Heading back to his hometown, Jacoby Jones couldn't afford to tell the truth.
The All-Pro kick returner for the Baltimore Ravens got 15 tickets for the Super Bowl as a participating player. The demand from family, friends in New Orleans was way beyond that.
No Big Easy there.
"I told my family before I left (Baltimore) I only got nine," Jones said, shaking his head and smiling. "They're expensive and I'll do something for you during the game, so y'all can be together."
Each Raven and San Francisco 49er player and coach had access to 15 tickets: two complimentary, the rest for purchase. Prices range this year from $800 to $1,200, the same as last year in Indianapolis.
When the game was last played in New Orleans 11 years ago, every seat cost $400.
Tickets also are available to players on injured reserve. For the 49ers, that's almost 90 people, not counting front office personnel who generally had access to two tickets each.
"I said I only got nine so they'd fight over them," Jones said with a laugh. Then he did a really smart thing: He put his mother, Emily, in charge of ticketing. "My mom is old school, no nonsense. She's from here, born and raised. It will be immediate family."
Jones tried to make up for the shortfall by buying the rest of his family jerseys, about 30 in all.
Teammate Ed Reed was in the same pickle. He's from New Orleans, too. So the star safety sought advice from Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma, who played in a Super Bowl in his hometown of Miami three years ago.
"I would actually auction off tickets to random folk if I could," Reed said. "I'm still kind of chopping things down, making sure you've got your lists right, especially when you come home. You want everyone to come to the game.
"Honestly, I could fill the Superdome up. I could fill every seat. I would love to, but you can't. So I want my family to know that right now. Things are starting to get a little pricey, but I'm just grateful to go through it. I could do this every year."
With a seven-figure salary, he could. Some other players who don't quite earn those big bucks might find a yearly Super Bowl trip too expensive.
"I took all 15, for everybody in my family and my boys back home in Indy," said second-year receiver Tandon Doss, a backup for the Ravens. "It's the Super Bowl."
The NFL keeps about one-fourth of the tickets, with many going to league sponsors. Each participating team gets 17.5 percent for the organization and for its fans, who generally enter a lottery to purchase tickets. The host club gets 5 percent, and the other 29 clubs get 1.2 percent each, or 34.8 percent overall.
The Superdome's capacity for the Super Bowl is approximately 72,000.
Players who don't fill their allotment become more popular than ever with teammates who need as many tickets as they can get their hands on.
Niners defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois attended LSU and most of his pals are still in Baton Rouge. But he didn't buy all the tickets available to him.
"I had a lot of requests but I only take care of the immediate family," he said. "I ain't worried about all the friends and everybody else out there. I just stuck with the immediate family. Let's get that over with — and save money, too."
Teammate receiver-punt returner Kyle Williams only wanted friends and relatives at the game if he was playing. He's on injured reserve. His popularity quotient probably spiked because it meant extra tickets for other Niners.
But Williams' decision was rare. Many other players grabbed their 15, then handed them to family members to distribute.
"My mom handled it all," San Francisco All-Pro linebacker Aldon Smith said, echoing many 49ers and Ravens. "People have to understand the ticket thing, so we made it clear: Go through my mom."
Ravens cornerback Corey Graham set some ground rules for his tickets: Only people who came to his games all season.
"You have a lot of people that are going to want to come to the game because it's the Super Bowl," Graham said. "But if you haven't been supporting me throughout the year, going to the regular games when we were playing the Detroit Lions or the Cleveland Browns, then why would I want to bring you out here to come to a great place like New Orleans to see the Super Bowl on the greatest stage in the world?"
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