“I wrote and deleted about three tweets during the game,” the veteran center said Wednesday. “It was probably for the best.”
Come Monday, Wood was still angry – not so much about the Bills' 50-17 humiliation at the hands of the Seahawks but at the folly of giving away one of the team's eight precious home dates to our neighbors up north.
So Wood went on his Monday radio show with Andy Levitre on 97 Rock and spoke the unvarnished truth. He said the Toronto games were a “joke,” and he hoped the series wouldn't be renewed after its dubious five-year run.
“I was heated when I said it was a joke,” said Wood, who expects to play Sunday in Miami. “I'm not going to stand here and retract my statements, because it's what I meant and what I felt.
“I do understand we have a small market,” he added, “and we would have struggled to sell tickets. But it was 55 and sunny on Sunday. We're not going to get better weather than that. It stunk that we were up there.”
Good for Wood. For once, an athlete spoke from his heart and didn't backpedal later. I was afraid management might take him to the Wood-shed and order him to walk back his comments. I half-expected Wood to show wearing a maple leaf on his T-shirt and singing “O, Canada.”
This is what leadership is about. The players generally mouth the company line about the Toronto games being good for business. It's business, after all, that pays their salaries. Wood said he understands that.
But Wood is a fierce competitor on a team that will miss the playoffs for the 13th straight season. It's about time a player stood up against a shameless money-grab that takes away a true home game and compromises the team's competitive advantage once every season.
It is a joke. I've been saying that for years. The Bills contend that it's important for regionalizing the franchise. CEO Russ Brandon reiterated that again on his radio show Wednesday. But it's indefensible. It's a move that makes the Bills look like a desperate, second-rate franchise.
Brandon claimed that management never sits around and wonders how it's going to sell a struggling team and unpopular coach. It's about what's best for the football team. So explain to me how farming out one home game a year is the best thing, competitively, for the football team?
Wood feels they're giving away an edge. It came screaming at him through the TV on Sunday, when the Seahawks were running through the Bills as if they were a bunch of junior varsity players.
Sure, the Bills were brutal. They would have lost that game anywhere. Playing in Toronto is no excuse for marginal effort. That doesn't change the fact that the venue works in the visiting team's favor.
“Last week we were still in the [playoff] hunt,” Wood said. “We've got a team traveling from the West Coast and we make them real comfortable. They get on a plane to play in Toronto, in a dome, without much crowd noise. You provide comfort that shouldn't happen when you travel to Buffalo. You should have a cold, uncomfortable feeling. That's our advantage.
“They had a crucial third down in the first quarter where they ran regular cadence,” he added. “That just doesn't happen in Ralph Wilson. There's been times there were 40,000 people in there [at The Ralph], and they're still not running regular cadence on third down in the first quarter.”
Those are technical disadvantages. It's emotionally challenging to play in Toronto, too. Wood agrees with me that playing in Toronto is actually worse than a road game for the Bills, because you don't get the familiar, elevating surge of a hostile road crowd. It's flat, empty.
“Yeah,” he said. “We played down in Houston and that might have been the loudest atmosphere I've played in as a pro. Either that or the opener at Kansas City last year. Those games, we're feeding off energy. It's a hostile environment, but at least you have some energy.”
Wood said he ran into Brandon in the cafeteria and told him he understood why the Bills needed to play the games. Still, the series hasn't been renewed. If more players had the guts to speak out, maybe they could persuade Wilson to end it.
I'll bet Wood's teammates appreciate what he said. Off the record, they'll rip the Toronto game. Wood has been growing as a leader and spokesman. He's tough, and he backs it up on the field. He'll likely be playing in Miami, three weeks after hurting his knee.
“There's a risk of injury whenever you place yourself on the field,” Wood said. “I wanted to show this organization that even if I'm dinged up, I'm going to fight to come back, no matter what.”
Don't tell Wood it's a meaningless game. He remembers Dolphins safety Yeremiah Bell accusing the Bills of quitting in a 35-8 loss in Miami last year. This is his fourth season. He knows the history and believes the rivalry resonates with fans.
“This is still the old Bills-Dolphins rivalry,” Wood said. “We have a lot of things to play for. I know playoffs are not one of them, but it would be nice to reward the fans who have supported us by beating them twice.”
Jerry Sullivan: Bills' center lays Wood to TO series
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