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Doug Marrone urges C.J. Spiller to hold O-line accountable

By Tim Graham

Maybe it's time for C.J. Spiller to stop being such a nice guy.

Buffalo Bills coach Doug Marrone suggested after today's game that Spiller should get into his offensive linemen's grills about blocking better.

Spiller had another miserable game even though his Bills waylaid the New York Jets, 37-14, in Ralph Wilson Stadium.

"I know it was terrible today," Spiller said. "It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know I didn't have a good day rushing the ball. I probably was in negative yards."

Not quite, but almost.

Spiller ran 13 times for 6 yards. His longest gain was 3 yards. He was tackled for no gain or negative yards five times.

One play was particularly aggravating. Against a loaded box about five minutes before halftime, the Bills ran anyway. Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson shot through the Bills' line and tackled Spiller for a 4-yard loss.

You could almost see the steam shooting from the ear holes in Spiller's helmet as he walked to the sideline.

Marrone made it a point to speak with Spiller. Marrone was upset with the offensive line, noting they were falling down and whiffing on some run blocks.

"If you're a running back and you're getting the ball, that's something you don't expect," Marrone said. "You can live with the other stuff.

"I told him afterward, 'You know what? I'd be pissed, too. But the difference between me and you -- and this is what you have to do now -- is go over to that group right there, that offensive line, and you tell them. You tell them you're pissed.' "

Spiller had no quarrel with Marrone's advice.

"He's exactly right," Spiller said. "When things aren't going right, it's about holding each other accountable. It's nothing about degrading my teammates or anything like that. It's just letting them know that we have to get going."

Spiller admitted that venting isn't a foreign concept to him. He recently spoke to Thurman Thomas about this very topic, asking the Hall of Fame running back how to confront negative issues without turning into a controversy.

Bills center Eric Wood acknowledged Spiller's frustrations and welcomed his input.

"If he's not comfortable saying something, then maybe him doing that is not the best way," Wood said. "But if he's comfortable saying something, we respect him. We know what he can do when we give him holes. We've got to do a better job for him."

Legendary Bills receiver Andre Reed attended today's game and was in the locker room afterward. Reed laughed when asked whether Thomas had the temerity to confront Pro Bowl linemen such as Jim Ritcher, Kent Hull and Howard Ballard.

"If it ain't going right and you're the main guy, you get up in somebody's face regardless," Reed said. "Get up in the offensive line's face and say something. Thurman didn't give a damn who he was talking to.

"If it's bothering me, I'd get in somebody's face. Hell, I'm out here working, too."

Spiller's backfield mates, Fred Jackson and Tashard Choice, didn't fare much better Sunday. The Bills combined for 68 yards on 38 rushing attempts.

"We have the guys that can get the job done," Spiller said. "There wasn't a whole lot of room out there, but we'll get it corrected. That's the encouraging part."

Points after: Bills 23, Ravens 20

702704 RAVENS AT BILLS MU#8

By Tim Graham

Quick highlights from the Buffalo Bills' bounce-back victory over the Baltimore Ravens in Ralph Wilson Stadium ...

What it means: The Bills are 2-2 and unbeaten outside the AFC East after upsetting the defending Super Bowl champs.

Player of the game: Starting at cornerback for the first time since last season, erstwhile safety Aaron Williams had his first two-interception game and broke up a couple more long passes. Williams left the game with an apparent shoulder injury in the second quarter but returned, then departed for good in the fourth quarter with a lower-back injury.

Play of the game: With 57 seconds to play and the Bills hanging on by their fingernails, middle linebacker Kiko Alonso got his fingers around a ball batted by safety Da'Norris Searcy. Alonso secured an interception at the Bills' 41-yard line to cement the victory.

Jackson reaches milestone: With running back C.J. Spiller hampered by another injury, Fred Jackson was his usual, reliable self. Jackson rushed 16 times for 87 yards and a touchdown. He surpassed Joe Cribbs for third place on the Bills' all-time list behind Thurman Thomas and O.J. Simpson.

Stat line of the game: Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco was 25 of 50 for 347 yards and two touchdowns but a career-worst five interceptions.

Alonso all over: Alonso became the first rookie linebacker in Bills history to snag an interception in three straight games. He's only the third Bills rookie linebacker with three in a season, joining Stew Barber in 1961 and Mike Stratton in 1962.

Stevie nearly snuffed: Bills receiver Stevie Johnson entered today's game with a 51-game reception streak, fourth-longest in club history. Johnson had one catch for minus-1 yard. But he also made a colossal play by recovering an EJ Manuel fumble deep in Buffalo territory right before the two-minute warning.

Preliminary injury report: Aaron Williams fell hard on his right shoulder while breaking up a long pass early in the second quarter. He went to the locker room early before halftime, played much of the second half but left the game again in the fourth quarter with a lower-back injury. ... Wide receiver and special-teamer Marcus Easley was sidelined in the second quarter with an apparent left ankle or foot injury but returned later in the quarter. ... A knee injury sent right guard Kraig Urbik to the locker room with 5:27 left in the first half. Urbik returned in the third quarter. ... Spiller limped off with a left ankle injury on the first possession of the second half, but came back late in the third quarter. ... Jackson removed himself from the game at the goal line with about two minutes left in the third quarter but returned to action.

Coming up: The Bills have the dreaded short week ahead. They will play the Cleveland Browns on Thursday night in FirstEnergy Stadium.

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" »

Couple of surprises on PFT's Buffalo Bills Mount Rushmore

By Tim Graham

ProFootballTalk.com has unveiled its Buffalo Bills Mount Rushmore.

And I think there are a couple upsets.

Neither Marv Levy nor Bruce Smith is honored.

Jim Kelly? Check.

O.J. Simpson? Check.

Continue reading "Couple of surprises on PFT's Buffalo Bills Mount Rushmore" »

Marv Levy ranked 17th on list of 20 greatest NFL coaches

By Tim Graham

To celebrate what would've been Vince Lombardi's 100th birthday on June 11, ESPN is counting down its 20 greatest NFL coaches.

Buffalo Bills immortal Marv Levy came in at No. 17.

For the series, here's what Jim Kelly had to say about his coach:

"I think Marv Levy's biggest achievement is keeping his team mentally focused year after year after year, especially during that run of four Super Bowls. We went five years to the AFC Championship Game. Everybody knows you've got to be physically prepared for the game. If you're not, you're not going to make it. But to be able to mentally prepare your football team after a devastating loss, and forget about what happened the year before or the year before or the year before, and the resiliency our football team had, it started with Marv Levy. I know we wouldn't have gone to four Super Bowls in a row without Marv Levy.

"Probably the most influential thing about him was the way he handled the players on his team. If you remember, the guys we had -- Bruce Smith, Thurman Thomas, Andre Reed, Darryl Talley, Steve Tasker -- we had a bunch of different personalities, and we all had egos. Early on in Marv's career and our careers, we knew if we didn't come together as a team, it didn't matter how many superstars we had, we wouldn't make it. He made sure to make each individual understand that if we didn't put our egos to the side, we wouldn't achieve our goals. He could communicate to players in a way where we totally understood it. He was never the rah-rah, in-your-face type of guy. It was the old cliché: It's not what you said, but how you said it. Marv always knew what to say and how to say it.

"It clicked probably in 1988. The Bickering Bills came and I had something to do with that. Everybody did to a certain point. We went to the AFC Championship Game in 1988. We knew our football team was talented. In 1989, our egos started getting in the way, including myself. Marv knew what we could achieve, but we couldn't if we started pointing fingers at each other.

"To go back to back to back to back, that will never happen again. Nope. Period. The further we're removed from those games, the more people appreciate what we did. And it started with our head coach, Marv Levy."

We found the O.J. Simpson tattoo dude: 'It's not a joke'

OJtattooLatona2By Tim Graham

The man with the O.J. Simpson mug-shot tattoo on his haunch has been found.

And we didn't need Kato Kaelin's help to track him down.

Bryan LaBarron got the tattoo on his left thigh and hip about a year ago, but the image suddenly became famous when a Facebook photo went viral Wednesday night.

People around the world -- the photo has appeared on ESPN, Yahoo! and Deadspin.com among other mainstream outlets -- have been dumbfounded over why someone would get the booking photo from Simpson's 1994 double-murder arrest permanently tattooed on his body.

"It's not a joke," LaBarron said. "I just try to live life, and I'm into what I'm into. But I want all my tattoos to have meaning."

LaBarron, 30, is a Navy veteran and Buffalo State student from Hornell. He has several tattoos, including the Bills' original red buffalo logo on his left ankle.

About a year ago, he popped into Renaissance Custom Tattoo on Main Street in Buffalo to have some more work done by owner Thomas Latona. LaBarron wanted to get a portrait of a Bills player and initially decided on Thurman Thomas.

"Ironically," Latona said, "we were looking for a picture of Thurman Thomas without his helmet. But we couldn't find anything that worked. Other than a jersey number, you can't really tell who Thurman Thomas is by looking at his face."

After several days of thought, LaBarron and Latona decided on Simpson.

LaBarron found the mug shot symbolic. He describes himself as being "obsessed" with 1990s pop culture and considered 1994 to be a pivotal time in his life.

That's the year the Bills went to the last of their four Super Bowls. Nirvana lead singer Kurt Cobain committed suicide. And Simpson was charged with murdering his ex-wife and her friend.

"That year was the end to a chapter in a lot of ways," LaBarron said.

Latona said: "This was not a 'Ha ha, this is going to be funny. I'll pull my pants down in the middle of the bar,' or 'I'll bet you a beer I have O.J. on my ass.' "

Latona considered Simpson's booking photo the obvious choice.

"Nothing's more iconic than the mug shot," said Latona, a Hutch Tech grad who opened Renaissance Custom Tattoo 14 years ago. "Everyone knows this picture. It's a part of history.

"You're going to know what it is right away, not like with a lot of portraits where people say, 'Who is that?' If I did my job right, people would know exactly who that is."

Latona preferred the tattoo large for artistic reasons. He wanted to include the booking number underneath, so Simpson's head didn't appear to be floating. To maintain proper detail, Latona thought a large, flat part of the body worked best.

"He was game for it, and we went at it," Latona said.

The tattoo took three sessions of three hours apiece to complete and cost $500.

"He's diehard," Latona said. "I know a lot of people say they're diehard, but he loves the Bills.

"Think about the passion of Buffalo sports fans. People say they live and die red and blue, bleed blue and gold. Fans carry it on them. To have your favorite sports team on your body forever is a bold, indelible statement of your commitment."

The Simpson tattoo certainly has been a conversation starter among LaBarron's friends and coworkers at Ashker's Juice Bar and Café, where the viral photo was taken (the photo in this blog post was taken at Renaissance Custom Tattoo).

Friends of LaBarron's, who write for Sports-Kings.com, gave the viral photo its initial online push.

"I've gotten a lot of good comments in the Buffalo area from Bills fans," LaBarron said. "I've seen a lot of the posts online about it, and they're not-so-nice. I understand why some people don't like it, but I don't really care.

"I have it on a part of my body that no one sees unless I show them."

If LaBarron had known the photo would become famous, then he probably would have chosen a classier pose and a prettier backdrop than an empty box of chunk pineapple and egg cartons in the Asker's Juice Bar alley.

Anyone who typed "O.J. Simpson" into Google tonight saw LaBarron's tattoo as the first result -- not coverage of the double-murder or Simpson's current legal issues, not a reference to 2,003 yards, the Heisman Trophy or Nordberg.

Jerry Rice critiqued the photo on ESPN2's "NFL Live," for crying out loud.

"Angelo, the owner, always talks about my tattoo and wants people to see it," LaBarron said. "Due to where it is I actually have to undo and drop my pants. I had gym shorts on because people ask to see it so much that sometimes I'll put on shorts when I think somebody's going to ask about it.

"So I'm standing there with my pants around my ankles in an alley by some garbage. I had no idea it would go national. My Facebook page has been blowing up."

Bills best and worst draft picks, from Tom Cousineau to Jim Kelly

By Tim Graham

NFL.com has been running a series of articles examining every team's best and worst draft picks since 1966, the start of the Super Bowl era.

The Bills' breakdown was posted today, with five finalists in each category accompanied by a poll that allows fans to select the superlative picks.

Best

  • • Jim Kelly, 14th overall in 1983
  • • Bruce Smith, first overall in 1985
  • • Thurman Thomas, 40th overall in 1988
  • • Andre Reed, 86th overall in 1985
  • • O.J. Simpson, first overall in 1969

Worst

  • • Mike Williams, fourth overall in 2002
  • • Aaron Maybin, 11th overall in 2009
  • • Tom Cousineau, first overall in 1979
  • • J.P. Losman, 22nd overall in 2004
  • • James Hardy, 41st overall in 2008

While it's difficult to argue with any of the "best" candidates, what about those longshots who had fine careers? Hitting on the first overall pick shouldn't be difficult. Simpson was a no-brainer in 1969.

I'd like to have seen one of those late-round fliers get consideration. Right tackle Howard Ballard was an 11th-round stab in 1987 but was a two-time Pro Bowler who started 10 NFL seasons. Defensive lineman Kyle Williams was a 2006 fifth-round pick who's gone to a couple Pro Bowls.

As for the "worst" candidates, I have a problem with Cousineau making the list. What made him a bad pick wasn't his talent -- he started more NFL games than 1972 first overall pick Walt Patulski -- but the fact he refused to sign with the Bills.

Besides, the Bills turned Cousineau into the draft pick that became Kelly. Without the Cousineau selection and the subsequent contract squabble, the Bills wouldn't have gotten their Hall of Fame quarterback.

Defensive tackle Torell Troup, taken one pick ahead of superstar tight end Rob Gronkowski in 2010, warrants a spot in the poll.

And why should Hardy be considered worse than Perry Tuttle (19th overall in 1982) or Tony Hunter (12th overall in 1983) or Erik Flowers (26th overall in 2000) or John McCargo (26th overall in 2006)?

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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 | [email protected]


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 | [email protected]


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 | [email protected]

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