TAMPA — Bucs fans who don't have a ticket to Sunday's game against the Browns won't be able to find it on the television.
Team officials think the regular-season opener at Raymond James Stadium will be blacked out locally, based on the slow pace of ticket sales.
NFL teams have until 1 p.m. Thursday — 72 hours before kickoff — to sell out the game or it cannot air within a 75-mile radius of the primary television market.
News that the game will be dark is hardly a surprise. Both of the Bucs' home preseason games were blacked out. The Bucs had an announced crowd of 41,386 against the Chiefs and 42,640 against the Jaguars, but actual attendance was closer to 30,000. That means about half of the 65,000 seats were empty.
The Bucs' blacked-out opener might be the exception for Week 1. The Jaguars host the Broncos on Sunday, and with the return of former Florida QB Tim Tebow, they are confident the game will be sold out in time to avoid a blackout. Oakland is at Tennessee, and Detroit is at Chicago.
Because of a season-ticket base around 40,000, the Bucs have only two home games that look like possible sellouts: vs. the Steelers on Sept. 26 and the Saints on Oct. 17. But Steelers and Saints fans are likely driving ticket sales in those games.
Freeman update: QB Josh Freeman said his broken right thumb still is sore, but he will practice today and play Sunday against the Browns.
"It's doing all right. It's a little sore; it's still broken," Freeman said. "But it's ready to go."
Coach Raheem Morris left no gray area when it comes to Freeman playing.
"In my head, Freeman is a go," Morris said. "You guys can put that down on your depth chart. First team quarterback is Josh Freeman. He is a go vs. Cleveland right now."
Stadium Sammie: It will be a banner season for WR Sammie Stroughter.
The image of the second-year pro from Oregon State will replace the one in the stadium's southeast corner of RB Clifton Smith, who was released Sunday.
While Stroughter is likely to start at receiver and is a rising player, his resume includes just 31 receptions for 334 yards and one touchdown.
Quote of the day: From Morris, on Browns QB Jake Delhomme, a former NFC South rival with the Panthers: "He's going to know our defense as good as one of our vets on our own team. He might know it better than some of our young players. He probably knows it better than Cody Grimm right now. When you go into the game, you got to understand that and know that he knows that you know that he knows."