September 26, 1989 -- The chances of picking up a future Hall of Fame player for nothing are few and far between. Yet that's exactly what happened to the Buffalo Bills on this day.
It wasn't exactly big news at the time. The Bills announced that they had placed cornerback Derrick Burroughs on injured reserve because of a neck injury. Buffalo filled the roster spot by signing free agent James Lofton, who was said to be a backup for Andre Reed and Flip Johnson.
Lofton had turned in nine excellent seasons with the Packers after he arrived in 1978. He qualified for the Pro Bowl seven times. Then Lofton spent two years with the Raiders, but was let go. His production had dropped off, and NFL teams wondered if this fabulous athlete had something left in the tank.
He certainly did. Lofton only caught eight passes in 12 games in 1989, but that was just a warm-up. The receiver caught 35 passes in 1990, averaging about 20 yards per catch. Obviously, Johnson wasn't missed after that. Lofton then caught 108 passes over two years in 1991 and 1991. He could still stretch the field at the age of 36, and was a big part of Buffalo's no-huddle offense in that great era.
Lofton moved on for one more season with the Rams and Eagles in 1993. Ten years later, he went into the Pro Football Hall of Fame after catching 764 passes for 14,004 yards.
--- Budd Bailey