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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs' Monday night game nears sellout, lifting blackout

Published:   |   Updated: March 21, 2013 at 12:29 AM

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are only about 2,000 seats away from selling out Raymond James Stadium for Monday night's game against the Indianapolis Colts and avoiding another local television blackout, according to a team spokesman.

Tampa Bay has suffered 10 consecutive regular-season home blackouts, including the first two home games this year. Since the stadium opened in 1998, every Bucs home game had been sold out until last season, when all eight home matchups were blacked out locally.

According to NFL rules, home games must be sold out 72 hours before kickoff to avoid a TV blackout within a 75-mile radius of the local market. Teams can ask the league for a 24-hour extension if the game is close to selling out.

The 2-1 Buccaneers haven't played in prime time since the late stages of the 2008 season, when Tampa Bay dropped a 38-23 decision at Carolina that triggered a four-game losing streak, leading to the dismissal of coach Jon Gruden and general manager Bruce Allen.

Gruden will be in the press box for Monday night's matchup against Indianapolis, working as an ESPN analyst.

According to ESPN, the last Monday night game that was blacked out locally came on the final weekend of the 1999 regular season, when the 4-11 San Francisco 49ers traveled to Atlanta to face the 4-11 Falcons at the Georgia Dome.

"It would be awesome,'' Bucs coach Raheem Morris said about the prospect of a nationally televised sellout Monday evening.