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Home opener blacked out on TV as Jaguars struggle to sell tickets

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jaguars' home opener will be blacked out on local television for the third time in the last six years.

Because of the slumping economy and last season's 5-11 record, the Jaguars saw this one coming months ago. But it became a reality Thursday when team officials didn't bother asking the NFL for a ticket-sales extension for Sunday's game against the Arizona Cardinals.

The Jaguars lost 17,000 season-ticket holders after last season, and that could lead to local television blackouts for every home game in 2009.

"We can't do anything about the economy and tickets," running back Maurice Jones-Drew said. "All we can do is win games, and that's what we're going to do. The sporting world is a great business because when you win, everything else is fine. That's what it comes down to. All we've got to do is win games and people will be excited to come."

It might not be that easy in Jacksonville, which mostly has a service-based work force that was hard hit by the economic downturn.

The Jaguars aren't alone, either. The Cardinals, Cincinnati Bengals and Oakland Raiders needed extensions to avoid blackouts last weekend. The Detroit Lions and San Diego Chargers received extensions Thursday in hopes of selling out their home openers.

But Jacksonville's situation might be the worst in the league.

"We're looking forward to getting out in front of our home fans and starting our season right," coach Jack Del Rio said. "As I've said all along, those who can make it, we appreciate your support. And those that can't, unfortunately for whatever reason, we hope that things get better and that you'll be able to join us. We plan on putting out a good product and having some fun out there."

The Jaguars have tried to woo fans. They didn't raise ticket prices. They offered discounts on group sales. They created value meals at concession stands. They offered season-ticket packages for half the games and recently introduced a "flex pack," which allows fans to buy tickets to any three games and save $30.

The response was minimal.

The threat of blacking out the entire season is the latest setback for a franchise that doesn't have a lucrative, naming-rights deal for the stadium, already covered up nearly 10,000 seats to reduce capacity and lower ticket-sales requirements and faces constant speculation about relocating to another market. However, Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver believes things will turn around in time.

"We're growing a new generation of fans each decade," Weaver said. "We just haven't been around 50 years or 80 years like Chicago or Green Bay or Washington. We're growing. We've just got to keep grinding it out and working hard."

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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