The Buffalo News - Bills http://www.buffalonews.com Latest stories from The Buffalo News en-us Fri, 11 Jul 2014 06:34:28 -0400 Fri, 11 Jul 2014 06:34:28 -0400 <![CDATA[ Kelly at his best battling cancer ]]> http://www.buffalonews.com/columns/bucky-gleason/kelly-at-his-best-battling-cancer-20140710
“Jim,” he said, “can I pray for you?”

Kelly was floored.

“That brought tears to my eyes,” Kelly said Thursday during a break from his annual football camp at Sweet Home High. “Here’s a guy who only has two weeks to live, and he wants to pray for me.”

It’s for people like Jason that Kelly decided to publicly share his battle against cancer over the past four months. They are people from across the country and around the world, people who passed along their prayers and words of comfort, people who cared more about Jim Kelly the person than Jim Kelly the quarterback.

Some are fans. Some are patients. Some are parents. Some are selfless. Some are helpless. Some are all of the above.

Once there was a time in Kelly’s life in which he was none of the above, when the world seemed to revolve around him and his football career. He was the big kid from the small town who turned down a chance to play linebacker at Penn State and instead wound up playing quarterback for the University of Miami.

He was the one who shunned Buffalo and the NFL for Houston and the USFL before he was paraded through town like a king. He was the name and face of the Bills and led them through their glory days. He was the big man on Buffalo’s small campus, the football god in a football town.

It was all about Jim Kelly back in the day, ironic because now, in his time of need, he’s become about everyone else. He couldn’t stop thanking people who supported him while supporting others who needed him.

“My hat goes off to the people going through it,” he said. “There are people who are a lot worse than I am. I don’t know where I’m going to be. I’ll find out in August. I pray for the other people.”

Kelly was a sight to behold on the first day of the 27th Jim Kelly Football Camp. Cancer may have sapped his energy, but it did not remove the ants from his pants. He was in full command, as usual, while traveling from station to station in his Buffalo Bills golf cart and never spending too much time in one place.

Of course, he made himself official quarterback while playing with groups scattered across various fields. He barked out directions and slapped high fives and encouraged his tiny teammates. He even showed glimpses of greatness that carried him into the Hall of Fame. He owned the joint.

Anyone familiar with cancer patients and the treatment they endure knows they often want one day, or one hour, without worrying about the disease. They talk about things in life that allow them to escape the physical pain and mental stress. Kelly had a chance to feel normal Thursday.

He spent a day teaching and leading kids who were too young to remember his time in the NFL and too oblivious about the workings of cancer to understand his battle. He celebrated touchdown passes to boys who failed to realize they had something in common with Andre Reed.

“It’s nice when you can just run around and be yourself,” Kelly said. “I’m not saying I’m running around, but I’m moving as quickly as I can. If you’ve seen me move in the past, I never really was that quick. In due time, it will all come back. It was fun to just sweat. I haven’t done that in a long time.”

Yes, cancer has taken its toll on Jim Kelly.

His body has never been worse. He lost 51 pounds while undergoing radiation and chemotherapy treatments. He still has a feeding tube in his stomach. Chemo and radiation left him with only a few loose strands of gray hair on an otherwise clean scalp. His muscles have deteriorated.

Kelly said he gets tired after about 10 minutes of exercise. His training regimen these days is going for daily walks and trying to eat solid food. He graduated from scrambled eggs to pasta last week. Next month, he will undergo an MRI to see where he stands in his fight against the disease.

A recent exam in Houston showed no signs of the cancer spreading, a shred of good news for a change.

“You get scared, especially when they tell you it has moved to maxillary part of your brain,” he said. “You just hope it doesn’t move any further. They start talking about radiation-chemo, I think about everybody I know, the people I know with cancer. I never thought about myself.”

And yet cancer also has brought out the best in Jim Kelly. No matter how many games he won, no matter how many touchdown passes he threw, he was respected in Buffalo mostly for his soul. Fans admired what he had inside, characteristics that couldn’t be measured, his stubbornness and competitiveness and drive.

That much has not changed at age 54.

If it were about mental toughness, Kelly would live forever. Cancer doesn’t know that this isn’t his first test. He already lost a son. He survived a plane crash. Real courage, not the kind found on a football field, has been on display for months. There was a sense Thursday he was gaining ground on the disease.

He keeps plowing forward, waking up to the smiles of his wife and daughters, counting his blessings for the support he received from his father and brothers, stacking each day atop another and thanking the people, many of whom he has never met, who have been behind him in the biggest fight of his life.

For all the prayers for J.K., people should know that J.K. is passing along prayers to others. He’s paying it forward and inspiring people around him. That’s what Jason taught him before he passed.

“I never take things for granted,” he said. “I never thought it would happen to me. Anything is possible in this life. I thank the good lord for each and every day. When it’s my time, it’s my time. I feel I have so many more things to accomplish.

“The good lord knows that. You have to keep your faith and keep pushing on and just know that tomorrow is right around the corner. I’m going to live today to the fullest and see what happens. I’m not scared to die.”

email bgleason@buffnews.com ]]>
Thu, 10 Jul 2014 23:48:58 -0400 Bucky Gleason
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<![CDATA[ Cockrell well prepared for NFL’s mental challenge ]]> http://www.buffalonews.com/columns/bucky-gleason/cockrell-well-prepared-for-nfls-mental-challenge-20140619
“It’s a bigger city with a small-town feel,” he said. “Nothing against Charlotte, but Buffalo has a history. Basketball in North Carolina is king. UNC and Duke are the kings of basketball. Here, the Bills are part of Buffalo. They’ve been here for so many years. Just look at the banners.”

Cockrell looks like an ordinary 20-something male when he’s not wearing his helmet and shoulder pads. He’s 6-foot and 190 pounds, a clean-cut and well-spoken cornerback who is trying to earn a spot with the Bills. He could pass for someone headed for corporate America rather than the NFL.

But he knew he was in the right town when someone recognized him in a Buffalo restaurant shortly after he arrived. The person was your average Bills fan who knew his name, position, school, draft selection - if not his date of birth, social security number and license plate.

“That was surprising,” Cockrell said. “It surprised me a lot. You know people are going to know Sammy Watkins, but when someone says, ‘Hey, you’re Ross Cockrell from Duke’ you’re like, ‘Wow, these people really know their Buffalo Bills.’ It wouldn’t happen anywhere else.”

It’s easy to see why the Bills were attracted to Cockrell during his pre-draft visit. Fans will be on board once they get to know him, assuming he produces on the field. He’s intelligent and articulate. He’s perceptive and mature beyond his years, humble and confident, a likeable young man.

Rest assured he’s not going to get busted for possession of synthetic marijuana and street racing. In fact, there’s a better chance Cockrell, assuming he makes a smooth transition into the league, will emerge as a leader on the defense and voice of reason in the locker room.

He was a two-time all-conference selection at Duke, which is hardly for dummies. He’s also one of only 17 players in ACC history named to the conference’s all-academic football team in all four seasons. Three came from his graduating class, so he’s been surrounded by other bright players.

Cockrell graduated with a degree in political science. His primary objective since his childhood has been playing in the NFL, but all along he was wise enough to prepare himself for going to law school. It’s a nice backup plan. He certainly wouldn’t have any problems getting through admissions.

“It was always something I wanted to do, make sure that I was doing well on the field and off the field,” he said. “It was something I focused on growing up, and going to college was a big deal for me. I was proud to go home and say, ‘Not only did I make all-conference, but academic all-conference.”

It’s no surprise when you hear Cockrell talk about his parents. His father is an executive for Bank of America in Charlotte. His mother worked for Hewlett Packard but left a good job to stay at home with Ross and his two younger sisters, both of whom are high school track stars and planning for college.

The more time you learn about Cockrell, the more you’re convinced Bills GM Doug Whaley selected a younger, faster and more talented version of himself. Whaley played defensive back at Pitt, graduated with a business degree and spent a year as a retail stockbroker before returning to football.

You hear rookies every year say how they need to adjust to bigger and faster players in the NFL. It’s true, but intelligent players generally have an easier time adjusting to the complexities of the league. The faster than process information, the sooner they get on the field.

Cockrell hasn’t been overwhelmed on the mental side, not in the least. If anything, he has embraced the technical aspects of covering receivers who are more disciplined in their pass routes. He’ll still need time to adjust, but there was a sense with him that it’s not going to be a dramatic leap.

“During training camp, it’s really going to get cranked up,” he said. “That’s what I’m trying to prepare myself for, just in terms of the precision and everything in the NFL. The routes are deeper and they’re run faster. The receivers don’t round their breaks. They’re really crisp, so you have to be sharp with your steps as well.”

Duke isn’t a traditional football power, but it gave Cockrell an opportunity to play against Watkins and other top receivers. He helped limit Texas A&M wideout Mike Evans, who was Johnny Manziel’s favorite target, to four catches in the Aggies’ epic comeback in the Chick-fil-A Bowl last year.

Cockrell is no slouch, either. He’s a four-year starter and the best player to come out of Duke since Denver took center Lennie Friedman in the second round in 1999. Cockrell will get every opportunity to contribute, especially with former cornerback Aaron Williams taking over for Jairus Byrd at safety.

The Bills didn’t pick him the fourth round because they needed someone for the corporate spelling bee. They were 23rd in total defense and 29th against the pass in terms of yards gained. They’re looking for help and believe he can contribute. He’s looking to take the next step.

“Life has stages,” he said. “This is the next stage after college. You go to college and get ready for a job. I’ve wanted football to be my job, so I got ready for that while I was in college. I was fortunate enough to make it here. I’ve graduated and I’m getting ready for my next job.”

email: bgleason@buffnews.com ]]>
Thu, 19 Jun 2014 00:12:57 -0400 Bucky Gleason
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<![CDATA[ Fort Myers to award Bills’ Sammy Watkins key to the city ]]> http://www.buffalonews.com/sports/bills-nfl/fort-myers-to-award-bills-sammy-watkins-key-to-the-city-20140710
But his NFL journey has just begun. Picked No. 4 by the Buffalo Bills, Watkins will fly out Tuesday to begin training camp.

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RELATED: A News-Press video and photo gallery of Watkins training in Florida.

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Before that, he’ll be honored Friday night along with other past local athletes in the Southwest Florida Sports Banquet n’ Ball at City Pier, formerly Art of the Olympians.

Tickets remain available at $35, $50 and $75.

“You can do great things,” Watkins said. “You can turn great things out of bad things. I grew up in a bad area but I didn’t use that as an excuse. It’s all up to me or another person, what they want to do.”

Fort Myers mayor Randy Henderson, who’ll personally present Watkins with the key to the city, said honoring past local athletes is something that’s overdue.

“I don’t know if we’ve been real great as a city or community at recognizing high talent,” Henderson said. “There’s so much talent in this region. When I reflect back 30 years, to have an opportunity to highlight such outstanding achievement, it’s a missed opportunity if you don’t pause for a moment.”

Fred Stevens, executive director of the James Brunson Youth Development Foundation, Inc., is the event coordinator. He said this event also will raise money for youths who want to attend college while bringing attention to the violence that has been happening in the Fort Myers community, which has led to the deaths of a number of youths.

“What’s most important is to show my community and the city of Fort Myers that despite where I came from, I can be an inspiration to all young women and men,” said Anthony Henry, who is flying from Los Angeles to be at the event. “I feel blessed to come out of those situations.”

email: chandel@news-press.com ]]>
Thu, 10 Jul 2014 18:30:16 -0400 By Craig Handel

News-Press (Fort Myers, fla.)

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<![CDATA[ Where should the Bills build a new stadium? ]]> http://www.buffalonews.com/city-region/development/where-should-the-bills-build-a-new-stadium-20140708
But in this case, some opinions – like those of real estate developers who have built big things themselves, or of preservationists who have fought to save Buffalo’s historic character – might weigh more heavily in the debate than others.

For that reason, The Buffalo News asked several developers, as well as one of the area’s leading preservationists, to offer ideas on where a new stadium ought to go.

Not surprisingly, The News found plenty of ideas and little consensus.

The News inquiry began as speculation about a stadium centered on downtown Buffalo sites in the Cobblestone District, the Old First Ward and the site of the Commodore Perry housing complex.

As Buffalo Sabres owner Terry Pegula ramps up his exploratory efforts to buy the team, interest also revolves around his burgeoning “Pegulaville” complex at the foot of Main Street. Some reports link him and the Jacobs family’s Delaware North Cos. in such a venture.

Other attention surrounds proposals for the former Seneca Mall site and the outer harbor, while more general speculation involves the Central Terminal area. And some influential players continue to include Niagara Falls on the list of possible stadium sites.

As consultants hired by the state study specific sites and proposals – while Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz talk up possibly sticking with the current Bills stadium site in Orchard Park – the big questions include:

• Should a new stadium be located downtown or in the suburbs?

• Should it be part of a mega-project with ancillary attractions such as a convention center or shopping complex?

• Why build a new stadium at all when $130 million in renovations are underway at the Bills’ current home?

Judging from what The News found, there are even more possible answers to those questions than there are possible stadium sites. Here’s what the people interviewed had to say:

Larry Quinn

The former Buffalo Sabres president is just about the only developer in town who’s been on the front lines for the construction of a big new sports facility.

Quinn ran the Sabres in the 1990s as work was completed on what’s now known as First Niagara Center. And based on his experiences, he wonders if the Bills stadium debate might be a little bit premature.

“You have to have a business plan first,” Quinn noted.

And the Bills won’t have a new business plan until they have a new owner. The team is for sale following the death of its founder, Ralph C. Wilson Jr., and Quinn said the decision on a new stadium depends a great deal on who buys the team and how that person decides to make the most out of what’s likely to be something close to a $1 billion investment.

That decision will likely follow an in-depth study that will aim to answer several questions, Quinn said. The study will examine the team’s fan base and where its future fans are likely to come from. Similarly, it will examine the market for the luxury boxes that are a key part of the money-making model for every pro sports franchise. And it will take a look at how to maximize concession revenue while considering the team’s tailgating culture.

“You have to think: What is this business trying to accomplish?” Quinn said. “And your building should confirm to that.”

That’s just what happened with the Sabres’ new home. After completing its mid-1990s business plan, the team pushed for substantial changes in the plans for their new arena.

That being said, Quinn has a favorite general location for any new facility.

“Downtown makes a lot of sense for a lot of reasons,” he said, noting the growth that’s already gone on there and the availability of a decent amount of existing parking.

Howard A. Zemsky

The developer of the successful Larkinville project and other endeavors represents several perspectives: private businessman, Cuomo confidante, chairman of the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, and co-chairman of the governor’s regional economic development organization.

Zemsky seems to reflect Cuomo’s growing caution about a new facility, but he’s also talking up a location that would be sure to infuriate that above-mentioned developer: Niagara Falls.

An upgraded Ralph Wilson Stadium, Zemsky said, “works well for Western New Yorkers, for the Bills and for the NFL.”

“If we don’t need to change that formula, let’s not,” he said.

Still, Zemsky said Cuomo is preparing for any eventuality, including a new stadium. The NFTA has met with site-selection consultants to understand how public transit might fit into any project, he said, and believes a downtown site in either Buffalo or Niagara Falls – especially Niagara Falls – would best fit economic development needs.

“I think of a stadium as a 50-year investment; we should keep in mind that just the projected growth of Ontario during the next 25 years alone is about 4 million people,” he said. “Given that we are a relatively small NFL market, that we are next to a large and rapidly growing metropolis like Toronto, that our binational location is one of our key strategic differentiators and that Niagara Falls is an internationally recognized icon – it’s certainly worthy of a close look as a possible new stadium site.”

Carl P. Paladino

Downtown’s biggest landlord knows Buffalo real estate as well as anyone.

He discounts Niagara Falls because of a host of transportation problems.

“I don’t see people sitting ad nauseam on those Grand Island bridges,” he said, also rejecting Batavia’s potential as a mid-way point between Buffalo and Rochester.

“You just add another hour to people coming from Canada,” he said, referring to the vast Southern Ontario market experts say looms as crucial to the team’s attendance goals.

“The only logical place is downtown Buffalo,” he said, mentioning the Shoreline Apartments along lower Niagara Street and the Commodore Perry projects between South Park Avenue and the Niagara Thruway.

Paladino said downtown already boasts 15,000 parking places about as close to potential stadium sites as are current lots in Orchard Park.

“It would be ideal for downtown, right where all the hotels and restaurants are,” he said.

Paladino said his site-selection experience as a Rite Aid drugstore developer around New York State tells him existing businesses will benefit from a downtown location. He also acknowledged that he owns property near the Perry Projects area but added he did not buy those properties 25 years ago with an adjacent football stadium in mind.

Rocco R. Termini

The developer of Hotel @ the Lafayette and other projects questions the need for a new stadium. He said Cuomo’s recent yellow flags about a new facility rightfully slow down increasing speculation, even if it remains a possibility.

“I know where I wouldn’t put it, and that’s on the waterfront,” Termini said. “I don’t want to use that as a parking lot and a stadium for 10 days a year. Public land should be used by the public.”

He doubts a downtown stadium will provide any economic stimulus for existing and new businesses.

“Look at the stadium in Orchard Park and the First Niagara Center,” he said. “What economic activity is spurred there?”

Still, Termini reflects continuing speculation when he looks to the Perry Projects and Cobblestone District specifically and the Old First Ward generally.

“There’s a lot of real estate there that’s not very valuable,” he said.

If a new stadium is to happen, Termini said, he agrees a comprehensive project must lead the plan.

“If it’s a megaproject ... then it makes sense,” he said. “But if it’s just a stadium, show me where it’s worked and prove me wrong.”

Scott R. Congel

The Syracuse native has proposed spending hundreds of millions of dollars for an extreme makeover of the vacant Seneca Mall property. Congel has acknowledged preliminary discussions with former Buffalo Sabres owner B. Thomas Golisano about a potential partnership to purchase the Bills that could feature a separate domed stadium adjacent to the “Seneca Place” site.

Congel, whose family’s Pyramid Cos. built Destiny USA in Syracuse and Walden Galleria in Cheektowaga, has insisted all along that he is thinking big because the NFL is doing the same.

Congel is also no longer speaking publicly about his ideas, but a source familiar with the project said Congel realizes that he stands a better chance with NFL owners if he can convince them his multi-use stadium proposal will earn more money.

That means a proposal for a domed stadium to accompany the Seneca Place concept of offices, hotels, theaters, concert venues and sports facilities. Instead of a stadium with eight or 10 games a year, the source said, Congel proposes a facility used 200 times a year and all its resulting revenue.

“And it brings economic development into the community for whatever public investment is being made,” the source said.

George F. Hasiotis

His group proposes a stadium and entertainment attraction on the city’s outer harbor.

While some city lawmakers like the idea, and Hasiotis has lined up major names in the stadium business, the idea has failed to gain traction.

That’s because influential public officials such as Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, oppose using lakefront property for a stadium. They point out that the outer harbor is being transferred from the NFTA to New York State for park use. In addition, access could be a problem for a stadium at the site.

But Hasiotis is emphasizing the importance of the NFL business model. The Amherst businessman insists that the league seeks much more than a simple and cheap stadium that hosts 10 football games per year.

He points to new complexes in Dallas and Indianapolis as well as plans for Minneapolis as models for Buffalo because of ancillary businesses and attractions. He says their purpose is simple: make more money. He said the community must think big – as in hosting a Super Bowl someday.

“The first test of your due diligence is: What is the NFL going to say?” he said. “In our case, we’ll have multiple anchors, and the NFL will be just a small piece of the revenue for the facility owners. There has to be a comprehensive vision with an economic underpinning because it can’t be just football.”

Paul Ciminelli

The president and CEO of Ciminelli Real Estate Corp., long one of the region’s leading developers, has a comprehensive vision for a new stadium at a site where it could make a big difference: Central Terminal.

He sees an outdoor football stadium as a centerpiece to the redevelopment of the region’s landmark shell of a train station, where trains could shuttle in Bills fans from as far away as Toronto and Syracuse.

“If it could be part of an overall master plan, it’s got an opportunity to redevelop an entire neighborhood,” Ciminelli said.

Such a facility would probably have to be open-air, said Ciminelli, who – like several other sources interviewed for this story – said the cost of a domed facility would probably be prohibitive.

Still, an open-air stadium could be part of a multi-use project aimed not only at reviving Central Terminal, but also the blocks surrounding it, he said.

Ciminelli is cool to some of the other possible stadium sites. He dismisses the idea of a waterfront stadium.

“It’s not the highest and best use of the land,” he said.

And he said a Niagara Falls stadium would suffer from the traffic “chokepoints” that are the Grand Island bridges.

And if a major project at Central Terminal proves to be unfeasible, Ciminelli suggests keeping the Bills right where they are.

“When people go and see the next iteration of upgrades at Ralph Wilson Stadium, they’re going to say: ‘This is pretty neat,’ ” he said. “It will have fan-friendly and business-friendly amenities.”

Anonymous

A developer who wished to remain nameless because of company policy suggested that the heart of the city is the only place where a new stadium truly makes sense.

Defining downtown broadly – as the territory north and south of the I-190 east of city’s high-rises – that developer said the area offers two distinct advantages.

“It’s easy to get to,” given the proximity of the I-190 and the Kensington Expressway, the developer said.

A downtown site would be nearly a half-hour closer than “The Ralph” would be for fans in the Southern Ontario and Rochester markets, which are likely to figure significantly in any new owner’s plans to broaden the Bills’ appeal.

What’s more, a downtown football stadium might broaden Buffalo’s appeal as well, the developer said.

The television shots from a blimp flying above a new stadium in Buffalo would show the city’s skyline and Lake Erie, and roving cameras during national television broadcasts might show all the bustling new attractions at the south end of the city’s downtown.

“You can’t buy advertising like that,” said the developer, who also noted: “Now they always show Niagara Falls – and it always makes me mad.”

Tim Tielman

The preservation and urban development expert has superimposed the current stadium campus in Orchard Park on various city locations, which has led him to question if any urban site can host such a facility.

He also wonders if a single-use stadium represents the wisest use of city land.

“A football stadium is a mammoth building that, on purpose, becomes a dead zone for 355 days a year,” he said, adding he has never seen any proof of stadiums as economic engines.

“Nothing can accommodate a football stadium without closing a lot of streets and losing a lot of buildings,” he said. “And it’s always the most powerless people who end up being affected.”

The first rule of such a facility should be “do no harm,” Tielman said, wondering why it should not remain in Orchard Park.

“I can’t think of a better place,” he said, “where it would not hurt anyone.”

...

The Bills’ new home

Six stadium sites, myriad options

1. Downtown Buffalo: Several developers said a downtown location – such as the Cobblestone District, the Old First Ward and the Commodore Perry housing complex – would offer easy access and plenty of existing parking, along with the opportunity to build on what’s happening nearby. But preservationist Tim Tielman wonders if any city site would be large enough to accommodate a stadium.

2. Buffalo’s outer harbor: Developer George F. Hasiotis is proposing a stadium and entertainment complex for this prime piece of waterfront land, saying such a signature project is exactly what the NFL is looking for in its new facilities. But Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, and several developers have said that a stadium would not be the best use for waterfront land – which, they said, should maximize public access.

3. Central Terminal: Developer Paul Ciminelli envisions a stadium plan that involves the renovation of the city’s long-dormant landmark train station, whereby trains would shuttle Bills fans into town from as far away as Toronto and Syracuse. Ciminelli said such a mixed-use project would revive a part of the city that’s in need of an uplift, but other developers say the inner-city location is too far away from Buffalo’s highways.

4. West Seneca: Syracuse developer Scott R. Congel has had discussions with former Buffalo Sabres owner B. Thomas Golisano about buying the Bills and then building a multi-use domed stadium and mixed-use complex of hotels, offices and other developments on the former Seneca Mall site. Supporters of the plan say it would be an economic catalyst that would appeal to the NFL, but critics note that the Southtowns location is a bit out of the way.

5. Niagara Falls: Manhattan developer Howard Milstein has raised the possibility of the Bills’ new stadium being located on the vast tract of land he owns there, and Buffalo developer Howard A. Zemsky – a confidant of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo – said a Falls location would help appeal to the growing Southern Ontario market. But others, including Buffalo developer Carl P. Paladino, said the Grand Island bridges could pose an access problem.

6. Orchard Park: The much-renovated Ralph Wilson Stadium could get retrofitted yet again, and that’s a cost-effective alternative that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz have mentioned. But a new Ralph would suffer from the same big problem as the old Ralph: a Southtowns location that adds about 30 minutes – and sometimes more – to the trip for Bills fans from Buffalo, the Northtowns, Rochester and Toronto.

email: rmccarthy@buffnews.com and jzremski@buffnews.com ]]>
Wed, 9 Jul 2014 07:41:23 -0400 Jerry Zremski
Robert J. McCarthy
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<![CDATA[ Frank Reich stays in contact with Jim Kelly ]]> http://www.buffalonews.com/sports/bills-nfl/erin-kellys-fan-journal-traditions-disappear-if-bills-leave-20140705
Week 7, Day 5: “12, Friday bro, man I remember all those Friday lunches we had during the season - good stuff. And yes, we always have to mention how they sent the table and chairs we always sat at to Super Bowl 26 for Friday lunch, still can’t believe they did, but even more still can’t believe it didn’t put us over the edge to win ha ha.”

“One of the things I remember about those Friday lunches is how at the start of every lunch you would always ask me about, ‘The girls.’ You knew as a young new parent I was excited about our little baby girls, and you always knew I had some story I had to tell you. The fact that you would ask and patiently listen further accentuates your great upbringing and the closeness of your own family to the point that you fully understood how important it was to me, even though you had yet to become a parent. You are a good man Jim Kelly!!! . . . Love ya bro! . . .. 14”

During the long, seven-week stretch of my dad’s cancer treatments, he received a text from his former backup QB, Frank Reich, every day. This started out as a simple note of encouragement to my dad. However, these messages ended up impacting our entire family. Every text was applicable and incredibly moving, but this one seemed to impact me on an entirely different level. Not only was I encouraged, I was motivated. Motivated to hold on tightly to traditions, to appreciate the value they hold and recognize what a gift they are.

Yet at the same time I wonder: What would happen if tradition was lost? What would happen if you could no longer enjoy something that has been incredibly meaningful for the last 50 years? What if you were no longer able to participate in something that has created more memories than you can count?

What would happen if the Bills left Buffalo?

One thing I know is this ... if the Bills did leave Buffalo, this city, and thousands of Buffalonians and die-hard fans, would be stripped of treasured tradition. The Kelly clan has its own set of traditions when it comes to Sunday football at “The Ralph.”

From the time my dad played, the Kellys rallied on game day. He comes from a family of five brothers and lots of extended family and friends that we would consider “family.” So I’m sure you can imagine what football Sunday was like. They were ready to tailgate, party, and, win the night before the game. It all started with Aunt Tony’s legendary spaghetti sauce. Everyone knew the protocol on game day. Uncle Danny’s infamous chili and Uncle Ray’s continuous entertainment were Sunday favorites. Add to that hot chocolate for the kids, and a special recipe of the same for the adults. Everyone knew exactly where to park, exactly what food to bring, the time, the place, everything - because they had done it before. Season after season. Year after year.

After tailgating in the same place every weekend (which is where we still tailgate), friends and family all piled into the stadium ready to watch Jim, Thurman, Bruce and Andre lead their team to victory. Of course we can’t forget the notorious parties held at my dad’s house after every game! Can’t say I ever experienced one, but I’ve heard the stories and I imagine the real thing was even better.

These were traditions that remained from the first pass my dad threw in the NFL, until the day he hung up his cleats. To this day, I can’t imagine tailgating anywhere else or sitting anywhere other than where our family sat when daddy played. It’s tradition. And it matters. For the die-hard Bills fans, Ralph Wilson Stadium is our second home. The place where deeply-held and long-lasting memories are made among family, friends and fans. This is our team, our home, our tradition. If they take our team, they’ll take our traditions.

If you’d like to share your game-day traditions, you can email me at kellyfanjournal@gmail.com

Erin Kelly’s

Fan Journal:

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Sat, 5 Jul 2014 23:54:14 -0400
<![CDATA[ Kelly’s colleagues awed by his spirit, strength ]]> http://www.buffalonews.com/sports/bills-nfl/kellys-colleagues-awed-by-his-spirit-strength-20140703
He is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

He is one of only six quarterbacks to play in at least four Super Bowls.

He was part of the fabled 1983 draft class.

He was atop the deepest quarterback depth chart in college football history.

The impression Kelly has been making on his colleagues over the past few months, however, puts the Buffalo Bills giant in an even more extraordinary category for them.

“Sports allow you to live your dream,” said 1983 draft classmate Ken O’Brien of the New York Jets, “but more important is the legacy you leave by affecting people along the way as a husband and a father and a friend and a teammate.

“That’s much more impressive to me. I don’t think about football as much as the relationships. That’s what sets him apart.”

Kelly’s journey has inspired those who knew him first as a relentless competitor.

Some former opponents, coaches and teammates told The Buffalo News that whatever Kelly did to marvel them on the field back then has been trumped by how he has carried himself through the death of his son and recurring cancer.

“His greatness has been in the last 10, 15 years, way more than the 15 years before that,” fellow USFL alum and Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young said by phone from California. “Life throws things at you, and I’ve learned a lot from Jim about dignity.

“Just watching how he’s handled the last 10 years teaches you that fame and fortune don’t insulate you from problems in life and don’t keep you from dealing with things in a really spiritually sophisticated way.

“He definitely has shown me a courage and faith that are really powerful. I’m grateful to him.”

University of Georgia coach Mark Richt has known Kelly for over three decades. Richt was among an amazing University of Miami quarterback group that included first-round picks Vinny Testaverde and Bernie Kosar.

There were wild times on campus, sure. Kelly played with a certain arrogance about him and for many years wasn’t afraid to enjoy the spoils that fame and wealth brought him.

“We were all naive,” Richt said with a laugh from his office in Athens, Ga. “We grew up together and made our share of mistakes together.

“That’s the beauty of what Christ did for us. He frees us of all sin if we believe in him and we repent and have faith. Jim did that. His slate is clean.”

Howard Schnellenberger was Kelly’s and Richt’s coach at Miami. He visited Kelly last month at Erie County Medical Center with another member of the 1983 draft class, Miami Dolphins icon Dan Marino.

“We’re trying to energize him, and he’s motivating us,” Schnellenberger said of their visit. “There are only a few people that are either blessed or cursed with a natural, glorious presence. They want to give to everybody. They want to help everybody.

“Like, in the hospital. They tell me that when his visitors leave he’ll inevitably get out of bed and ask the nurses who the sickest people are in the ward. He goes and peps them up.

“His God has given him that need. He needs to do that.”

Richt’s remarks about Kelly were religious and deeply philosophical, emphasizing how much Richt has thought about his old teammate since the cancer re-emerged.

Kelly, 54, was diagnosed with jaw cancer 13 months ago. The cancer returned and spread aggressively. He underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatments this spring.

“I’m concerned about him and the pain that he’s going through,” Richt said. “I hate that for him and his family. But he’s got a tremendous family, and that’s really all a man can hope for his life sometimes.

“The reality is we’re all terminal. A lot of people wonder, ‘What’s next?’ I know Jim believes in everlasting life. There will come a time when him and all of us believers will not be in our bodies anymore and there will be no more tears and no more pain, and it’ll be a glorious time.

“No matter when it’s going to happen, all of us are going to have that day. There’s some peace in the end. Whenever it is for him, it’s going to be a good thing.”

Such solemnity is where Kelly’s admirers find solace while they wait to learn more about his condition and whether treatments curtailed the cancer’s growth.

When Kelly’s wife or daughters show pictures and videos, he’s pale and bald and obviously has lost weight. He looked frail at a recent Bills practice.

But he smiled, chatted with a few old friends and delivered a moving speech to the players.

“He’s going through it,” Young said. “Life’s never easy for anybody, but Jim handles it. In the challenges he’s faced, he’s undaunted.”

email tgraham@buffnews.com ]]>
Thu, 3 Jul 2014 23:36:47 -0400 Tim Graham
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<![CDATA[ Bills see rookie filling Alonso’s shoes ]]> http://www.buffalonews.com/sports/bills-nfl/bills-see-rookie-filling-alonsos-shoes-20140703
Bills General Manager Doug Whaley released a statement Wednesday that confirms Alonso’s knee injury likely will sideline him all year.

“Unfortunately, he suffered a torn ACL in his left knee and will most likely miss the 2014 season,” Whaley said. “He will be scheduled for surgery in the near future and begin a rehabilitation program at the appropriate time.

“We feel badly for Kiko because he has worked very hard this offseason in preparation for the upcoming season, but we look forward to his return with his style of play that made him one of the league’s outstanding rookies in 2013.”

So who is the next man up at weak-side linebacker?

The obvious candidates for fans to consider are newcomer Keith Rivers and Nigel Bradham, the third-year pro who started two of the last four games at that spot.

Rivers and Bradham, though, are not who the Bills think can help the most. Sources say they are looking at rookie Preston Brown.

The third-round draft pick from Louisville was outstanding at the team’s voluntary workouts and minicamp. Coaches raved behind the scenes about how well Brown practiced. The front office was thrilled with how he looked and Tuesday night became even more relieved they drafted him after word came about Alonso’s injury.

Brown is versatile. He was a tackling machine at Louisville and is a hefty 260 pounds. But he’s slick enough that the Bills used him as a first-unit nickel linebacker in spring practices.

Rivers is a veteran option. He was the ninth overall pick in the 2008 draft, but injuries have limited his career. In two seasons with the New York Giants, he started 15 games and recorded one sack with no interceptions, no forced fumbles and two recoveries.

Bradham’s importance increases, too. But he couldn’t unseat Arthur Moats from the starting lineup until Week 14.

Moats, a fan favorite for his personality and charitable works, was pedestrian on the field last season. The Bills let Moats leave in free agency.

Bradham made 38 tackles on defense with no sacks, interceptions, forced fumbles or recoveries. He finished second with 13 special-teams tackles.

email tgraham@buffnews.com ]]>
Thu, 3 Jul 2014 00:14:33 -0400 Tim Graham
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<![CDATA[ Bills’ Alonso tears ACL; team expects him to miss season ]]> http://www.buffalonews.com/home/bills-alonso-tears-acl-team-expects-him-to-miss-season-20140701
The linebacker, whose rousing rookie performances inspired the Legend of Kiko movement among Buffalo Bills fans last year, is hurt.

The Buffalo Bills confirmed this afternoon that Alonso tore an anterior-cruciate ligament in his left knee while training on his own.

Bills General Manager Doug Whaley released a statement that Alonso will be scheduled for surgery and will begin rehabilitation in the near future. “He worked very hard in preparation for the upcoming season,” Whaley said. “We look forward to his return with his style of play that made him one of the NFL’s outstanding rookies in 2013”

Alonso underwent hip surgery this offseason, but the Bills expected him to be fully ready for training camp later this month at St. John Fisher College.

Alonso was a Defensive Rookie of the Year runner-up last season and was named Defensive Rookie of the Month for September. He played middle linebacker, but the Bills thought he would be even more productive by moving him to weak-side linebacker this year.

Alonso finished third in the NFL with 159 tackles, including a league-high 72 assists. He recorded 10 tackles for losses, two sacks, four interceptions, five pass breakups, and a forced fumble.

Players voted Alonso 84th on the NFL Network’s “The Top 100 Players of 2014” series. Analytics site ProFootballFocus.com rated Alonso the NFL’s 10th-best inside linebacker last season.

email tgraham@buffnews.com ]]>
Wed, 2 Jul 2014 12:35:09 -0400 Tim Graham
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<![CDATA[ Cuomo to be ‘personally involved’ in keeping Bills here ]]> http://www.buffalonews.com/sports/bills-nfl/cuomo-to-be-personally-involved-in-keeping-bills-here-20140701
The governor made that promise Tuesday during a ceremony at Roswell Park Cancer Institute, addressing last week’s resignation of top aide Howard Glaser and Lt. Gov. Robert J. Duffy’s scheduled exit from government in December.

“This is a very big deal for us, so I’m going to be personally involved in it,” Cuomo said of keeping the Bills in the Buffalo area.

He promised that Duffy will continue to represent him in discussions about a potential new stadium until leaving office Dec. 31.

The governor also hinted that his running mate, former Rep. Kathleen C. Hochul, would assume a role in the effort if they are both elected to a four-year term in November.

“Hopefully, we’ll have a new lieutenant governor, and that will be the transition,” he added. “I know there is a lot of anxiety, and a lot of expectation, but the process just has to play out.”

Cuomo said the next step in the process of ownership transition following the death of Ralph C. Wilson Jr. on March 25 is determining which prospective owners submit bids, the details of their bids, and whether the Wilson family and the National Football League want to “do business” with them.

He reiterated remarks he made in Buffalo last week regarding the possibility of a new stadium, when he said he remained unconvinced about the need.

“I said let’s not get ahead of ourselves,” Cuomo said. “If everyone agreed that the only way the Bills could stay was a new stadium, then we should talk about a new stadium. I don’t know that that’s the case.”

He pointed to the millions of dollars of public money dedicated to current renovations at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

“So, let’s see how it goes,” he said.

The governor also spoke of his optimism for the Riverbend industrial complex planned for the site of the former Republic Steel plant, which is now pegged for an even more substantial manufacturing facility following the recent announcement of new interest by the solar energy industry.

That prompted Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, to tell The Buffalo News his vision for that site to house both solar manufacturing facilities and a new Bills stadium probably no longer works.

“The footprint will be much larger and more of the site will be obviously needed,” he said of the company’s needs.

Higgins had previously suggested the site as a potential Bills stadium because of its access to major transportation modes like the Niagara Thruway and rail.

email: rmccarthy@buffnews.com ]]>
Wed, 2 Jul 2014 07:31:34 -0400 Robert J. McCarthy
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<![CDATA[ Dareus declines plea in Hamburg incident ]]> http://www.buffalonews.com/city-region/courts/dareus-declines-plea-in-hamburg-incident-20140701
But this was not football Sunday in front of tens of thousands of fans in a big stadium.

Instead, Dareus on Tuesday found himself in a far different defensive formation: huddling with his lawyer and then standing in front of a town justice in a small Town of Hamburg courtroom, where the Buffalo Bills defensive lineman declined a plea deal in a case stemming from an alleged street race May 30.

Dareus turned down an offer to plead guilty to reckless driving to settle all of the charges he faces in Hamburg, his lawyer said.

The 24-year-old Dareus had passed a throng of reporters as he made his way into Hamburg Town Hall, and then he sat alone in the second row of the gallery, not far from those in handcuffs awaiting their own hearings.

The Pro Bowl defensive tackle, dressed in a gray suit and light pink shirt, appeared calm. He occasionally glanced down at his cellphone to bide time until his case was called.

When that time came, Dareus stepped forward with his attorney, Michael P. Caffery, and stood before Town Justice Gerald P. Gorman. Assistant District Attorney Bethany A. Solek joined them.

The four whispered for a few minutes, and heads nodded, but only a two words were loud enough and clear enough for everyone else to hear: “September” and “ninth.” That’s when Dareus is scheduled to return to Town Court for further proceedings and motions.

After Dareus’ Jaguar crashed into a tree May 30, authorities charged him with reckless endangerment, reckless driving, participating in an illegal speed contest, leaving the scene of a property-damage accident, failure to keep right, speeding and making an unsafe lane change.

“If we’re unable to work out a resolution on Sept. 9, the case would then be scheduled for a non-jury trial,” Caffery told The Buffalo News.

After the judge set the return date, Dareus left in a black Mercedes-Benz sedan, with Caffery behind the wheel.

Dareus declined to comment.

His next court date falls between the first and second weeks of the National Football League regular season – two days after the Bills’ season opener in Chicago and five days before their home opener against Miami.

It has been an offseason of legal trouble for the fourth-year pro, a 6-foot-3, 331-pounder coming off a year in which he posted 71 tackles and 7½ sacks and earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl.

Following a voluntary spring practice on a Friday afternoon, Dareus and teammate Jerry Hughes were allegedly involved in a high-speed street race near one of the Southtowns’ busiest intersections.

Dareus lost control of his white 2012 Jaguar, and the car crossed over two lanes of oncoming eastbound traffic on Milestrip Road near McKinley Parkway, according to Hamburg police.

The Jaguar jumped a curb and passed through some grass and the parking lot of the Mongolian Buffet restaurant before crashing into a tree about 10 yards from the restaurant’s front entrance.

Dareus, who was uninjured, exited the crumpled vehicle and fled, police said. He was arrested within 15 minutes.

If convicted on reckless endangerment – a misdemeanor and the most serious charge – he could face up to a year in jail.

Hughes, who was not charged, reportedly drove away from the scene in a black Camaro.

Dareus also faces felony charges from a separate incident that could result in a suspension by the NFL.

On May 5, Dareus was arrested following a traffic stop in his native Alabama. He was charged with possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia. He allegedly had synthetic marijuana.

Drafted third overall out of Alabama in 2011, Dareus also had team disciplinary issues last season. Bills head coach Doug Marrone benched him for the beginning of the Bills’ final two games for showing up late to team meetings.

email: scampbell@buffnews.com ]]>
Wed, 2 Jul 2014 06:21:11 -0400 Shawn Campbell
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<![CDATA[ Bills’ Alonso injured ]]> http://www.buffalonews.com/sports/bills-nfl/bills-alonso-injured-20140701
Linebacker Kiko Alonso suffered a knee injury during his preseason preparations.

“We have learned tonight that Kiko Alonso injured his knee while working out in Oregon,” said Bills general manager Doug Whaley in a statement Tuesday night. “We do not have the details at this point, but early indications are that it may be significant.”

Alonso was one of the top rookies in the league last season. He was taken in the second round of the NFL Draft by the Bills. ]]>
Tue, 1 Jul 2014 21:54:02 -0400
<![CDATA[ Dareus to return to court Sept. 9 ]]> http://www.buffalonews.com/sports/bills-nfl/dareus-to-return-to-court-sept-9-20140701
A court clerk had told the media this morning that the case was headed for a non-jury trial Sept. 9, but Dareus’ attorney later said that was not true.

“If we’re unable to work out a resolution on Sept. 9, the case would then be scheduled for a non-jury trial,” Michael P. Caffery told The Buffalo News.

Dareus declined a plea deal this morning for a reckless driving charge.

His return date to court falls between Week 1 and 2 of the NFL regular season – two days after the Bills’ opener at Chicago.

The 24-year-old Dareus, dressed in a gray suit, appeared calm during his court hearing this morning. He sat in the second row of the gallery and looked at his cellphone while waiting for his case to be called before Hamburg Town Justice Gerald P. Gorman.

After the date was set, Dareus left in a black Mercedes-Benz sedan, with Caffery driving.

On May 30, following a voluntary off-season practice, Dareus and teammate Jerry Hughes were allegedly involved in a high-speed street race in the middle of the afternoon near one of the Southtowns’ busiest intersections.

According to Hamburg police, Dareus lost control of his white 2012 Jaguar and the car crossed over two lanes of oncoming eastbound traffic on Milestrip Road near McKinley Parkway. The Jaguar ran over a curb and passed through some grass and the parking lot of the Mongolian Buffet restaurant before crashing into a tree. Dareus, who was uninjured, exited the crumpled vehicle and fled, police said. He was arrested less than 15 minutes later.

Dareus was charged with second-degree reckless endangerment, reckless driving and participating in an illegal speed contest. He was also charged with several vehicle and traffic violations – leaving the scene of a property-damage accident, failure to keep right, speeding and making an unsafe lane change.

If convicted of reckless endangerment, a misdemeanor, he could face up to a year in jail.

The alleged street race wasn’t Dareus’ only legal trouble of the offseason.

The fourth-year pro is also facing felony charges that could result in a suspension by the NFL. On May 5, Dareus was arrested in his native Alabama following a traffic stop on Interstate 20. He was charged with possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Drafted third overall in 2011, Dareus is coming off a career year in which he posted 71 tackles and 7-½ sacks and earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl. He was benched for the beginning of the Bills’ final two games of the season for showing up late to team meetings.

email: scampbell@buffnews.com ]]>
Tue, 1 Jul 2014 15:36:01 -0400 Shawn Campbell
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<![CDATA[ Erin Kelly’s Fan Journal: What it means to be a Bills fan ]]> http://www.buffalonews.com/sports/bills-nfl/erin-kellys-fan-journal-what-it-means-to-be-a-bills-fan-20140628
A slight chill went up my back as I trembled beneath the cool mid-October breeze. Reluctantly, I zipped my coat over my Buffalo Bills jersey – covering the No. 12 I wore so proudly. It was Sunday morning and the Bills were facing a marquee rivalry against the Miami Dolphins.

Of course we already had staked out our usual tailgating turf outside Ralph Wilson Stadium. We were (and still are) territorial about tailgating. It was (and is) a distinctive rite of passage for all of us who carry the Kelly name.

It was a perfect football Sunday, tailgating at its best: family, friends, brew for the adults, grilled dogs, and grilled Dolphins. But the highlight at this particular game was my high school boyfriend; this was the first time I had brought him to a game. And in the Kelly family, coming to a Bills game was (and is) a big deal.

From the moment we stepped out of the car I never stopped introducing him. And it didn’t take long before No. 34, Thurman Thomas, and No. 83, Andre Reed, were running their favorite patterns to check out who the quarterback’s daughter was dating. They’ve always been very protective of me, so when it comes to boys, you can imagine how tough they are.

I will never forget when Andre firmly shook my boyfriend’s hand, looked him in the eye and said, “Nice to meet you. You better take care of her – otherwise, I’m coming after you!” Though we all laughed it off in that moment, it was clear that Andre meant what he said and would do anything to protect me.

But isn’t that the typical response? You read the play and react. If there’s a blitz, you pick it up. If there’s a fumble you dive on the ball; should there be an interception, you tackle the guy. And when it comes to the people and things you love and treasure, you move to protect them if you sense a potential threat. You do something about it.

These are things that come to mind when I ponder what it means to be a Bills fan. We don’t need a playbook to fight for our team or protect and defend who we are. When someone comes along to snicker at the idea of four straight Super Bowl losses, the claws come out as we “sharply point out” what they just said: FOUR STRAIGHT SUPER BOWLS.

As Bills fans, we not only take pride in our past, and glory in the Glory Days, we move the ball forward with a relentless hope for the future. Being a Bills fan means we bleed red, white, and blue, sing the “Shout!” song until our voices run dry, and tailgate until they make us leave.

It means that we proudly wear jerseys of our favorite players past and present (I’m just a bit partial to No. 12). We paint our faces and cheer through games in weather so frigid we stick to the seats. Our teeth chatter as we cheer, knowing that even the hottest chicken wings wouldn’t warm us up but we’re still counting on our team to make the play that wins the game.

Being a Bills fan is more than that, however. When the win seems completely out of reach, when the opponents tease us that we haven’t been to the playoffs in 14 years, when they mock our draft picks and don’t believe in our organization, when it’s third and long and nothing seems to be working – the true Bills fan will always protect and defend, no matter what.

Because the measure of a man in a Bills uniform is found beyond the scoreboard regardless of how bad we want the win or how hard we tried to get it. And a true fan will stand for his team, because of what his team stands for – no matter what the cost. And that impenetrable loyalty is what separates fans from a Buffalo Bills fan.

To share your views on what it means to be a Bills fan, email kellyfanjournal@gmail.com.

Erin Kelly’s Fan Journal:

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Sat, 28 Jun 2014 23:19:01 -0400
<![CDATA[ Cuomo expresses doubts about need for new Bills stadium ]]> http://www.buffalonews.com/sports/bills-nfl/cuomo-expresses-doubts-about-need-for-new-bills-stadium-20140624
Speaking to reporters at SUNY Buffalo State following the ceremonial signing of a new bill to fight heroin abuse, the governor issued his strongest warning yet against overoptimistic expectations of state financing for any prospective stadium.

“The state would do its part; the county would do its part, but only if you really need a new stadium, which, frankly, I am not convinced of,” he said. “It would be more a function of what the new buyer and the NFL say is the condition to keep it here. We have to see how it develops down the road.”

Cuomo has tempered his views on financing a new stadium in recent weeks, especially as $90 million of public money fuels $130 million worth of new improvements to Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, the current home of the Bills. When National Football League Commissioner Roger E. Goodell strongly suggested in May that the Bills would need a new stadium, the governor said: “We will do what we have to do to keep the Bills in Western New York.”

“If a new stadium is what’s needed and is possible, it will get done,” Cuomo said then.

Then earlier this month while in Buffalo, he sounded a more cautious tone, noting the state would “be very clear about the terms and conditions” before asking taxpayers to help fund a new stadium.

“If it’s a modification of the existing stadium, great, because we’re already going down that road. If they say, ‘We won’t stay unless there’s a new stadium,’ then we’re going to have to probe that discussion,” Cuomo said then. “Then it’s about the money … and who’s going to pay.”

Tuesday, he asked even more questions, calling stadiums “expensive creatures” and noting the current expenditures of state and county money in Orchard Park.

“No one is anxious to build a stadium if we don’t have to build a stadium. … No one is anxious to pay for a stadium,” Cuomo said.

Even if all sides – public and private interests – contribute money, he said, “it is still expensive.” Nevertheless, he pointed to the state’s participation in a New Stadium Working Group exploring the concept of a new facility, as well as possible sites, and did not dismiss the idea of state participation under the right conditions.

Meanwhile, the governor essentially denied the substance of Trump’s Tuesday tweet claiming that all others are not committed to retaining the team in Buffalo.

“I know, at this point, a number of bidders who are seriously considering going forward who are committed to keeping the team in Western New York,” Cuomo said.

Trump made the proclamation in between other tweets about his hotel properties, his hair and Tuesday’s political primary races.

“I am the only potential owner of the @buffalobills who will keep the team in Buffalo, where it belongs!” Trump wrote.

Trump, whose senior adviser last week confirmed that he was among those potential bidders getting a nondisclosure agreement to sign in order to get a look at the Bills’ financial picture, did not offer any other commentary or proof of why he is the only would-be owner who would not move the team.

In the past, Trump has said that additional renovation work at Ralph Wilson Stadium would likely be needed if he purchased the team but that, over the long term, a new stadium is needed. He has dismissed the idea of building a new stadium next to the current facility in Orchard Park and has said he has had advisers look at a couple of sites within the Buffalo city limits as possible stadium locations.

Asked for a comment on Trump’s statement Tuesday, Michael D. Cohen, executive vice president of the Trump Organization and a senior adviser to Trump, said, “The tweet speaks for itself.”

Cuomo sounded a playful note when asked about Trump’s tweet. “Then it must be true. Who would argue with that?” Cuomo said when told what Trump had tweeted. “Besides the source, what’s your question?”

He ducked a question about whether he considered Trump a serious bidder for the team.

“I don’t want to characterize what I think of him,” the governor said. “But I didn’t see his tweet. Let’s put it that way.”

At SUNY Buffalo State’s Burchfield Penney Art Center, Cuomo again ceremonially signed legislation designed to combat New York’s growing heroin and opioid epidemic. Joined by most of the area’s legislative delegation and surrounded by state troopers in dress uniform, he approved a host of measures to improve treatment of addiction and strengthen penalties against heroin distribution, among other provisions.

The presentation included an emotional speech by Deanna Kocialski of Lancaster, whose 17-year-old son, Matt, died of a heroin overdose in 2009. She thanked the governor and State Legislature for passing the new bill.

email: rmccarthy@buffnews.com and tprecious@buffnews.com ]]>
Wed, 25 Jun 2014 07:38:58 -0400 Robert J. McCarthy
Tom Precious
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<![CDATA[ Trump says he's only bidder who'd keep Bills here ]]> http://www.buffalonews.com/sports/bills-nfl/trump-says-he-is-only-bidder-who-would-keep-bills-in-western-new-york-20140624
Trump made the proclamation in between other tweets he has sent out about his hotel properties, his hair and today’s political primary races.

“I am the only potential owner of the @buffalobills who will keep the team in Buffalo, where it belongs!” Trump wrote.

Trump, whose senior adviser last week confirmed that he was among those potential bidders getting a nondisclosure agreement to sign in order to get a look at the Bills’ financial picture, did not offer any other commentary or proof of why he is “the only” would-be owner who will not move the team.

In the past Trump has said he believes additional renovation work at the team’s existing stadium is likely needed if he purchased the team but that, over the long term, a new stadium is needed. He has dismissed the idea of building a new stadium next to the current facility in Orchard Park, and has said he has had advisers look at a couple of sites within the Buffalo city limits as possible stadium locations.

“The tweet speaks for itself,’’ Michael Cohen, executive vice president of the Trump Organization and a senior advisor to Trump, said this afternoon.

In Buffalo this afternoon, Gov. Andrew Cuomo dismissed the Trump claims.

“Then it must be true,’’ Cuomo said when told what Trump had tweeted.

The governor, though, said he believes there are “a number of bidders who are seriously considering going forward are committed to keeping the team in Western New York.’’

When Cuomo was asked whether Trump is a serious bidder, he said: “I don’t want to characterize what I think of him. But I didn’t see his tweet. Let’s put it that way.”

On the stadium front, Cuomo said he is still not convinced, despite what NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has suggested to him in private talks, that a new facility is necessarily needed. That will depend on what the NFL and the team’s eventual buyer determines as needed in order to keep the team in the Buffalo area.

“No one is anxious to build a stadium if we don’t have to build a stadium … No one is anxious to pay for a stadium,’’ Cuomo told reporters today. Even if all sides – public and private interests – contribute money, the governor said, “It is still expensive.’’

“You would only build a new stadium if you really had to build a new stadium,’’ he said, adding that he is “not convinced’’ a new facility is needed, presumably, over further renovations of the Wilson stadium beyond what currently is being done.

email: tprecious@buffnews.com ]]>
Tue, 24 Jun 2014 13:16:31 -0400 Tom Precious
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<![CDATA[ Bills look to move the chains more ]]> http://www.buffalonews.com/sports/bills-nfl/bills-look-to-move-the-chains-more-20140623
But as the Buffalo Bills take summer recess before training camp, one of their offensive coordinator’s homework assignments will be coming up with an answer to the question: How do you keep four running backs happy sharing one football?

Hackett won’t be graded until September, but he’s already started looking for the solution. One way to get C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson, Bryce Brown and Anthony Dixon involved, Hackett believes, is to convert more third downs.

“If you look at us last year, that right there is going to extend so many more drives,” he said. “We have to continue to be better at that, and it’s something I’ve really challenged the guys with. Third down and red zone situations, that’s what we need to work on and that’s what’s going to get us more plays.”

The Bills last season finished 29th in the league in third-down conversions, moving the chains just 34 percent of the time.

“That’s been a big emphasis since we’ve been back, because in reality, we were terrible,” Spiller said. “We’ve got to fix that. In order for us to be the offense that we want to be, we have to stay on the field.”

On the surface, the Bills’ offense did have a lot of opportunities last season. The team ran 1,116 offensive plays, an average of nearly 70 per game that ranked third in the league. Buffalo’s 546 rushing attempts led the NFL.

But digging a little deeper into the numbers shows how the offense was inefficient. According to advanced statistics website Football Outsiders, the Bills averaged just 5.52 plays per drive, which ranked 22nd in the league. They also went three and out 25.6 percent of the time, which was 26th.

“It’s how long those opportunities are. When we would go on a 12- or 15-play drive, it was awesome and those guys got in a rhythm and they got touches and they got a good feel for how the defense was playing,” Hackett said. “When you go three-and-out, or four- or five-play drives, that’s when they can’t get that. … Converting on third down can extend a lot of drives for us.”

The Bills had a drive success rate, which Football Outsiders defines as a drive resulting in a first down or touchdown (kneel-down drives excluded), of 63.1 percent, which was 28th in the NFL. Buffalo’s average time per drive was just 2:12, again near the bottom of the NFL at 31st. Going fast on offense can be a great way to wear out the opposing defense - but it can also backfire and wear out your own if you’re not staying on the field.

“If we want our defense to be dominant, like we know they’re capable of being, we have to be able to take some of the pressure off those guys by not putting them out there series after series,” Spiller said. “We’re taking that upon ourselves.”

Jackson has long said that a running back gets better within a game the more touches he gets. Spiller agreed with that assessment.

“As a running back, that’s the No. 1 rule. Once you get into a good groove, everything becomes more natural to you,” he said. “You’re able to just go out there and play. If you’re touching it two times then coming out, you’re never able to get into that groove and kind of get synched up with what they’re trying to do defensively.”

Hackett is confident he’ll be able to keep spirits high among his running backs.

“Their time will come as long as we get those plays and keep being able to feed people,” he said. “We had two 900-yard backs last year. Just a couple plays here and there and we could have had two 1,000-yard backs.”

The physical pounding the position is subject to also makes good depth a necessity. Spiller missed one game last season and played through several others with a nagging high-ankle sprain, while Jackson played through a knee injury.

“Even though we were No. 2 in rushing, we weren’t able to expand the offense the way we wanted because of injury,” Spiller said. “We understand that we want to try to keep each other fresh. Even though I might be in a nice groove, we want to get Fred in there, so he can get rolling. Because I know that once both of us are going, it definitely helps our offense.”

That selflessness should also help. Both Jackson and Spiller are team-first guys.

“They’ve done a good job of just helping me understand the offense,” said Brown, who came over in a trade from Philadelphia. “It’s completely different terminology, a completely different offense. That’s probably been my biggest struggle here, just trying to learn the offense. They’ve sacrificed their time and efforts.”

Both Brown and Spiller bring an explosive element to the offense. Each player has a run of at least 60 yards in each of the last two seasons. Jackson is a workhorse who can be trusted in all situations, while the 233-pound Dixon should help in short-yardage situations (he converted 9 of 10 runs on third and 1 or 2 situations the last four seasons for San Francisco) and special teams.

“We understand that everybody in our room has different, unique styles of playing. Everybody brings something totally different to the table,” Spiller said. “My thing is you just take advantage of each and every opportunity that you get. I’ve never been a guy that worried about touches, said how many I want or complained about it. Whenever your number is called, make the most of it. Hopefully if you do that, they’ll give you more opportunities.”

Spiller said running backs coach Tyrone Wheatley has set that tone. Come training camp and the regular season, how the carries are divided will ultimately come down to who’s running well.

“Everybody’s first off pushing each other, you know, holding each other accountable,” Brown said. “When you’ve got four great guys, when you’re stacked that deep, you get what you can in practice and just hope that it carries over to the game.”

email jskurski@buffnews.com ]]>
Mon, 23 Jun 2014 08:44:27 -0400 Jay Skurski
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<![CDATA[ HBO’s Kremer reports on Jills lawsuit ]]> http://www.buffalonews.com/sports/bills-nfl/hbos-kremer-reports-on-jills-lawsuit-20140622
Five ex-Jills in late April sued the NFL team, Stejon Productions – the company that manages the cheerleading squad – and Citadel Communications, the Jills’ previous manager, in New York State Supreme Court.

Two of the former Jills, Maria P. and Alyssa U., give their side of the story in interviews with Kremer. (The plaintiffs are identified only by their first names and last initials in court papers.)

The two women maintain they were paid nothing to perform at Bills home games, and were paid considerably less than minimum wage over the course of their employment as Jills.

Alyssa U. tells Kremer that she went into debt to be a Jill, using student loan money to pay for her $650 uniform and other expenses. The women also detail what they say were degrading activities in which they had to participate, including something called the jiggle test where the women had to perform 10 jumping jacks and be evaluated on the appearance of their bodies during that exercise. If their appearances were found wanting in the jiggling test, they could be barred from performing on the field on any given Sunday.

According to the report, there were rules in the Jills handbook dictating what kind of tampons the women should use. That had little to do with cheerleading, according to the two women, but was about Jills management exerting control over them.

Kremer also interviews Stephanie Mateczun, the president of Stejon Productions, which manages the cheerleaders. Mateczun maintains that “these girls were never made to do anything they never have wanted to do. We were creating a team of just well-rounded young ladies and they could have resigned at any time.”

Mateczun, in the interview, also defends the so-called jiggle test, saying that “you are in a very unforgiving uniform. So it’s important that you were physically fit.”

The former Jills interviewed by Kremer also say they were directed to work at golf tournaments that involved some activities that they found degrading, including being made to ride on the lap of golfers who “won” the women in an auction.

Kremer’s report also touches upon similar lawsuits filed against the cheering squads for the Oakland Raiders and the Cincinnati Bengals.

email gconnors@buffnews.com ]]>
Sun, 22 Jun 2014 23:48:03 -0400 Greg Connors
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<![CDATA[ Kelly’s words carry a valuable lesson ]]> http://www.buffalonews.com/sports/jerry-sullivan-kellys-words-carry-a-valuable-lesson-20140621
He’s looking to build team unity, which can be an elusive quality at a time when money and ego often rule in pro sports.

Marrone has one theory that I agree with wholeheartedly: Players can find a great source of competitive identity and motivation when they believe they’re playing for something bigger than themselves.

It’s true. Sometimes, an outside event can galvanize a group of players and remind them how powerful a force it can be when a team is united in a common, emotional cause.

People ask me what was different about the Red Sox last season. How could they go from losing 93 games to winning the World Series?

There were tangible explanations, of course. Starting pitching is generally the answer to any baseball turnaround. But the Boston Marathon bombing was an undeniable factor. Watching a city bounce back from tragedy had to elevate the players at times during the daily baseball grind.

The Yankees didn’t win it all, but they did some unforgettable things in the aftermath of 9/11. Marrone was an assistant with the Saints when they became winners soon after Hurricane Katrina. The New York Rangers rallied around Martin St. Louis when his mother died during the recent Stanley Cup playoffs.

Anyway, I was reminded of that talk with Marrone when I heard that Jim Kelly had addressed the Bills at the end of practice on Thursday. Kelly, just two weeks removed from a battery of chemotherapy and radiation treatments, told the players it was time to win again.

Marrone said Kelly’s address wasn’t planned. But no team bonding exercise could accomplish what the ailing Hall of Fame quarterback did during those two emotional minutes at One Bills Drive.

Really, what player wouldn’t be motivated to hear one of the greatest leaders in Bills history tell them how much it meant for him to be part of a great team, one that’s forever attached to an adoring community?

“This is what you need to put your arms around,” Kelly said. “Make this your team. Make it very special. Realize it, because when it’s all over, the things that you have are your memories.

“The people that you built that relationship with – not just on the football field,” Kelly said, “but away from the field.”

It was moving to hear Kelly utter those words, and especially touching to see Thurman Thomas, his former teammate and fellow Hall of Famer, standing beside him. Kelly called Thomas, who has been by his side throughout his cancer ordeal, “one of my brothers.”

I have to smile when I recall the days of the Bickering Bills, when Thomas called out Kelly for a lapse in leadership. But that’s what set those teams apart – they fought and challenged each other, like brothers in any family, and it forged a rare competitive bond.

Those teams absolutely hated losing. I suspect that’s one of the things troubling Marrone, that many of today’s players lack that fundamental loathing of defeat, which supersedes money and ego and social status.

The Super Bowl teams were supremely talented, of course. But a lot of teams have talent. They also had a bunch of warriors, players whose desire measured up to their physical ability, guys who would not tolerate complacency within the group. You know the names.

It was their bond that defined them in the end. That point was driven home to me when I did a series on the 20th anniversary of Super Bowl XXV. Reflecting back as older men, all those players said it. It was their connection with each other, and an adoring town, that carried them along and allowed them to bounce back from repeated disappointments.

Bill Polian, who built those teams, told me, “There was a unique bond between the team and the town.” Yes, and it has been so very long since any Bills team has even approached it.

Listening to Kelly, it makes you wonder. The Bills haven’t made the playoffs in 14 years. They have finished 6-10 three years in a row. When I was asked to predict next season’s record the night the NFL schedule was released, I said 6-10. That’s what they’ve earned.

They have the talent to do better. But I wonder about their competitive character. Last year, too many of them seemed content with average.

There was little discernible passion, outside of Fred Jackson and a few others. They didn’t despise losing. They accepted it.

I felt the Jairus Byrd situation became toxic for that team. When management let Byrd dangle, it sent the wrong message. It told players you needed to look out for yourself first, that the ultimate motivation was self-preservation and the next contract.

Those things are always present in pro sports. But maybe Kelly got them thinking. Yeah, the money is important. You play a violent game for a league that cares mainly about the bottom line.

But when you’re older and your body is breaking down, it will be the bonds that you remember most, the teammates and the memories and the way Buffalo fans cared beyond all understanding. One day, it might be you fighting for your life, and one of those teammates standing by you the way Thomas did Thursday.

Sure, it’s a romantic, fanciful idea, but wouldn’t it be nice if this team found something bigger to play for, if they rallied around Kelly’s illness and Ralph Wilson’s death and the impending sale of the team, and found their competitive soul?

It won’t make EJ Manuel a better passer, or plug the hole on every opposing run. But as the Kelly teams showed us, it’s not all about talent. Teams can do wondrous things when they share an emotional bond.

You listen to Kelly, and his amazing family, and you realize the common thread in all of this. It’s what keeps them going and what Marrone is desperately trying to develop in his team. Belief.

email jsullivan@buffnews.com ]]>
Sat, 21 Jun 2014 23:51:02 -0400 Jerry Sullivan
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<![CDATA[ Erin Kelly’s Fan Journal: Being Kelly tough ]]> http://www.buffalonews.com/sports/bills-nfl/erin-kellys-fan-journal-being-kelly-tough-20140621
Kelly Tough doesn’t mean that we don’t cry. Kelly Tough means that in that moment I was strong for someone else. I was strong for my little sister who couldn’t bear to watch her daddy suffer.

Kelly Tough is a selfless toughness. It’s not about being strong in your own strength. It doesn’t mean being strong for the sake of your own suffering. Being Kelly Tough means that you press on because there’s someone else out there who needs you to be strong.

For years, my dad was tackled into the turf, but he still got up. He never quit. Why?

Because he heard the fans cheering, and he remembered the sound of his dad’s voice saying, “Come on, son. You’re a Kelly. Be tough!” He was determined to fight no matter how hard the battle.

My dad is known as one of the toughest quarterbacks to ever play in the NFL, but I’ve never witnessed toughness like that of my brother, Hunter!

I’ve never watched someone so weak be so strong. Hunter relied on God for every breath. Every worry, every fear, every hurt. He couldn’t do it on his own. He relied on God, completely. He was Kelly Tough so that we could fall into the strong and mighty arms of God. Hunter was Kelly Tough so that we could rejoice with every breath he took and every time he blinked three times to say, “I love you!”

Hunter was Kelly Tough so that every child can be tested at birth so they don’t have to suffer like he did. Hunter was Kelly Tough to encourage my dad on THIS day … as we hear the word “cancer” for a second time … as he goes to bed every night not knowing what tomorrow will bring … as he suffers from intense pain yet still smiles when his daughters walk into the room. Hunter James Kelly was Kelly Tough so that our family can say to the world today, “We are weak, but God is strong!”

For my daddy, some days are harder than others to press on. I’ve never seen him this weak before. But Jim Kelly will remain tough … for Jason, the cancer patient who had only weeks to live. For the Hunter’s Hope families. For the die-hard Bills fan, for Buffalo, for the entire Kelly family, for his wife, for his daughters.

He’s Kelly Tough. In the midst of his struggles, he has surrendered to the God who holds this moment and the future. THIS is Kelly Tough!

This is the first in a series of stories for The News by the oldest daughter of Bills great Jim Kelly.

Erin Kelly’s

Fan Journal:

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Sat, 21 Jun 2014 23:31:12 -0400 Erin Kelly

SPECIAL TO THE NEWS

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<![CDATA[ Is a new Bills stadium another dreaded ‘silver bullet’? ]]> http://www.buffalonews.com/columns/donn-esmonde/is-a-new-bills-stadium-another-dreaded-silver-bullet-20140621
The idea doesn’t make any more sense to me now than when it was first floated, yet the “new stadium” drumbeat just gets louder.

Logic can’t stop it. Questions won’t muffle it. Concerns barely slow it.

I’m getting flashbacks to the dreaded “silver bullet” days of gotta-do-it, taxpayer-subsidized, salvation-promising projects that had little foundation in common sense and, if they were built, did us more harm than good.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

I don’t want to sound cynical about projections for a new stadium for the Buffalo Bills. I understand the wisdom of getting out in front of this, of exploring various options before the next owner comes to town. But for all of the talk-radio talk I’ve heard, the online discussions I’ve read and the conversations I’ve had, I have yet to come across anything that explained why a new stadium makes sense for the next owner, or for this community.

Repeated often enough, myths and suppositions take on the aura of conventional wisdom. Before rushing headlong into an $800 million mistake, we might want to flesh some of them out.

1. A new stadium will keep the Bills in Buffalo: Anyone who echoes this needs to explain how and why. A prime reason communities build new palaces is to pad an owner’s wallet. A new stadium comes with more luxury suites, club seats, sponsorships, local advertising and other unshared owner revenue. Which is, to my mind, where our “new stadium” argument collapses. It’s no use to build more luxury seating if we don’t have the corporate and private wealth to fill it. It makes no sense to increase the supply of something for which there is little or no demand.

The community, as a condition of late owner Ralph Wilson signing the 1998 lease deal, had to buy a relatively modest $11 million worth of luxury seating. We barely cleared that bar, and only after a yearlong effort to regionalize the franchise. In the subsequent 16 years, I have yet to hear a Bills official say the stadium needs more luxury seating, or reveal any demand for it.

It’s no surprise. The region hasn’t been invaded by Fortune 500 companies over the past two decades – we still don’t have a single, home-based one. The area’s population has declined, not grown. So who is going to buy the extra luxury suites in a new stadium, or – for corporations that already own one – going to pay significantly more to re-up?

One business executive, whose company shells out $140,000 annually for a suite, was told the price in a new stadium might bump it up to $250,000.

“I can’t speak for anyone else,” he told me, “but we’re not paying that.”

Indeed, the current $130 million stadium face-lift is mostly about enhancing the fan experience, with better concessions, scoreboards and entrances. It’s not about adding luxury seating (although some existing seats will be relocated). What the Bills rake in now is, as far as I can tell, just about the best we can do – and a new stadium doesn’t change that reality.

2. A new stadium will spur development: I’m not an economist, but I don’t see how a mammoth edifice that sits empty about 355 days a year, and requires vast acreage for parking, is a catalyst for revival. It won’t promote economic growth, it’ll choke it. What has the stadium in Orchard Park done, other than prop up a few bars? The nearby car dealerships aren’t even open on Sundays, even though 70,000 people flock to the neighborhood. That’s why communities usually build these things on cheap land near a highway. Football stadiums are like casinos – single purpose, in-and-out destinations. Combine a football stadium with a convention center? Not unless it connects to downtown Buffalo, where a critical mass of hotels, restaurants, bars and theaters are propped up by the current convention center. Build a new convention center too distant, and a downtown still in recovery takes a huge hit. There’s already a glut of vacant office space, with both the One Seneca Tower and the Statler nearly empty. Take away the convention center, and it multiplies the pain.

3. The next owner will want a new stadium: Really? Not if it’s going to cost him more money than it makes him. We don’t have the corporate or private wealth to buy significantly more luxury seating, advertising, sponsorships or other unshared revenue. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said a new stadium only gets built if significant private dollars are spent. Let’s say, for argument’s sake, it’s a 50-50 split between taxpayers and the next owner on a new $800 million edifice. Why would an owner who just paid in the neighborhood of $1 billion for the team be inclined to drop another $400 million on a new stadium, which (See No. 1) isn’t going to dramatically lift his bottom line?

Wilson in recent years annually pocketed an estimated $35 million pre-tax from the Bills, largely due to the owners’ share of the $7 billion TV broadcast deal the NFL landed three years ago. If I’m the next owner (full disclosure: I’m not submitting a bid), I’d rather pocket that money than use it to pay off my share of a new-stadium bill. Particularly when I’m making plenty of Benjamins in a just-improved playpen.

4. Buffalo doesn’t succeed because people don’t dream big: Actually, Buffalo stagnated for years because we didn’t have confidence in our own resources, because we looked to outsiders to tell us what to do and because we kept chasing – with taxpayer dollars – big, dumb ideas that did us more harm than good. Some, unfortunately, got built – and the ones that weren’t wasted precious time and energy.

The Main Place Mall sacrificed a key swath of downtown for an ugly monolith that’s now nearly empty. The Main Street pedestrian mall blindsided stores already reeling from suburban flight, all for a too-short transit line of questionable need. A proposed convention center a decade ago would have obliterated streets that are now part of downtown’s revival. A planned big-box retailer on the downtown waterfront a few years ago – backed by virtually every politician and business leader – would have been the equivalent of civic suicide. And on and on. Yet we never seem to lose our lust for “silver bullets” – and, to my mind, the new stadium looks like a reload.

5. Our stadium is old: So what? The place, as the saying goes, has “good bones.” We are lucky to have a stadium with great sight lines and a structural shelf life that extends for another 40 years. It got a $62 million face-lift in 1998, is undergoing a $130 million upgrade, and has the potential for further renovation. Any future retrofit can be done for far less than the cost of a new build, in a way that protects an owner’s profit and doesn’t totally gouge taxpayers. Kansas City recently finished a $375 million upgrade to Arrowhead Stadium, and Green Bay has done similar renewals with 57-year-old Lambeau Field.

“I have no objection to continuing” with the current stadium, County Executive Mark Poloncarz recently told me, “as long as it works for the next owner.”

I understand the desire to do what it takes to keep the Bills here and to make the next owner happy, within taxpayer-digestible limits. But it’s not enough to just be passionate about this. I think we also have to be smart. Spending some $800 million on a football stadium of questionable need – and of questionable benefit to the next owner – is the definition of absurdity. That’s especially true in an economically challenged community that needs to stretch every taxpayer dollar.

A new football stadium sounds to me like the equivalent of a luxury car you don’t need, can’t afford and, after the initial thrill wears off, wish you hadn’t bought. Like other “silver bullets” we’ve either absorbed or dodged over the years, this thing seems like a mistake waiting to happen.

Maybe there’s a game-changing, opinion-altering argument to be made. So far, I haven’t heard it.



email: desmonde@buffnews.com ]]>
Sat, 21 Jun 2014 19:07:29 -0400 Donn Esmonde
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<![CDATA[ Bills pass rusher Hughes thriving under new coordinator ]]> http://www.buffalonews.com/sports/bills-nfl/bills-pass-rusher-hughes-thriving-under-new-coordinator-20140620
Hughes picked up where he left off at the end of last season, routinely bolting from his defensive end position around any and every offensive tackle he faced over the past month.

Hughes, who revived his career with 10 sacks last season, arguably was the standout player of the Bills’ spring practices.

The 6-foot-2, 254-pounder envisions an easy transition in the scheme of new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz.

“He’s brought in his 4-3 scheme, but as far as what I’m doing it’s pretty much the same thing I did last year,” Hughes said. “My hand is in the ground and I’m coming off the edge trying to create pressure to get to the quarterback.”

It must be noted that edge rushers and receivers are the two position groups that are overwhelmingly likely to stand out in spring practice, when players are in jerseys and shorts, with no pads.

Offensive linemen cannot play physical in pass protection and have less ability to get their hands on the pass rusher.

Schwartz acknowledged as much.

“You have to sort of reserve a little bit of judgment until the pads come on,” the coach said. “But he is a very good pass rusher and we can use him in a lot of different roles. He stood up at times, he’s down at times. Sometimes quarterbacks are going to have to evaluate whether he is a linebacker or a defensive end. I don’t think it’s a whole lot different than some of the stuff he was used for last year.

“He can change the game with a pass rush. That’s a big thing in this game, and those guys are very valuable.”

In the final two-minute drill of Wednesday’s practice, Hughes had one sack and looked like he had two others, although the officials decided quarterback EJ Manuel had gotten the ball out of his hands in time. Rookie tackle Seantrel Henderson was struggling to lay a hand on the fifth-year veteran.

“He’s getting a great jump,” center Eric Wood said. “You go against the same offense, he’s doing a great job of playing some tendencies and doing some different things. That’s what good players do. Jerry’s super quick, extremely athletic, and he’s got good hands too, so he’ll take advantage of any misstep by a tackle.”

Hughes, acquired from Indianapolis in the trade that sent Kelvin Sheppard to the Colts last spring, ranked second on the Bills with his 10-sack season last year. He had produced five sacks in his previous three years with the Colts, since coming out of Texas Christian University as a No. 1 draft pick in 2010.

...

The Bills’ individual-game tickets will go on sale June 26 and June 27, the team announced.

The June 26 date is for online sales and will begin at 9 a.m. The online presale is available to Bills email subscribers, who will be sent an online promotional code that will be required for purchase. To sign up for Bills emails, visit www.buffalobills.com/profile.html.

Individual-game ticket sales will open to the general public on June 27. Season tickets for 2014 remain on sale.

email: mgaughan@buffnews.com ]]>
Fri, 20 Jun 2014 21:16:59 -0400 Mark Gaughan
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<![CDATA[ Best protest, hit Snyder in his wallet ]]> http://www.buffalonews.com/columns/bucky-gleason/best-protest-hit-snyder-in-his-wallet-20140619
More than a dozen showed up the next day with the same intentions, were given the same treatment and had the same response. Within a few days, they were joined by hundreds more and white people sympathetic to their cause. For months, groups formed across the south for similar non-violent protests.

People who for years didn’t have a voice realized they could deliver their message to others who ignored them. They gathered en masse and boycotted segregated businesses until owners succumbed to financial pressure. Only then did a civil-rights movement, glacial for decades, begin gaining momentum.

You would think Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder is familiar with that slice of American history, especially when his fan base comes from the nation’s capital and places such a strong emphasis on its past. Ignoring public pressure, he has defiantly refused to change the name of his football team.

Let’s get something straight: Snyder has every right to keep the nickname no matter how much Native Americans are offended. He can continue rationalizing that the name was born as a tribute to Native Americans. He can continue presenting language experts to testify why it’s not insulting.

Snyder has options, just like white business owners were within the law not to serve blacks some 50 years ago, but he should also know he’ll ultimately lose one way or another and wind up hurting himself. The Redskins losing their trademark rights in a federal ruling handed down this week was only the beginning.

The franchise retains its rights while the case is under appeal. In other words, merchandising companies still need permission to use the name and logo on their items. The last time Snyder was in this position, he won the case on appeal and came away more empowered. It could happen again.

Snyder can keep kicking and screaming and saying he would “never” change the nickname, but eventually the name will be changed. When? Well, that depends on how quickly people assemble and deliver their message. For now, with money pouring into his organization, he’s conducting business as usual.

Understand, for my taste, our country has become oversensitive and too politically correct. The media in particular is ready to pounce on anything that approaches an ambiguous line defining acceptable language or behavior. Freedom of speech seems more limited than any period in my lifetime.

And we’re talking about the nickname of a football team that’s been around for more than 75 years. Is it really a big deal, you ask? Yes.

The difference with the Redskins is that the name doesn’t approach the line, or straddle the line, of acceptance. It’s a slur, a mile over the line. No matter how long the name wasn’t considered offensive, a growing population in addition to Native Americans now believe otherwise.

Once was a time in which white people tossed around the N-word with disturbing ease. It remains an issue these days among black people using the word. In my lifetime, “negro” and “colored” were part of the vernacular before they were replaced by “black” and, as preferred today, “African-American.” We evolve. We change with the times.

The Wizards were known as the “Bullets” before it was changed in response to complaints about a perceived connection between the NBA team and a region riddled with violent crime. Some have suggested the Redskins could be called the “Pigskins,” combining football with a shout-out to their famed offensive line known as the “Hogs.” Another is “Warriors” as a tribute to the U.S. military.

This should be an easy fix.

Other than financial, and that’s open to debate, there appears to be little benefit of keeping Redskins. Fans support the franchise because of football and communal reasons, not because of their nickname.

Snyder is so worried about the name change costing him money that he hasn’t realized he could wind up making more if he became a good guy in this argument. Rather than empathize with the masses, he comes off like another billionaire who doesn’t appreciate being told how to run his business.

He shouldn’t change the name because someone else said he should. He should change the name simply because it’s the right decision. It’s really not that difficult to comprehend, even for the incurably stubborn. But at this point, you wonder if his accountant is the only person who can get his attention.

The more he stays firm in his position, the larger the crowd against him and the more intense the pressure on him to buckle. His critics would retreat if they thought he would make the change on his own, but he has shown no signs of backing down. We know he should, but why would he?

Washington has loyal fans and a strong season-ticket base. Many support Snyder for staying true to his position. No major sponsors have threatened to pull advertising that drives the money machine. It’s not going to change until corporate support disappears. It’s not going anywhere unless there’s outrage from customers.

And that’s where everyday people can make a difference. When voices are unheard, money always talks. History has shown it’s the one thing that speaks loudly enough for minorities to grab a seat at the table.

email: bgleason@buffnews.com ]]>
Thu, 19 Jun 2014 23:26:14 -0400 Bucky Gleason
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