Thursday, June 3, 2004

Opening ticket sales pass team's expectations

Bengals notebook

By Mark Curnutte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Last year, Todd Stanton waited in line 30 minutes to get his two-game Bengals ticket package.

On Wednesday, when the packages went on sale for the 2004 season, Stanton stood in line for almost four hours.

"Well worth it," said Stanton, 39, of Alexandria.

Business on Wednesday more than tripled that of the same day in 2003.

"Beyond our expectations," said Kevin Lane, Bengals director of ticket sales.

Some fans pitched tents overnight on the Paul Brown Stadium Plaza. The plaza was jammed with parked cars all the way around the north end during the lunch hour. Fans lined up from the ticket booths on the plaza's south end at the team's main office entrance.

The single-day sale - which also included phone orders that tied up the club's lines all day - was the biggest since the team went to the Super Bowl in January 1989.

The Bengals have not made the playoffs since the 1990. They were a composite 55-137 from 1991-2002 before finishing 8-8 in 2003 in Marvin Lewis' first-year as head coach.

Lewis walked outside to visit with fans and shake hands Wednesday morning.

Lewis declined comment, but Lane said the packages for the Denver and Baltimore games and the Dallas and Miami games were selling best.

"Everybody wants the Monday night game," said Charles Shuford, 50, of North Avondale.

The Monday night game Oct. 25 will be the Bengals' first since 1992 and the first at home since 1989.

GARDENER ON WAY: The Denver Broncos officially released Daryl Gardener on Wednesday, and the ninth-year defensive tackle could be introduced as the newest Bengal today.

"He would make our defense better," Bengals defensive lineman Carl Powell, a Gardener teammate in Washington in 2002, said this afternoon.

Lewis was the Redskins defensive coordinator that season, and he coaxed a career year out of Gardener. He was a Pro Bowl alternate after recording a career high 71 tackles and posting four sacks.

Lewis declined comment about an impending Gardener signing after the Bengals' on-field coaching session.

Two sources have confirmed the Bengals and Gardener, 31, had reached agreement on a four-year, $9.3 million contract that includes no signing bonus. Gardener's base salary for 2004 will be $1.6 million with the bases rising to slightly more than $2.5 million for each of the final three seasons.

He would be expected to challenge Tony Williams for the starting job at right defensive tackle.

The Broncos signed Gardener to a seven-year, $34.8 million deal in March 2003, but Gardener played in just four games with eight tackles. He was suspended for conduct detrimental to the team.

The Broncos reached a settlement March 10 with Gardener regarding his $5 million signing bonus.

SITTING OUT: Wide receivers Peter Warrick and Patrick Johnson, rookie running back Chris Perry and right tackle Willie Anderson were among the players not participating practice because of nagging minor injuries or injury rehabilitations.

VROOM: Lewis will serve as the grand marshal for the "Meijer 300 Presented by Oreo" NASCAR Busch Series event June 19 at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta.


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