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Bills Host Jenn's "Victory Tour"

Fredonia's Jenn Suhr will bring her Olympic gold medal "Victory Tour" to Ralph Wilson Stadium on Sunday. Suhr will compete in a pole vault competition n the fieldhouse at 10:15 before the Bills play the Patriots.  The event, which is expected to finish around 11:30, is open to the public.

Suhr will be introduced in the stadium just before the players take the field for the Bills-Patriots AFC East clash at 1 p.m.

The Bills game will be the third stop on the Suhr tour. On Friday night, she competed against a group of area men and women at her alma mater, Roberts Wesleyan College outside Rochester. Last Saturday, Suhr jumped in her hometown of Fredonia. She cleared 4.83 meters (15 feet, 10 inches), which is the world's best by a woman this year. She cleared 4.74 (15-7) to win the gold in London.

 "The goal of the tour is to share her Olympic experience and Olympic gold-medal with all of Western New York," said Rich Kenah, a spokesman for Suhr. "And Jenn figures there's no better way for people to understand the pole vault than to actually see it and experience it.

Suhr was honored today at the Roberts Wesleyan homecoming ceremonies. At the time of her graduation, she was the leading scorer in the history of women's basketball at the college.

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Moorman

After making the rounds on the weekly media day at One Bills Drive, here's my best answer on why the Bills decided to cut veteran Brian Moorman:

Bruce DeHaven, the special teams coach, wanted Moorman to kick more directional punts, instead of the long, booming punts for which Moorman was well-known. Moorman resisted. He and DeHaven had never been on the same page since DeHaven returned to Buffalo two years ago. One person close to the situation described the relationship as "oil and water."

Last week, the Bills ordered Moorman to kick away from the Browns' Joshua Cribbs. Moorman did a decent job of that. He punted away from Cribbs on five of six kicks for a 34.8 net average. Cribbs returned three punts for 43 yards. Moorman had a 66-yard punt in the third quarter, after the Browns had pulled to within 17-14. Cribbs ran it back 27 yards -- still a 39-yard net.

The Bills, who had been looking to upgrade the position for some time, finally pulled the trigger on Monday. They cited production. Moorman is currently 30th in the NFL in net punting at 32.7 yards. Of course, a 68-yard TD return by the Jets' Jeremy Kerley in the opener hurts that figure. Moorman did get off a poor punt on the Kerley return.

The timing of Moorman's release is odd, and a bit risky. There's no guarantee that Shawn Powell, a rookie, will be as good as Moorman. Powell has never kicked in a regular-season NFL game -- or, more to the point, in Buffalo's often windy or wintry conditions. Moorman was also the holder on place-kicks. That's also a potential issue, especially in the short term.

Moorman and Rian Lindell were a tandem for a decade. The chemistry among the snapper, holder and kicker can be a fragile thing. Lindell tried to put the best face on it Wednesday, but it was clear that he wasn't sure how quickly the new combination would come together.

The Patriots come to town. A mistake in special teams could make the difference. So the pressure is on to get things right in a hurry. It's on Powell, but also on DeHaven and coach Chan Gailey and general manager Buddy Nix, who are gambling that you can make a major change three games into the season and get away with it.

 

"Boom Boom" In Buffalo

Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini will be in Amherst with author Mark Kriegel at 7 p.m. on Wednesday to promote "The Good Son," Kriegel's biography of the former world lightweight boxing champion. Kriegel, who has written acclaimed biographies of Joe Namath and Pete Maravich, will read passages from the book at the Barnes and Noble branch on Niagara Falls Boulevard.

Kriegel and Mancini will also conduct a question and answer session at the store. Mancini is a native of Youngstown, Ohio. But his paternal grandfather, Nick Mancino, settled in Buffalo and Mancini has several relatives in the area. Kriegel said members of Mancini's family are expected to attend the event.

"Ray considered Buffalo his second ancestral home," Kriegel said. He said that was the main reason Mancini fought a title defense against Livingstone Bramble in 1984. Mancini lost that fight.

As in his previous sports biographies, Kriegel examines the relationship between a father and son, and the son's pursuit of redemption for his dad. Mancini's father, Lenny, was a top lightweight contender in the early 1940s. But Lenny, who also went by "Boom Boom" was never the same fighter being struck by a German mortar sheel in World War II. 

Ray Mancini became a national hero in the early 1980s, a sort of "real Rocky" figure when boxing was still a major TV draw in the U.S. But he became more renowned for a brutal fight that killed Korean Duk Koo Kim in November of 1982.  Kriegel tracks down Kim's son and arranges a meeting with Mancini.

"The Good Son" is a terrific book, the third in a trinity that give Kriegel a claim to the title of our finest current sports biographer. It would be hard to rank the three books, but this might be the best of the three.

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Steve Sabol

I had the pleasure of interviewing Steve Sabol once in my career. It was in February of 1991, one week after NFL Films released a video of the Bills' first Super Bowl season. Sabol, who died on Tuesday, had a special affinity for Buffalo and its football fans. He loved shooting Bills games in bad weather, because it made for more dramatic and colorful footage.

Here's some highlights from the interview with one of the sport's true legends. I don't have my questions, just Sabol's responses:

"We shot more footage on them than any team in the league. We shot 31 miles of film on the Bills. They really had an exciting team. That's where NFL Films are notorious frontrunners. Teams like the Bears and 49ers, we start loading up. They're very photo-dramatic, you could say. So many interesting personalities, exciting to watch. The fans in Buffalo are great, like old-fashioned fans of the Fifties ... people in the cold with hairy chests, there's a terrific synergy up there, with the fans and the teams, and it makes for good movies."

"I think the Bills will probably break the all-time record for Super Bowl sales, because they lost the greatest one ever played, and with honor. In many ways, they outplayed the Giants ... it was such a fascinating Super Bowl ...

"It's sort of like the old Packers there, the town and the team.

He talked about shooting the famous Packers-Cowboys championship game in 1967, the famous "Ice Bowl"

"That was before you could winterize the cameras. I was a camerman then and my lens froze. We loved it. You see, the most insidious plague on NFL Films is domes. Oh, it's horrible shooting inside those aquariums., Players look like freeze-dried peas. It's awful. So Buffalo, Green Bay, that's where people love to go shoot. Our biggest disappointment with the Bills this year (1990) was we never got a great snowstorm. We figured we'll get an alltime storm where we have to be Admiral Peary and it never happened. When you shoot that with a camera and slow motion, it's fantastic, it's what you live for."

"Bruce Smith will always turn around and has these little remarks to our guys. You'd think with a guy like that, how can he concentrate? There are players who are athletes and entertainers. To me, he has a great sense of humor. He's a hell of a player. No doubt in my mind, he was the defensive player of the year. He's really great for sound bites. Leonard Smith, Kelly. Thurman Thomas is not a real expressive guy, but when you can run like he does ... he really should have been MVP of the Super Bowl."

"We have 12 cameras at the Super Bowl, which is not much when you figure TV uses 22. But our guys are mostly on the ground and mobile. All our equipment is designed here at NFL FIlms. It's like Daytona hot rod cars, where the motor is from Germany. The lenses are French. The bodies are American. The view systems are German. They're very sophisticated designs especially for football. A lot were taken from World War Two combat cameras."

"This is the only job I've ever had. I started when I was 21 or 22. In 1962, we did our first film. My father (Ed) started it in '62 and I was in college. He said, 'All you've been doing your whole college career is playing football and going to movies. I have a profession for you here for which you'd be eminently qualified.' I would write scripts, do photos and music. He was the businessman. My dad had an entrepreneurial vision and I guess you could say I had a creative vision. I played football at Colorado College in the Rocky Mountain Conference."

"TV had copied so much of what we've done. It's not so much a creative vehicle as a collector's item. We really want to cover every game and every play and want to do it so fast we can't be as concerned ... it's important to get it out (the Super Bowl video) quickly, while everyone is interested ... all the other sports, they just take highlights off network feeds. But everything you see is original, just shot for us."

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Give Him A Milk Mustache

Nick Barnett should apply for one of the TV commericals for milk after his endorsement on media day. Here's what the Bills' linebacker said about the mindset the team needs to snap its eight-game road losing streak this Sunday in Cleveland:

"We've got to have that mentality of going to someone's home and going in the refrigerator and drinking all the milk," Barnett said. "That's the plan."

Does it have to be milk, he was asked?

"It could be soda, whatever," he said. "But you know, when you don't have any milk and you want milk, that's a problem. You can get water out of the faucet, but when milk is gone, there's no way of getting it back."

Maybe we can develop this milk theme if the Bills finally win a road game Sunday. Last year, Barnett invited fans onto the team bandwagon early in the year. How about a milk truck this season?

 

 

Bills O line keeps rolling

Two weeks into the new season, the Bills' offensive line continues to roll along. A year ago, the Bills led the NFL in fewest sacks with 23. They are the only team that hasn't allowed a sack after the first two games of the 2012 season.

A year ago, the Bills were first in the AFC (and fifth overall) in yards per rush at 4.9. They're leading the league in rushing after two weeks with 198 yards a game and easily in first in yards per carry at 6.4. Obviously, C.J. Spiller's amazing start has a lot to do with that.

I'll be featuring Eric Wood and the offensive line in Tuesday morning's column in the News.

Bills Killer?

Abram Elam is starting for the Chiefs at free safety today because of an injury to starter Kendrick Lewis. I'm not sure this is a great thing for the Bills. Four seasons ago, as a Jet, Elam etched his name into the annals of all-time Bills killers with two critical plays in crushing Buffalo defeats.

Elam didn't play favorites, either. One play in the fateful 2008 season came against Trent Edwards, the other vs. J.P. Losman.

In the Jets' 26-17 win in Orchard Park that season, Elam picked off an Edwards pass and returned it 92 yards for a touchdown.

Six weeks later, with the Bills' nursing a 3-point lead on the road, they made the dubious decision to roll out J.P. Losman near his goal-line. Elam hit Losman from behind and forced a fumble, which was returned 11 yards for the winning touchdown by Shaun Ellis in a 31-27 Jets victory.

Over/under on Elam takeaways against Ryan Fitzpatrick today?

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