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Jags want fans' support


Mike Peterson did not receive the news well. Peterson banged his hand on the table in disgust.

"For the season-opener?" he said, unaware of the week-long threat of a TV blackout for this Sunday's game against the Seattle Seahawks.

The Jaguars announced late this morning that they had been granted an extension of the blackout deadline to Friday at four p.m. About 850 tickets remained unsold as of noon on Thursday, one hour before the standard blackout deadline, which is set at 72 hours before kickoff. Had the Jaguars not requested the extension from the league, Sunday's game would've been blacked out to local television as of one o'clock today.

Word of the looming blackout spread through the Jaguars locker room today, resulting in a variety of reactions. All players agreed on one thing, however: Fan support matters.

"It matters to me but I won't say I don't want to play because no one's in the stands. If it's full? That's an advantage to the home team. How can you not want to play in front of a packed stadium?" Peterson said.

"I'm a local guy so I know how it was when Jacksonville went to the playoffs. I played at Florida. The fans were a part of us. That's in me. Playing at Florida, you have to appreciate the fans. We felt we had the upper hand. That's how I want it to be here," Peterson added.

Quarterback Byron Leftwich echoed Peterson's sentiments.

"The support matters to everybody that's out there. There's nothing like playing in a packed stadium. They are a part of us. You can't worry about how many of them are in the stands, but you do appreciate them. They are one of the reasons you win the football game," Leftwich said.

Tropical Storm Ophelia has been a major issue this week, as forecasts have had Ophelia bringing rain and wind to Jacksonville for Sunday's game. Is Ophelia to blame for slow ticket sales?

"I know we have great fans. I'm going to blame it on the weather," Jimmy Smith said of the possibility of a blackout.

Smith is the last Jaguars player remaining from the team's inaugural season, 1995, when the Jaguars averaged 69,352 in per-game attendance. The team's per-game attendance average peaked in 1998 at 70,184, then began to fall. It reached a low of 56,213 per game in 2003, then shot up last season to 69,433, which included an attendance of 76,877 for last December's game against the Steelers. It is the only game in Jaguars history for which every ticket was sold.

"We'll win games so we won't have the problem later this year. It's understandable," Smith said, referring to Ophelia's possible impact on ticket sales.

"I'm not going to say it doesn't matter. It does matter. It does affect the team but, if there are empty seats, we can't let it be a factor," he added.

Running back Fred Taylor was disappointed by news of the blackout extension. "It's just bad," he said.

"Maybe if we start winning, they'll start coming around. We'd love for our fans to be in there, but whether they're there or not, we have to prepare to win. We'll be there on Sunday," Taylor added.

"Ideally, I don't think it should (matter)," tight end Kyle Brady said of empty seats. "Your juices should be flowing no matter how many or how few people are in the stadium. At the same time, there's an energy and an advantage created by a big, loud crowd.

"Guys talk about it. They say I wonder what the deal is. The media has created a certain hype and you'd think that would spur (fans) to come out for the season-opener," Brady added.

Decision time is at four p.m. on Friday.

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