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HOF contracts

CANTON, Ohio -- Browsing around the exhibits at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, we came upon this observation, which the NFL Players Association could note if it gave tours to rookies at football's shrine.

A locker with artifacts from the career of great quarterback Otto Graham is one of the exhibits. It includes the contract Graham signed with the Cleveland Browns of the All-American Football Conference in 1948. Graham was the best quarterback in the league. He made $12,000 that year.

A couple of rooms away is an AFL exhibit, and in one case is the contract Bills safety George Saimes signed in 1966. This was Saimes' third year in the league, and he had been first-team all-AFL in 1964 and 1965. His salary for that season was $15,000. So salaries hadn't inflated much in 17 years. (On the other hand, $15,000 was not too shabby. The average household income was about $6,000 or $7,000.)

---Mark Gaughan

Bruce is next ... finally!

CANTON, Ohio -- After three looonng hours, the ceremony is closing with Bruce Smith's speech. He's had to wait so long he could have re-written his speech about 10 times. Hopefully he won't be as long as Rod Woodson, who went about 30 minutes. About 18 MINUTES more than the allotted time!

---Allen Wilson

Who's next

CANTON, Ohio -- Now that Bruce Smith and Ralph Wilson are in the Hall of Fame, will any other Bills get in? The most logical choice is wide receiver Andre Reed. He should get in at some point. When I don't know. Jim Kelly was a great quarterback, but where would he be if Reed wasn't on the other end of so many passes?

Other than Reed, you'd be hard-pressed to find another player from the Super Bowl era that will get in. Steve Tasker gets mention from time to time, but he appears to be a longer shot as time goes by. Darryl Talley has often lobbied voters, but he faces greater odds than Tasker. Kent Hull is in a tough spot, too.

"It's a matter of time for everybody,'' Reed said of his potential induction. "I think we'll all get recognized for what we've done, in whatever way that is. I wasn't the player I was without a Darryl Talley or Bruce Smith or Thurman [Thomas] or Jim [Kelly] because I relied on them on Sunday and they relied on me on Sunday. We didn't get the ultimate goal we wanted to get to, but I would not trade anything to be with these guys.''

---Allen Wilson 

Bills HOF Roll Call

CANTON, Ohio -- Spanning the crowd for former Bills: Here's who we've seen so far from the 1990s era: Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas, Marv Levy, James Lofton, Darryl Talley, Andre Reed, Pete Metzelaars, Fran Reich, Steve Tasker, Cornelius Bennett, Will Wolford, Kent Hull, Phil Hansen, Marlo Perry, Mark Pike, Kenneth Davis, Leonard Smith, Adam Lingner and Bill Polian, along with many assistant coaches.

Among the 1960s Bills seen (and I'm sure we're missing some): Billy Shaw, Butch Byrd, Ernie Warlick, Mike Stratton, Paul Maguire, Marty Schottenheimer (who of course would be here anyway due to Derrick Thomas' induction) and George Saimes. (Joe DeLamielleure is on stage as an HOFer.)

Among the current Bills seen in the crowd: Trent Edwards, Lee Evans, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Rian Lindell, Ryan Denney and Brian Moorman. Coach Dick Jauron is here.  

Current offensive coordinator was chatting with Reich (perhaps getting some no-huddle advice?).

---Mark Gaughan

Kelly memorabilia

CANTON -- With nine Hall of Famers, the Bills have a large presence among the exhibits in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Jim Kelly has a locker, with his jersey and helmet. Kelly also is part of a Pennsylvania quarterbacks exhibit. His jersey from East Brady High is dispalyed, along with Joe Namath's jersey from Beaver Falls High.

Deep Bills trivia: What was Kelly's jersey number at East Brady? (see below)

Kelly's game ball from the 51-3 AFC title-game win in January 1991 is dispalyed, along with the offensive game plan for that game. At one time, Bill Belichick's defensive game plan from Super Bowl XXV was on display (meaning one page of it was open), but I could not find it on a quick tour of the facility today. Thurman Thomas' jersey from the 1990 season is displayed. Answer to Kelly trivia: he wore No. 11 in high school. (Namath wore No. 19).

---Mark Gaughan

Shaw on RCW

CANTON, Ohio -- Bills Hall of Fame guard Billy Shaw on his first impression of Ralph Wilson:

"My first impression of Mr. Wilson was how he treated my wife. I married between my junior and senior year in college, and we had never flown anywhere together. We flew to Buffalo. He made a big deal over her, which made her feel comfortable, which made me be impressed with him so much more. Mr. Wilson has been a father figure more than a boss or owner."

Shaw said some of his fellow Hall of Famers have created what they call "the Billy Shaw Rule" regarding Hall of Fame speeches.

"They named the Billy Shaw Rule after me for new guys who come in because in my speech I forgot to mention my wife. Eric (Dickerson) saved my life. I spoke to him right before he went up (for Dickerson's acceptance speech), and he made amends for me."

Dickerson acknowledged Shaw's wife before beginning his own speech.

---Mark Gaughan

Immaculate Deception

CANTON -- A reporter from Tennessee asked both Bruce Smith and Ralph Wilson about their recollection of the Bills' wild-card playoff loss to the Titans in the 1999 season.

Said Bruce: "I remember it was a forward pass, that's all I remember."

Said Wilson: “I remember my daughter. We were kicking off to them, and she was so ecstatic. And I said, 'Hey sit down. It’s not over yet!' It’s never over."

---Mark Gaughan

RCW's levity

CANTON -- Jim Kelly said today the over-under on Bruce Smith crying during his Hall of Fame induction speech on Saturday is three. Put the over-under on Ralph Wilson breaking down at zero. Wilson likes to try to keep things light, and his sense of humor is famous. He will probably try to squeeze a few humorous anecdotes into his speech.

Wilson found some levity in all the serious questions he was asked Friday during a 45-minute news briefing with reporters.

“I’m liable to ramble on, and they’re going to ring the bell on me," Wilson said, referring to his penchant for speaking in public without a script. (He does, in fact, have his full speech written out).]

Wilson and all the other inductees have a 12-minute time limit on their speeches.

“After 50 years, they give me 12 minutes," he said in mock indication.

---Mark Gaughan

HOFers offer praise

CANTON - Bills owner Ralph C. Wilson Jr. and defensive end Bruce Smith got to attend an exclusive luncheon today - called the Ray Nitschke Lunch - at which only Hall of Fame members are allowed to attend. About 80 Hall of Famers were there to welcome the Class of 2009. During the lunch, current Hall of Famers get up and tell stories about the men about to enter football's shrine. Jim Kelly got up and talked about Wilson and Smith.

"I just came from the luncheon, where I was pronounced dead by one of the other Hall of Famers," Smith said. (Apparently someone got mixed up and referred to him as the "late" Bruce Smith. There are two members of the Class of 2009 - Bob Hayes and Derrick Thomas - who are being honored posthumously.)

"I was in fear of being called a little wus (because) I almost had a tear come out of my eye over some of the words that were spoken by some of the Hall of Famers," Smith said.

“After coming from the luncheon today with all the Hall of Famers, I’ve thought during my lifetime I’m a member of an exclusive club,} Wilson said, referring to "the Foolish Club." “But it’s nothing like the Hall of fame. It’s not only a club. The players care for each other so much … It’s a fraternity. To be a member of it, hey, there’s no words to express it."

---Mark Gaughan

The Best of the Best

Bruce Smith and Ralph Wilson bring the number of Buffalo Bills in the Pro Football Hall of Fame to nine. A pretty impressive team.

Is there a No. 1?

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