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Green Bay to pack 'em in at Bucs home game

Packers fans, like these for a 2008 game against the Bucs at Raymond James Stadium, show up in force for road contests.
Packers fans, like these for a 2008 game against the Bucs at Raymond James Stadium, show up in force for road contests.
Published Dec. 20, 2014

TAMPA — When the Bucs talked before the season about reclaiming homefield advantage at Raymond James Stadium, games like Sunday's weren't what they had in mind.

"You like when the home team does something well to hear cheers and not boos," defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said.

But a large, noisy Packers contingent is expected among the sold-out crowd at the Bucs' home game Sunday.

The demand to see a Super Bowl contender face a team vying for the top pick in the draft can be seen on the secondary ticket market. Tickets started at $120 on StubHub on Friday. Parking passes alone on the online ticket broker's website were going for about $32, almost as much as tickets for the Dec. 28 regular-season finale against Drew Brees and the Saints at Raymond James Stadium ($38).

"If you lived in Green Bay this time of year, you would love coming down to Tampa," coach Lovie Smith said. "We realize that."

Smith has seen it before, when he was an assistant with Tampa Bay. For a 1997 game between the teams, an estimated 30,000 Green Bay fans invaded the Bucs' old home, Houlihan's Stadium, resulting in a season-high crowd of 73,523. Then-Bucs quarterback Trent Dilfer called it "garbage," and Tampa Bay started trying to limit how many tickets went to cheeseheads.

"You're talking about one of the most storied franchises in the league, and you're talking about an expansion team," said Bucs center Evan Dietrich-Smith of the teams. "Obviously for (Packers fans), the town and the tradition and everything goes very deep."

Dietrich-Smith knows that after spending most of the past five seasons in Green Bay. He called the Packers' fan base proud, loud and respectful.

The passion is so intense in the Wisconsin town of 105,000 that Dietrich-Smith felt sorry for anyone who resembled Packers stars such as Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews because they would constantly be stopped by fans on the streets.

"For me, I was recognized few and far between," Dietrich-Smith said, "because I was just a big, burly white guy with a beard walking around."

Green Bay's fans take their intensity on the road.

For the Packers' previous seven road games, the home team's announced attendance increased by an average of 157. On Sunday, Buffalo drew a crowd of 70,214 for its game against the Packers, a boost of 1,227 from its other games at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

"It's great," Green Bay receiver Jordy Nelson said. "When you have that many fans there, you want to play well in order to take over the stadium."

Nelson remembers accomplishing that a few years ago in San Diego, where the Chargers had to use a silent snap count in their home stadium.

Bucs quarterback Josh McCown said he had to deal with similar home crowds earlier in his career in Arizona.

"It's understandable," McCown said. "(The Packers are) a storied franchise. They travel well. … I think it just adds more juice to the game because you know that, again, the opponent is a good football team, but also they are going to travel well. So how much more fun would it be to win that game when all those people come there?"

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Contact Matt Baker at Follow @MBakerTBTimes.


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