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Chargers expect home opener to be blacked out on local TV

SAN DIEGO -- Fans accustomed to watching Chargers home games on local television must find something else to do Sunday afternoon -- and perhaps several other Sundays this fall, as well.

With roughly 8,000 general-admission tickets still unsold, Southern California's only NFL team expects Sunday's home opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars to be blacked out.

That will end a streak of 48 consecutive sellouts, including the playoffs. The last Chargers home game blacked out was against the New Orleans Saints on Nov. 7, 2004, when Marty Schottenheimer was San Diego's coach and Drew Brees was the quarterback.

"We're disappointed, but from a couple weeks out, we thought this was a possibility," Chargers executive vice president A.G. Spanos said Wednesday.

The deadline for reaching a sellout is 1:15 p.m. PT Thursday. Teams can request a 24-hour extension from the NFL, but that's usually done only when a team is confident it can sell reach a sellout.

Spanos, grandson of Chargers owner Alex Spanos, said the only sure sellout is against the New England Patriots on Oct. 24. The next game with the best chance of selling out is a Monday night game against the AFC West rival Denver Broncos on Nov. 22.

Spanos said there are more than 10,000 tickets left to sell for an Oct. 3 game against the Arizona Cardinals.

Spanos said the slow economy is the top factor for slow ticket sales.

There likely are other factors affecting ticket sales in a city where the Chargers have long been the favorite team.

One is that many fans were left grumbling after the Chargers' dismal performance in a 21-14 loss at Kansas City on Monday night. The Chargers, trying to win their fifth consecutive AFC West title, were coming off an embarrassing 17-14 loss to the New York Jets in the playoffs.

Then there's the divisive issue of general manager A.J. Smith's hardball tactics against two of the team's best players, Pro Bowl wide receiver Vincent Jackson and left tackle Marcus McNeill. When the two restricted free agents didn't sign their contract tenders for more than $3 million by June 15, Smith slashed their pay by more than $2.5 million, giving them less incentive to end their holdouts. Smith then placed the players on the roster-exempt list, meaning that if they do sign, they'll be suspended for three games.

Jackson already is serving a three-game NFL suspension for violating the league's substance-abuse policy.

Besides the Patriots, there's a lack of marquee teams on the home schedule. The Chargers' other home games are against the Tennessee Titans and San Francisco, as well as the division rival Chiefs and Oakland Raiders.

"I know fans will be disappointed, and we're disappointed," Spanos said. "We appreciate that they're passionate about Chargers football."

The Chargers aren't the only ones having a hard time selling tickets. The San Diego Padres, who have led the National League West for most of the season, have played before thousands of empty seats at Petco Park, including during a key four-game series against the San Francisco Giants.

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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