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Hopes not high for quick deal

Hopes are not high among Buffalo Bills players for any kind of quick resolution to the labor impasse between the NFL owners and players.

Guys are definitely thirsty to get back to our normal routine," Bills safety and player representative George Wilson said. "But from all indications I’ve had. That’s not going to happen any time soon."

Wilson acknowledged he's not expecting any new agreement before the start of July.

"Not at all. We have the hearing scheduled for June 3. We mediated for like two days. Like I said before, those mediation sessions haven’t been productive at all, all the way back to the ones that took place prior to the lockout," Wilson said.

The U.S. Eighth Circuit Court will conduct a hearing on June 3 to debate the legality of the lockout. Lawyers for the owners and players will debate that issue.

"There’s nothing scheduled between the owners and players at this moment," Wilson said. "A decision is expected to be rendered about three or four weeks after the hearing on June. 3. So that’s going to put you into the end of June, beginning of July. … It’s in the court system right now, and anybody who knows the court system knows the delays and how long the process could be drawn out.”

Wilson is hopeful that a ruling in favor of the players by U.S. District Court Judge David Doty will help the players' negotiating position. Doty will decide on the fate of about $4 billion in television revenue that he previously ruled was unfairly won by the NFL in the last round of contract negotiations with the TV networks. The NFL likely would appeal whatever Doty rules in that case.

“That could definitely sway things," Wilson said. "I know initially when the TV case decision came down early this year, the following day was the one and only day that most of the owners attended the mediation session. That decision definitely had some impact. But ultimately that’s not going to solve the differences between the owners and the players right now.”

Said Bills veteran linebacker Reggie Torbor: "The biggest fear I have is this thing goes into August and cuts into training camp. Now you’re looking at possibly coming in for a week then playing a game. It’s going to be bad. A lot of injuries happen that way. The guys who show up ready will have an advantage, no bones about it."

---Mark Gaughan

Bills get 30-plus for workout

The Buffalo Bills had a bit more than 30 players show up today for a players-only workout at Sahlen's Sports Park in Elma.

The session was organized by Jon Corto, Fred Jackson, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Andra Davis and George Wilson, and the players will be working out together through Thursday. The session lasted about two hours. The players did some conditioning drills on the field and some footwork drills. The they broke up into two groups - big guys and little guys. One group hit the weight room while the other did more on-field conditioning. Then the two groups reversed roles. Most of the players did some walk-through-type plays at the end of the session.

The unofficial list of Bills in attendance included: quarterbacks Fitzpatrick, Levi Brown and Brian Brohm; running backs Jackson and Corey McIntyre; receivers Lee Evans, David Nelson, Naaman Roosevelt, Paul Hubbard and Felton Huggins; offensive linemen Geoff Hangartner, Andy Levitre, Demetrius Bell, Cordaro Howard, Kraig Urbik; defensive linemen Dwan Edwards, Torell Troup and Alex Carrington; linebackers Chris Kelsay, Reggie Torbor, Aaron Maybin, rookie Kelvin Sheppard, Arthur Moats, Antonio Coleman and Danny Batten; defensive backs Leodis McKelvin, Jairus Byrd, Wilson, Jon Corto, Bryan Scott, rookie Da'Norris Searcy; and long-snapper Garrison Sanborn. That's 32 Bills. A handful of undrafted rookies were there too. They included West Seneca natives and Maine products Jeremy Kelly and Desmond Randall and Sacred Heart linebacker Bill O'Brien.

"I’m definitely excited just to see all the guys that came in today," Wilson said. "It’s very encouraging. You see how hungry guys are and eager to get back to work. Guys spend their own money to get here. Some guys who don’t have their own places are staying with other guys or are paying their own hotel bills. So that shows the willingness and want-to to get back into the groove of things. We’re now almost two months into what our normal offseason would be."

---Mark Gaughan

Talley headed to College Football HOF

Former Bills linebacker Darryl Talley added another honor from his highly productive football career as he was elected to the Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division IA) College Football Hall of Fame.

Talley is one of 14 players in the 2011 class. Fellow enshrinees include Deion Sanders (Florida State), Eddie George (Ohio State) and Will Shields (Nebraska). The class also includes two coaches -- Lloyd Carr of Michigan (1995-07) and Fisher DeBerry of Air Force (1984-06)

Talley was a dominant player at West Virginia, earning unanimous first-team All-American honors as a senior in 1982. A four-year starter, Talley finished with 484 career tackles, a school record that lasted 20 years. He added 19 sacks, five fumble recoveries and five interceptions before becoming a second-round draft pick of the Bills in 1983.

Talley becomes just the 12th Mountaineer elected to the College Football Hall of Fame, which has only 882 out of the more than four million people who have played college football since the first game between Princeton and Rutgers in 1869.

"When you think of all the millions of people who play collegiate sports, to be one of the few to be elected into the college football Hall of Fame is truly an honor,'' Talley said by phone Tuesday from his home in Orlando, Fla. "It speaks volumes to what goes into the process. It's humbling to be in a select company of great players and coaches.''

Talley and the rest of the 2011 class will be inducted at the National Football Foundation Annual Awards Dinner on December 6 at the Waldorf=Astoria in New York City. The official enshrinement at the Hall is tenatively scheduled for the summer of 2012.

---Allen Wilson

 

Bledsoe elected to Patriots Hall of Fame

The fans in New England still think highly of quarterback Drew Bledsoe.

The former Patriots and Bills quarterback became the first player to be voted into the Patriots Hall of Fame by the fans in his first year of eligibility Monday. He also earned the highest percentage of votes for any candidate since a new voting system was introduced in 2007.

"There are so many hundreds of people that need to be thanked individually, so figuring out how to properly thank everybody in my career is a little bit overwhelming," Bledsoe said on a conference call. "The overriding thing is going to be the thank you to the New England Patriots fans and the Kraft family."

Bledsoe, who played for the Bills from 2002 through 2004, retired in 2006 and is eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame this year.

---John Vogl

 

Court deals blow to players

The early advantage in the NFL's labor battle went to the players. Now it looks like the owners have the upper hand.

The U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis voted 2-1 to allow the NFL to keep the lockout in place at least until June 3 when the court will hear the NFL's appeal of U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson's order for the league to re-open for business.

The decision by the appellate court was no surprise since it also granted the NFL's initial request for a temporary stay, with the same two judges voting in favor of the league. Still, this was a huge victory for the owners, who had suffered a series of losses in court to the players.

The league and its players resumed their court-ordered federal mediation Monday after a hiatus of nearly a month, talking for eight hours in Minneapolis. ESPN reported the owners made a new proposal in hopes of ending the stalemate.

The players were prepared to fight the league as long as it took to get what they wanted, and after Judge Nelson's decision they had every reason to feel that way. But the appellate court's decisions have turned the tables. The players are on the defensive and have no choice but to strongly consider the league's latest proposal.

The owners shouldn't be celebrating too much, however, because the 2011 season is still in danger.

Monday's ruling should create a greater sense of urgency on both sides to get a new collective bargaining agreement done. The longer they wait the greater the chance regular-season games will be lost.

---Allen Wilson

 

Goodell chats with Bills fans

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell continued his series of conference calls with season ticket holders in NFL cities Monday by conducting a chat with Bills supporters.

The session lasted about 45 minutes, 15 longer than usual because technical difficulties prevented calls from getting through. Goodell was taking a break from the federally mediated talks the resumed Monday between the league and its players, but was patient in waiting for the glitches to be worked out.

Goodell didn't break any new ground Monday. Predictably, he gave the NFL's side of the ongoing labor unrest while also blaming the players' attorneys for choosing "litigation over negotiation.'' The lockout has dragged on, but Goodell was off base saying it's totally the fault of the attorneys.

Goodell told the callers he is hopeful a new collective bargaining agreement will get done in time to save the 2011 season.

"I think we need to remove that uncertainty," he said. "I think there's still time to do that and still have great competitive football that you all expect. Time is running short. It's time to get back to the [negotiating] table and get those issues resolved."

The Bills' long-term viability in Western New York is a hot-button topic that was raised on Monday's call. One season ticket holder from Toronto asked if Goodell could ensure the Bills would remain here. Naturally, Goodell didn't guarantee anything because he can't. But he emphasized the organization is doing everything it can to stay here, including playing games in Toronto.

"We certainly hope the Buffalo Bills continue to be in Western New York," said Goodell, who added the continued fan support is a must. "As a Western New York guy (Jamestown native), I know how important it is to that region and how passionate our fans are there.

 "The effort we've been going through with the Buffalo Bills and the business leaders in the surrounding areas is to regionalize the team and to draw from a broader area, including Southern Ontario and the Toronto area. I believe that'll be good for the Bills to be successful in Buffalo."

---Allen Wilson

Nix beefs up scouting dept.

Now we know why Tom Modrak was fired. Letting him go allowed General Manager Buddy Nix to bring in his own people at two key positions. On Wednesday, Nix named Tom Gibbons as director of pro personnel and named Chuck Cook director of college scouting.

Unlike Modrak, Gibbons and Cook have a history with Nix. Gibbons worked with Nix in the Bills' scouting department in the 1990s. Gibbons left Buffalo in 2004 to reunite with Nix in San Diego, where Nix served as head of college scouting for Chargers GM John Butler, who held the same position for the BIlls and gave Gibbons his first scouting assignment in Buffalo.

Cook's father, long-time New Orleans Saints scout Hamp Cook, and Nix have been close friends since they coached together at Southern Mississippi in 1972. Nix even tried to recruit Chuck Cooper for Auburn. Cooper went on to star at Southern Miss, where he and his father are in the school's Hall of Fame.

Having a connection with the people on staff was important to Nix, who never worked with Modrak prior to returning to the Bills (at Modrak's request) three years ago.

"You need to know what you’ve got," Nix said. "Sometimes if you hire somebody off of somebody else’s word or you hire somebody off of reputation, you find out too late. Maybe I’m old school, but I like knowing them and I know these guys.''

Gibbons and Cook will answer directly to assistant GM Doug Whaley, who was also given the title of director of player personnel last week.

Nix said the reorganization of his personnel staff has concluded. West coast scout Rashaan Curry and college scouting administrator Michael LaFlamme will not return, but the rest of the scouting department will remain in place.

---Allen Wilson   

Who next for Bills WOF?

Former Bills defensive end Phil Hansen, third all-time in team sacks and tied for 11th in years of service, was chosen to be the team's 2011 Wall of Fame honoree last week. Who do Bills fans think should be next to be honored for the distinction at Ralph Wilson Stadium?

One note: There's a rule that states players must have served five years with the team to be honored. That rule was waived one time (and justifiably) when Bob Kalsu, who was killed in Vietnam, was inducted. Cookie Gilchrist served three years but still is included on this list. Also: This is a subjective list of eight candidates, listed alphabetically.

Your choice? And you can only vote for one.

---Mark Gaughan

Whaley gets title upgrade

Doug Whaley, the Buffalo Bills' assistant general manager, has received a promotion in the wake of this week's firing of Tom Modrak from the job of vice president of college scouting.

Whaley formerly was assistant general manager and director of pro personnel. Now he is assistant general manager and director of player personnel. He's the right-hand man of Buddy Nix, the Bills' executive vice president and general manager.

In his new responsibilities, the Bills said in a release, Whaley will oversee both the college and pro personnel departments for the Bills. Additionally, he will conduct the team’s meetings leading up to the draft and scout the top players at the collegiate level. He will also assist in advance scouting of Bills opponents on the pro side. Whaley, 38, joined the Bills in February 2010 after spending the previous 10 years in the Pittsburgh Steelers' organization.

---Mark Gaughan

 

Phil Hansen on WOF

Here is an interview with former Bill Phil Hansen on his Wall of Fame induction.

---Mark Gaughan

 

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