November 21, 2013 - 11:30 AM
By Mark Gaughan
In case you missed it - and because we realize not all sports fanatics scour the inside pages of the local section - here is the story in today's Buffalo News on the 28-year-old fan who fell out of the upper deck at Ralph Wilson Stadium ... and who lost his job as an art director at a major public-relations firm ... and who now faces criminal charges.
By Jim Staas NEWS STAFF REPORTER
Criminal charges have been filed against the football fan who fell from the top deck of Ralph Wilson Stadium into the stands below during Sunday’s Buffalo Bills game.
The Erie County Sheriff’s Office announced charges Wednesday evening against a man the office identified as Robert A. Hopkins, 28, of Cobb Alley, Lackawanna.
The announcement said Hopkins was arrested “for his actions involving sliding down a handrail in the 300 level of Ralph Wilson Stadium.”
Sheriff Timothy B. Howard’s office said Hopkins “was charged with assault in the third degree, a class A misdemeanor, and reckless endangerment in the second degree, also a class A misdemeanor.”
The Sheriff’s Office said in a prepared statement that Hopkins “is set to be arraigned on the charges on Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2013, at 4 in Orchard Park Town Court.”
The statement added, “There will be no further comment from the Erie County Sheriff’s Office on this case at this time.”
One source close to the investigation said, however, “We don’t think it was intentional. It was reckless what he did.”
The Bills on Monday banned Hopkins from Ralph Wilson Stadium as a result of the incident. Hopkins also lost his job in advertising and public relations with Eric Mower + Associates.
Hopkins could be seen sliding in a seated position down a railing in the 300 level during the game against the New York Jets and then toppling backward and falling 20 to 25 feet into the 200 section. Authorities said he landed on another fan.
The Sheriff’s Office said Hopkins “landed on and injured a 29 year old fan in the 200 level of the stadium.”
Both men were taken to a hospital and later released.
The man who fell hurt his shoulder, while officials said the man he struck suffered a head and/or neck injury.
The incident apparently was recorded by network television cameras. Video posted on several websites shows the indistinct figure of a man sliding on the railing, then tipping over the side.
Officials said the Bills have clearer video of the incident. http://www.buffalonews.com/city-region/police-courts/charges-filed-against-fan-who-fell-at-buffalo-bills-game-20131120
November 21, 2013 - 10:00 AM
By Mark Gaughan
The Bills are 11 weeks into their season. Rookie linebacker Kiko Alonso has played all 787 defensive snaps. Rookie receiver Robert Woods has played 614 snaps, which was 76 percent of the offensive plays before he missed the last two weeks.
Bills coach Doug Marrone is not worried about the proverbial "rookie wall," which can cause rookies to slow down the last month of the season due to the fact the NFL season is longer than the college season.
"I did when I was in the league," said Marrone, referring to his stint in New Orleans, which ended in 2008. "I’ve been out obviously for four years. And coming back I don’t see it as much now. I think practices have changed. The last time I was in the league, we had a couple rookies starting for us in New Orleans and we went to the playoffs. We really made a conscious effort to make sure those guys didn’t do that. Nutrition and weight lifting. They played extremely well throughout the playoffs. I don’t see that as much anymore. I do think if you’re not prepared, that could happen to you. I have not seen that in any of our guys. And a lot of our young guys you look at the snaps that Kiko has gotten and the snaps that Robert Woods has gotten, even though he was hurt the last game, they’re a lot of snaps. I don’t see those guys slowing down at all."
The reason is the schedule changes that restrict how much teams can hit in practice.
"The new collective bargaining agreement," Marrone said. "The way training camp is now. Normally you practice two days in pads, one day is in helmets and shoulder pads. That’s not the case any more. You’re only allowed one day in pads and you’re only allowed to do it so many times per year. Training camp. We all have those old stories, walking uphill both ways. But training camp was pads in the morning, helmets and shoulder pads in the afternoon, hitting every single day except Sunday. Everyone was reporting to camp the second week in July and playing X amount of preseason games. It was tough. I think when you’re a rookie and you’re going through that, that takes a toll on you. So I think the change of schedule has helped a lot of these younger players.”
November 20, 2013 - 10:40 PM
By Mark Gaughan
Buffalo Bills great Andre Reed is among 25 semifinalists for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The Hall on Wednesday night released the results of voting that brought a preliminary list of 126 down to 25. The 25 semifinalists will be narrowed to a list of 15 finalists in early January. Reed has been one of the 15 modern-era finalists for induction seven years in a row.
Besides Reed, the semifinalists include: kicker Morten Andersen; safeties Steve Atwater and John Lynch; running backs Jerome Bettis, Roger Craig and Terrell Davis; linebackers Derrick Brooks, Kevin Greene and Karl Mecklenburg; receivers Tim Brown and Marvin Harrison; coaches Don Coryell, Tony Dungy and Jimmy Johnson; owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr.; defensive ends Charles Haley and Michael Strahan; tackles Joe Jacoby and Walter Jones; guards Will Shields and Steve Wisniewski; commissioner Paul Tagliabue; cornerback Aeneas Williams; and general manager George Young.
Reed holds most of Buffalo's team receiving records, earned in a Bills career that spanned from 1985 to 1999. Reed finished his career with 951 catches, 13,198 receiving yards and 88 touchdowns. In 21 postseason games, Reed caught 85 passes for 1,229 yards and nine touchdowns. He made seven Pro Bowls.
November 20, 2013 - 1:33 PM
By Jay Skurski
The Buffalo Bills filled the hole on their 53-man roster today by signing offensive lineman J.J. Unga off the Baltimore Ravens' practice squad.
Unga, 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds, is a 26-year-old rookie. He signed with the Ravens as an undrafted free agent in April, and spent the first 11 weeks of the season on their practice squad. He played collegiately at Midwestern State, making 10 starts in 20 career appearances. He was a first-team All-Lone Star Conference selection in 2012.
"They had him at tackle, but we're moving him inside to play guard," Bills coach Doug Marrone said today.
Unga has one trait Marrone values highly -- size.
"What we like to do is build a bigger team," he said. "My philosophy has always been that this is a big man's game. I think that when we have the opportunity to better ourselves, you know, we have to go ahead and do that no matter what time of year it is. ... That's what we were trying to do. We were trying to get bigger."
The Bills had an opening on their 53-man roster after releasing cornerback Justin Rogers on Tuesday.
November 20, 2013 - 1:07 PM
By Mark Gaughan
Here were the opening comments of Bills coach Doug Marrone today as the team dispersed on its bye week. The Bills' players have off until Monday. The Bills' coaches have done the vast majority of their scouting on the next opponent, the Atlanta Falcons. Atlanta plays Thursday against New Orleans. The Falcons are not likely to change a lot of what they do on a short week before facing the Saints.
Said Marrone: "The last couple days we really concentrated on just getting our players, for lack of a better term, flushed out, meaning the soreness. We did a lot of weight training, pushed them hard in the weight room, pushed them hard running. As coaches we were able to start getting the game plans ready as best we can, waiting for the one game, obviously. Atlanta plays on Thursday. I’m happy to say though, if we were playing this week, we’d have everybody healthy. Everybody would be practicing. That’s a great sign. I think for the most part for the players, they’re going home. They understand it’s just a bye. It’s not the end of the season. The reason why is we want to make sure they come back with the proper mindset and they’re ready to go. We talked to them about nutrition while they’re away, we talked to them about lifting while they’re away. We talked about conditioning while they’re away. We talked about the mindset when they come back. As coaches we were able to look back at a lot of things. It’s tough to sit here with a smile when we look back at some of the opportunities we’ve had. It’s like going through and reliving those things."
"We still have a large portion of games in front of us," Marrone said. "I was able to peek at a couple of those teams. I just got a glance at them. Obviously I’m aware of their records. I think the records are not a great indication of who those teams are. They’ve had some injuries on some of those teams and some tough breaks. It looks like a couple of them are starting to play well, maybe like we are. And that’s what we hope we hope to do. We’re disappointed in where we are but it’s what we are. We have five games where we can change that. … All of our focus is going to be on winning a game and beating Atlanta."
Atlanta is 2-8. After that the Bills face Tampa (2-8), Jacksonville (1-9), Miami (5-5) and New England (7-3).
November 19, 2013 - 7:54 PM
By Jay Skurski
Buffalo Bills rookie quarterback EJ Manuel is one of five candidates for the NFL's Pepsi Next Rookie of the Week award.
Manuel went 20 of 28 for 245 yards and two touchdowns in Buffalo's 37-14 win over the New York Jets in Week 11. His quarterback rating (121.9), completion percentage (71.4) and yards per attempt (8.1) were all career bests.
The other candidates are:
• David Bass, DE, Chicago -- He finished with four tackles and an interception that he returned for a touchdown in a 23-20 victory over Baltimore.
• Mike Glennon, QB, Tampa Bay -- Threw for 231 yards and two touchdowns in Tampa Bay's 41-28 victory against Atlanta.
• Matt McGloin, QB, Oakland -- Threw for 197 yards and three touchdowns in his first career start for the Raiders in a 28-23 win over Houston.
• Montee Ball, RB, Denver -- Had two touchdowns in the Broncos' 27-17 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.
Fans can vote by clicking here.
November 19, 2013 - 6:46 PM
By Jay Skurski
Our weekly rundown on the Press Coverage blog of the players from Western New York (along with the University at Buffalo) currently in the NFL:
Steven Means: The Buffalo native and Grover Cleveland and University at Buffalo product -- a rookie defensive end with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- played three snaps on special teams (9 percent) in a 42-28 victory over the Atlanta Falcons. He did not record any statistics.
Mike Williams: The Tampa Bay receiver -- a Buffalo native and Riverside product -- finished his season with 22 catches for 216 yards and two touchdowns. He was placed on injured reserve because of a torn hamstring on Oct. 28.
James Starks: The Green Bay Packers running back, a Niagara Falls and University at Buffalo product, carried two times for minus-1 yard in a 27-13 loss to the New York Giants. Starks played four offensive snaps (7 percent).
J.C. Tretter: The Akron product, a fourth-round draft pick of the Packers in April, is on the team’s physically unable to perform list after he broke his ankle in May. He is eligible to come off the list and begin practicing. The team then must decide within three weeks to activate him to the 53-man roster or put him on injured reserve for the season.
Rob Gronkowski: Gronkowski made five catches for 59 yards and one touchdown in a 24-20 loss to the Carolina Panthers on Monday Night Football. The Amherst native played a season-high 62 offensive snaps (86 percent).
Brett Kern: The Grand Island native punted three times for 117 yards for the Tennessee Titans in a 30-27 loss to the Indianapolis Colts. He had a net average of 34 yards on the three punts, and had two of them returned for 15 yards.
Corey Graham: The Baltimore Ravens' cornerback, a Buffalo native and Turner/Carroll product, made a team-high eight tackles, one sack and one pass defensed in a 23-20 loss to the Chicago Bears. Graham played 32 defensive snaps (52 percent) and another 11 (37 percent) on special teams, with one tackle.
Note: Local players Dan Gronkowski, Chris Gronkowski Jeremy Kelley, Naaman Roosevelt and Doug Worthington are currently free agents.
Josh Thomas: Thomas, a cornerback played on 12 special teams snaps (57 percent) for the Carolina Panthers in a 24-20 victory over the New England Patriots on Monday Night Football. He did not get any snaps defensively, or record any statistics.
Trevor Scott: Scott was released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers prior to the team's 31-13 loss to Carolina in Week Eight. He had played in four games with the Bucs, making three tackles.
November 19, 2013 - 4:55 PM
By Mark Gaughan
The Bills released cornerback Justin Rogers from the 53-man roster, the team announced. Rogers, a seventh-round pick in 2011, had lost his spot in the lineup early in the fifth game of the season and was inactive for the past six games.
Rogers started the first four games in place of injured Stephon Gilmore. But then he was was benched and the Bills moved safety Aaron Williams to the cornerback spot for two weeks until Gilmore was able to return to action. Rogers was the Bills' slot cornerback for most of last season.
Meanwhile, the team signed defensive back Mario Butler to the practice squad and released defensive back Johnny Adams. Butler, 6-foot-1 and 187 pounds, entered the NFL as an undrafted rookie out of Georgia Tech in 2011. He spent portions of the 2011 and 2012 seasons on the practice squads of Dallas and Denver.
November 19, 2013 - 12:15 PM
By Mark Gaughan
Bills running back Fred Jackson gave the team and Buffalo fans a scare when he went down in a heap after a hard hit to the thigh in the third quarter of the New York Jets game Sunday.
The blow caused Jackson's left knee to bend inward and it looked like he might have further injured it. Jackson has been playing with a specially constructed brace on the knee since spraining the medial collateral ligament in the knee in Week Four. He aggravated the injury in Week Seven in Miami. Yet he has played on.
"It was sore initially but I wasn't worried, thinking that I'd did any further damage to it," Jackson said. "I thought I just re-aggravated it, which is what I did. ... It was the same hit that I took in previous weeks. It was sore for a little while. I needed to get up and walk it off a little bit. They told me not to rush getting up."
Jackson carried 12 times for 34 yards in the game. He had four more carries after the blow to the leg.
"I could definitely feel it the rest of the game, being it was the exact same hit I'd taken on it before," he said. "But the knee brace I had on did its job. It protected it. It's just something I have to deal with the rest of the season."
Like numerous teammates, Jackson is looking forward to feeling stronger against Atlanta in 12 days.
"I think any time you get a chance to get of any type of injury and not take any shots on it for a week, it's going to help you," he said. "Hopefully it can help get some of the pain down a little bit. I'll be around here the whole time getting some more treatment on it."
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About Press Coverage
Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.
Buffalo native Mark Gaughan started working at The News in 1980 and has been covering the Bills exclusively since 1992. He is a former president of the Pro Football Writers of America, and he is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee.
Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida. He writes a weekly Fantasy column in addition to his beat writing duties.