Vikings Get Their Sellout

The Vikings had until 2 p.m. Friday to sell the estimated 1,700 tickets for Sunday's opener that remained unsold as of Thursday morning. They did it with more than an hour to spare, avoiding the first blackout of a Vikings game since 1997.

The Vikings and their local fans found out Friday that the blackout that has loomed over the team won't happen ... at least not for Sunday's game. Fox 9 (KMSP) reached an agreement with the Vikings Friday morning to purchase and donate whatever tickets remained to make the season opener a sellout. As of Friday morning, that number was at 1,200 tickets, according to the television station's web site.

As reported yesterday, the team got the anticipated extension from the league that means they had until 2 p.m. Friday to sell the remaining 1,700 tickets or the game would have been blacked out for the first time since December 1997 against the Colts – the last game the Vikings played before Randy Moss arrived and the last game the Colts played before Peyton Manning came into the fold.

But the Vikings announced mid-day on Friday that the 2007 season opener against the Atlanta Falcons will be the team's 97th consecutive sellout. The game, dedicated as "Heroes Day" in honor of the victims and their families, the first responders and those injured in the 35W bridge collapse, will be televised locally on KMSP FOX 9.

"This was a team effort by our fans, our local broadcast partner, KMSP FOX 9, and other corporate programs" Vice President of Sales and Marketing Steve LaCroix said in a statement. "In addition, we also have the privilege of donating tickets to our heroes who will be honored at Sunday's game. As a result of the sellout, not only will we have the home-field advantage that our loud and passionate fans provide, but we're also thrilled that Vikings fans will be able to watch the game on local television."

As with all home games, limited tickets are still available through Ticketmaster and the Vikings ticket office due to visiting team returns.

Vikings officials had blamed slow ticket sales in part on the closure of I-35 for construction work over the weekend, but some people are disputing that claim. The Vikings are viewed by many as a team without a face or an identity. While they have their share of big-time players, from Matt Birk to Steve Hutchinson to Adrian Peterson to Kevin Williams to Pat Williams to Antoine Winfield to Darren Sharper, at present they don't have that one player who sells jerseys and puts fans in the seats like Moss and Daunte Culpepper used to.

There are quiet concerns that the trouble they've had selling tickets is going to continue and, before the year is out, at least one game will be blacked out locally. A convincing win against the Falcons and a more exciting offense as the season progresses might calm those fears.


FRIDAY NOTES
* The new-look injury report is getting some mixed reviews, but it is expected to be a more accurate view on what players will and won't play on Sundays. To that end, the Falcons might be without at least two starters Sunday. DT Rod Coleman and S Chris Crocker haven't practiced all week and All-Pro TE Alge Crumpler was added to the injury list Thursday with an illness that could sideline him for the first time since December 2004.
* As for the Vikings, only Mike Doss (calf) and Marcus Johnson (excused absence) didn't take part in Thursday's practice. E.J. Henderson, who didn't take part in Wednesday's practice, returned to full duty Thursday.
* Word out of Falcons practice is that Artose Pinner has been asked about the Vikings' audible calls and, like the Chiefs' new No. 3 QB Tyler Thigpen, he may be able to give an early-season Vikings opponent some inside information on the Vikings offense.
* The Falcons have only two quarterbacks on their roster and, as it stands now, running back Warrick Dunn would be the emergency third-string quarterback if something happens to Joey Harrington and Chris Redman.
* Cory Withrow, the former Vikings center currently playing with the Chargers, returned to practice Thursday and is now expected to be available for the Chargers season opener with the Bears.
* Almost a full week after being released, Byron Leftwich remains unsigned. The former Jaguar quarterback was thought to be heading to the Ravens, but the team signed backup Kyle Boller to a contract extension Thursday that might take that possibility out of the mix.
* The Jaguars signed veteran guard Tutan Reyes Thursday and, to make room for him on the 53-man roster, cut former Viking TE Richard Angulo.
* The Rams reached an injury settlement with former Vikings OT Todd Steussie, who has had an ailing left foot since last season. His release makes Steussie an unrestricted free agent who can sign with any team other than the Rams. Because of the settlement, the Rams can't re-sign him until November at the earliest.

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