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Doug Marrone loves St. John Fisher, wants camp to last longer

By Tim Graham

Buffalo Bills boss Russ Brandon proclaimed this morning everything about how the club operates will be reviewed to maximize winning.

His comments on WGR pertained to playing regular-season games in Toronto, but Brandon also mentioned the Bills will re-evaluate their training-camp partnership with St. John Fisher College.

Bills coach Doug Marrone also would like the front office to reconsider St. John Fisher. He wants to stay longer.

"I'm a very firm believer, and I said this during the interview process, of going away for training camp," Marrone said. "I love it."

Marrone has experienced taking camp on the road twice in his NFL career, the summer Hurricane Katrina chased the New Orleans Saints to Jackson, Miss., and again this year in Pittsford.

"I did think we got everything we wanted out of that experience," Marrone said. "I liked staying there. If anything, I'd like to stay there longer, to be honest with you. ... I like staying away as long as possible."

The Bills opened camp July 28 and left the St. John Fisher campus Aug. 21, three days before the third preseason game.

Marrone didn't have much to say about Brandon's comments on Toronto.

"My job is to win football games, whether it's at home, in Toronto, on the road, whatever we have to do," Marrone said. "That's my focus. My focus goes outside of that ... what I believe in my core, then I'm not doing my job.

"I've got to get this team ready. We have to play better. We're not consistent."

Russ Brandon is concerned about Toronto, ticket sales at Ralph

81172 McCoy Sports Bills 86

The Buffalo Bills take the field at the Rogers Centre in Toronto Sunday (James P. McCoy/ Buffalo News)

By Mark Gaughan

The atmosphere in the Rogers Centre for Sunday's Buffalo Bills game was disappointing to team President and Chief Executive Officer Russ Brandon.

Brandon didn't exactly use those words, but he made that point clear in his weekly radio show on WGR this morning. Brandon also made it clear the team still is having a much harder time filling seats at Ralph Wilson Stadium than he would like.

"One of the things I said ... on Jan. 1 of this year was I was going to review every phase of this operation, and this series comes within that framework," Brandon said. "I'm going to look at it very closely."

"Obviously, Toronto has been very positive for us down here," Brandon said. "We've had great growth in the Southern Ontario marketplace the last five years. Back here at Ralph Wilson Stadium that has been a big positive. It has been a challenged market there. And certainly has not translated into enough wins for us there."

The atmosphere for the Bills was not good in Sunday's 34-31 overtime loss to the Atlanta Falcons. Announced attendance was only 38,969. There were roughly as many fans wearing Falcons jerseys as those wearing Bills jerseys. The cheers for the Falcons' scores were almost as loud as for the Bills' scores. Falcons fans were making a lot of noise when the Bills' offense was facing key third-down situations in the second half.

The Bills still have four years left on their agreeement with Rogers Communications Inc. to hold games in Toronto. It's unfathomable to think the Bills would spend any significant money to buy out of the deal, which still is a financial windfall for the club. Would he consider trying to get out of the deal?

"I'm going to look at everything," Brandon said. "I'll just leave it at that."

At the same time, Brandon said he also would review the Bills' training camp arrangement in suburban Rochester, something that surely is not going to change. The Bills have a long-term agreement in place with St. John Fisher College.

"Is that the right thing to help us win?" Brandon said. "We have a great setup at Fisher. But is that the best thing for this team? When I said everything is under review I mean everything. Everything that's involved with this operation is under review. This falls under that same atmosphere."

Meanwhile, Brandon made it clear that selling out seven home games in Orchard Park is a great challenge.

"It's also about being viable," Brandon said. "That's one of the things we've talked about for many years here. Look at it from the standpoint of where we've been this year on the ticket side. We've taken a game out of the market, which is essentially taking 70,000 seats out of the market, and have truly only sold out two of our home games."

"We've manufactured sellouts in the other four or five," Brandon said. "We're trying to find ways to obviously keep this team viable, which we've done a very good job at, and this series has obviously contributed to that.

"With that being said, nothing comes above winning. When I took the over the reins on Jan. 1, I said that was the No. 1 focus, and that will be the No. 1 focus. And that's one of the reasons that this will be reviewed in a grand manner."

The Bills (4-8) are headed to a 14th straight non-playoff finish.

Brandon said there still were about 20,000 tickets left for the last Orchard Park home game, against Miami in 17 days.

Bills have aired scheduling complaints to NFL

By Jay Skurski

The Buffalo Bills have been banging the "our schedule is unfair" drum since June.

On Wednesday, the beat got louder.

Appearing on his weekly radio segment with WGR 550, team President Russ Brandon was asked by host Howard Simon if the NFL takes into account which teams are coming off bye weeks or extra rest when putting together the league schedule.

The Bills face the Jets on Sunday, who are coming off their bye week. It's the second time New York has had more time to prepare for Buffalo. In Week Two, the Jets played Thursday night, then faced the Bills on the Sunday of Week Three.

"Well I hope so, because we certainly have talked to the league about this because it's a little bit disappointing that we've had six games where teams are coming off a bye or a long week," Brandon said. "This is the second time. We played the Jets coming off a Thursday night game and now we're playing them coming off of a bye.

"I think we lead the league in the amount of games coming off of the short time or the bye week. It is a very, very tough job what they have in scheduling with all the different things that go into the formula, the stadium commitments and TV schedules, but it's certainly something that needs to be addressed."

The Bills have six such games this season, as was pointed out by the team's official website back in June.

Bills coach Doug Marrone was asked today whether he felt that was a disadvantage for his team.

"I do. I do," he said. "I think the biggest thing in this league, the one thing that helps you the most, is rest. That's why I think it is."

So far this year, teams playing the following week after a Thursday night game are 9-7 (56.1 winning percentage). Teams playing the week after their bye are 13-9 (59.1 winning percentage).

Last season, teams coming off their bye week went 15-15-2.

Since the 2001 season, teams are 214-181-3 coming off the bye week. That's a winning percentage of 54.2 (excluding the three ties). Is there an advantage for teams with extra rest? Probably.

But is it worth airing in public?

Jairus Byrd says he hasn't given upcoming trade deadline much thought

By Jay Skurski

Bills safety Jairus Byrd's name has been a popular one floated in trade rumors seemingly from the time he reported to the team over the summer.

With the trade deadline in the NFL arriving at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Byrd was asked today whether he had an expectation of what might happen.

"No, not really. I haven't really given it too much thought," he said. "I mean, I'm focused on winning games here. If something happens, it happens, but right now my focus is with my teammates here and just trying to win games."

Byrd is coming off his most extensive playing time of the season in Sunday's 35-17 loss to the New Orleans Saints. He was in on 90 percent of the defensive snaps (63 of 70), registering three tackles and one pass defensed.

Continue reading "Jairus Byrd says he hasn't given upcoming trade deadline much thought" »

Bills granted extension in effort to lift blackout

By Jay Skurski

The Buffalo Bills announced this afternoon that the team has been granted a 24-extension to sell the remaining tickets for Sunday's home game against the Cincinnati Bengals, thus preventing a blackout on local television.

There were 7,000 tickets remaining for the game as of Wednesday morning -- a lot of inventory to move, in the words of team President Russ Brandon. That number is at 5,300 tickets as of this afternoon. The game must now be sold out by 1 p.m. Friday.

There has not been a blackout through the first five weeks of the regular season in the NFL.

Kiko Alonso reminds Bills CEO of London Fletcher, Takeo Spikes

By Tim Graham

Kiko Alonso's career is four NFL games old.

This morning, Buffalo Bills CEO Russ Brandon compared the rookie to a pair of linebackers who've played 463 games.

On Brandon's weekly WGR radio show, host Howard Simon asked Brandon to fill in a blank: Alonso is the best Bills linebacker since ...

Continue reading "Kiko Alonso reminds Bills CEO of London Fletcher, Takeo Spikes" »

Since merger, no NFL club has begun season with only rookie QBs

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Jeff Tuel, left, and EJ Manuel could be the NFL's first rookie-exclusive quarterback group to open a season since the merger. (Photo: James P. McCoy/Buffalo News)

By Tim Graham

The Buffalo Bills' quarterback plan isn't according to Hoyle.

What they're about to do isn't even according to Brodie Croyle or Brian Hoyer.

The Buffalo Bills have two quarterbacks on their active roster, EJ Manuel and Jeff Tuel. Both are rookies. Even when you consider Thad Lewis from the practice squad, Bills quarterbacks have combined to play one NFL game.

As Grantland.com writer Bill Barnwell points out, the Bills would become the first NFL team since the 1970 merger to open a season with only rookie quarterbacks on its roster.

If the Bills aren't comfortable enough with Manuel's knee injury to start him against the New England Patriots on Sunday, then Tuel would become the first undrafted rookie in the modern NFL to start on opening day.

I wonder what a robust analytics department would say about the Bills' chances to succeed with such a strategy.

Cornelius Bennett, one four linebackers on the Bills' 50th anniversary team, tweeted his reaction:

Russ Brandon warned us when he took over as team president the Bills would be outside-the-box thinkers, progressive, daring.

I'm pretty sure this wasn't what the fans had in mind.

Eric Wood: 'I would've never forgave myself' for leaving Buffalo

By Tim Graham

Eric Wood has toiled for the Buffalo Bills. He has slogged through losing seasons. His legs have been mangled in pursuit of success.

He doesn't want all that to be for naught.

Wood, the Bills' veteran center, signed a multiyear contract extension today. Terms of the deal were not yet known, but Wood's intentions were clear.

Wood said, "I would've never forgave myself," had he not re-signed with Buffalo, "especially with the direction we're going and to watch them make the playoffs without me."

Continue reading "Eric Wood: 'I would've never forgave myself' for leaving Buffalo" »

Ford Taurus rides and tuna melts forged a bond with Ralph Wilson

By Tim Graham

At every Friday practice for nearly three years, Ralph Wilson's golf cart would whir down the stadium tunnel ramp and onto the field.

Troy Vincent knew it was time to leave and shower up.

No matter that three practice periods still remained. Head coach Mike Mularkey and defensive coordinator Jerry Gray were helpless.

Mr. Wilson was there to whisk away their star safety for tuna melts and french fries at Danny's restaurant in Orchard Park.

Continue reading "Ford Taurus rides and tuna melts forged a bond with Ralph Wilson" »

Jason Peters revisited: Bills, agent say trade won't affect Jairus Byrd

By Tim Graham

There isn't a contract scoreboard in Russ Brandon's office.

Influential agent Eugene Parker might have forced the Buffalo Bills to trade left tackle Jason Peters four years ago, but that doesn't mean safety Jairus Byrd's situation will be considered a rematch.

In interviews for a Parker profile that will run in Sunday morning's Buffalo News, he and Brandon revisited the Peters contract standoff in light of Byrd's contract negotiations.

Continue reading "Jason Peters revisited: Bills, agent say trade won't affect Jairus Byrd" »

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About Press Coverage

Tim Graham

Tim Graham

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.

@ByTimGraham | tgraham@buffnews.com


Mark Gaughan

Mark Gaughan

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.

@gggaughan | mgaughan@buffnews.com


Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski

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.

@JaySkurski | jskurski@buffnews.com

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