listed as questionable but practiced fully Friday.
Bills offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett wants rookie quarterback EJ Manuel to protect his body when he runs outside the pocket. But Hackett isn’t blaming Manuel for scrambling down the sideline on the play in which he injured his knee last week in Cleveland.
Asked about his perspective on the play on which Manuel was hurt, Hackett said:
“We look at it as when you’re in the red zone and you break free, we always want you to make a play. I never want him to be Johnny Checkdown. Never want him to be Johnny Slide, or whatever it is. You always want your quarterback to be making plays, and I think that’s where his mind was. I think if that guy was right there, right in his vision, I think he would have gone out of bounds. I think he would have slid. Obviously, he always needs to get better at that. You never want him to be overconfident. But you never want to hold a guy back from making a play.”
Manuel made an elite play by escaping what looked like a sure sack and running for a first down. He was hit in the knee a few yards beyond the first-down marker. Manuel is out for what could be four to six weeks.
“That was awesome. He did a great job,” Hackett said of Manuel avoiding the rush. “He went around the corner and he was trying to score. He didn’t see anybody. I think that guy snuck up on him. It happens.”
Bills defensive back Aaron Williams was fined $21,000 for a helmet-to-helmet hit on receiver Davone Bess in last week’s game. Bess’ body was going downward as a pass went incomplete and as Williams was going in for the tackle. Williams said he can’t let it change his aggressiveness.
“Nothing you can do,” he said. “You’ve got to move on and deal with the next play.”
Running back Fred Jackson, meanwhile, was fined $7,875 for an unsportsmanlike conduct foul he received for flipping the ball after a play, although he didn’t intend to direct the ball toward a Browns player.