Music City Miracle memories: The other side [6:29 AM]
Nashville Tennessean reports: 'Cowart's recollection: "After we kicked the field goal, the kickoff team huddled up and the linebackers and DBs were back on the sidelines. We were going over deep coverage for a Hail Mary and the long ball. We were drawing up different scenarios on what they possibly were going to do. Out of the blue, we heard the crowd just erupt and thought there was a fumble or something. I looked up at the 'Tron and saw Dyson jogging into the end zone. The first thing I did was look around and I thought there had to be a flag somewhere. And then once I saw the replay and saw the throwback I thought, 'Oh no, this is stuff we work on every day.'"'
Johnson, Flutie put last year's QB drama behind them [6:27 AM]
Nashville Tennessean reports: '"I think [Rob Johnson's] proven to everyone he's the quarterback here," said linebacker Sam Cowart. "On the field he's a lot more serious, he came in in tip-top shape. I think he's just established himself." On the field, yes, Johnson is the guy. The Bills want Johnson's arm in the lineup.'
Hicks, Kearse matchup to be sight to see [6:25 AM]
Nashville Tennessean reports: 'Bills right tackle Robert Hicks, all 6-foot-7, 330 pounds of him, will spend the most time across from Kearse tomorrow night. Buffalo Coach Wade Phillips has said Hicks will get some help at times but on many plays Hicks "is just going to have to rise to that challenge." Hicks was bothered by an ankle injury when the two teams met in the AFC Wild Card game. "It's a great matchup, I think," Hicks said. "But it's not a tough matchup just for me, it's a tough matchup for him, too. "Last time I played a nice game against him on a bad ankle. I'm ready for the challenge and he should be ready for the challenge, too."'
Price saw starting job coming last season [6:22 AM]
Nashville Tennessean reports: 'It was official the moment the Bills let their all-time leading receiver, Andre Reed, go elsewhere. But Peerless Price said he saw it coming before that. "I was getting an opportunity to play more as last season went on," Price said. "I felt like coming into camp this time the job could be mine. "Andre, I have to thank him. He helped me a lot, but even if he would have been here I felt like I was going to have the opportunity to be in there."'
Face vengeful Bills [6:20 AM]
Titans Exclusive reports: '"What happened last year will be a factor the entire week leading up to the game," Titans head coach Jeff Fisher said. "It'll be the main focal point on the local level and a national level. But when the game starts, it¹s no longer an issue. This issue is what's taking place between the snap and the whistle."'
Wiley ready to get out of Bruce Smith's shadow [9:00 PM]
AP reports: '"Everybody's going to remember Bruce Smith, and it's my point to let everyone know who Marcellus Wiley is,'' Wiley said as the new-look Bills prepared to open their season Sunday night against Tennessee. "But it takes time. You don't get 170-some sacks in one year. ... It's important for me to keep that respect and attitude.'' Wiley said he and Smith, who landed as a free agent with Washington last offseason, still keep in touch, calling each other about once a week. "He just wishes me the best. It's kind of a calming situation,'' Wiley said. "He tells me, 'Don't get caught up in the hype and who you're supposed to be. Just be yourself and everyone has confidence in that.'''
'Miracle' finish stings in Buffalo [1:36 PM]
Houston Chronicle reports: 'Few cities have suffered as much as Buffalo and its pristine suburbs. From Orchard Park to Amherst, from Lackawanna to Tonawanda, sports fans in upstate New York almost expect devastating defeats rather than championships. Where else can you find fans who suffered through four consecutive Super Bowl losses? Mention former Bills kicker Scott Norwood, and fans flinch at the memory of his missed field goal in the Super Bowl. Bring up Brett Hull and they seethe at the memory of him clinching the Stanley Cup for the Dallas Stars with a goal that shouldn't have counted against their beloved Sabres. But even those hard-bitten fans who became almost immune by experience had a difficult time accepting last season's 22-16 loss to the Tennessee Titans in an AFC wild-card game. Because Kevin Dyson scored the winning touchdown with three seconds remaining on a 75-yard gimmick kickoff return called "Home Run Throwback," the game became famous in Nashville and infamous in Buffalo as the Music City Miracle.'
AFC East capsules [1:28 PM]
Baltimore Sun reports: '[Buffalo] is a team people will regard too lightly, what with all of their personnel losses. If WR Peerless Price takes attention away from the outstanding Eric Moulds, the offense could be clicking into January.'
Bills hope to put hex on Kearse [9:00 AM]
Buffalo News reports: '"We're ready," said right tackle Robert Hicks, who is expected to be blocking Kearse most of the game. "We're ready for whatever they want to do."'
Are you qualified to wade in waters of an NFL coach? [8:59 AM]
Buffalo News reports: 'You've decided to fire the special teams coach. Do you: a) Place an ad on hotjobs.com?; b) Set off on a relentless search that might lead you to a displaced special teams coach of high regard.?; c) Hire a crony who just spent three years as the defensive coordinator at collegiate powerhouse Texas El Paso, the school that your son just so happens to attend, because you know you're going to lose some more key special teams personnel in free agency and you want an inexperienced coach to meld with your increasingly inexperienced special teams players?'
Norwegian ready to make impact on American football [8:50 AM]
Norway Post reports: 'Dolonen Larsen was drafted by the NFL last fall, and if he gets any playing time in the season opener at Tennessee Titans next Sunday, he will be the first Norwegian to star in the NFL during regular playing time.'
Colts expected to lead pack in division of change [6:16 AM]
USA Today reports: 'Buffalo coach Wade Phillips knows he sacrificed leadership during the Bills' out-with-the-old offseason. But he is equally certain he gained team speed. "It's going to pay off for us," Phillips says. "Guys are not only going to make plays, but nobody is going to catch them."'
Change is good for Bills [6:12 AM]
Toronto Sun reports: '"Every year people underestimate the Bills," Buffalo guard Ruben Brown said. "It would be no different had (Smith, Price and Reed) been here, (the experts) were going to underestimate us anyway. They will pick a reason, they always do. "But we are all excited about the possibilities of where this team can go. We feel we can go a long way."'
Starting QB's job is Johnson's to lose [6:11 AM]
Toronto Sun reports: 'Johnson, acquired by the Bills three years ago, lost the starting job due to injury six games into the 1998 season, vows he is up for the challenge. "There is always pressure," Johnson said. "I put a lot of pressure on myself so I don't worry about the pressure people put on the Bills." Johnson's primary task will be to open up the passing game, something Flutie's failing 37-year-old arm was unable to do last season.'
Keion's chance arrives early [6:07 AM]
D and C reports: 'The only undrafted rookie free agent to make the roster last season, Carpenter is now the team's starting free safety, beating out four-year veteran Daryl Porter and highly-touted second-round draft pick Travares Tillman for the job vacated by Kurt Schulz. "I treated it as a great opportunity," Carpenter said. "Some guys don't get this opportunity in their whole careers. I was fortunate and blessed to get this chance in just my second year. In this league, you've got to make the best of your chances. Up to this point, I have, but I've got to step my game up another notch, because it's for real now."'
Q&A with Fisher [6:04 AM]
Titans Exclusive reports: 'Buffalo in our opinion and many people's opinion last year was a team picked to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. A lot of people felt that whoever survived that first game would have a chance to go to the Super Bowl. Then you go in and look at the specifics of what took place in our game against Buffalo. It was literally a dogfight. It was a battle war out there where two teams that couldn't throw, that exchanged series back and forth and just pounded each other and that whole battle was kind of overtaken by the ending. People failed to realize what took place during the game. There were some great match-ups, great individual battles. Eddie had 29 carries for just nearly 100 yards and neither team had 100 yards passing. It was a very physical game and it's going to be a physical game. Buffalo is a physical team and that's what we pride ourselves in. So something has to give here. They probably have not gotten a good night's sleep since that playoff game and have been pointing toward this game since then. And there's no question that they'll be ready to play. So we have to go in there in play our best to have a chance to play with them.'
Professor denies saying famous lateral was forward pass [6:02 AM]
Nashville Tennessean reports: 'Mark Bocko, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Rochester (N.Y.), was in an equal state of shock when he picked up the Jan. 24 edition of the Buffalo News. It said he had "offered proof that the pass at the end of the Bills-Titans AFC playoff game that ended the Bills' season Jan. 8 was not a lateral pass but an illegal forward pass that should have been called back." The trouble from Bocko's perspective: he never said the pass was forward.'
Kearse ready to 'Freak out' Bills again [6:01 AM]
Nashville Tennessean reports: 'Jevon Kearse doesn't want to hear any excuses from the Bills this time. In last season's Wild Card game against Buffalo, Kearse sacked Bills quarterback Rob Johnson twice and also forced two fumbles, one resulting in a safety when the ball skidded out of the back of the end zone in the Titans' 22-16 win. In the days following the game, however, Kearse got the impression he didn't make a big enough impression. He plans to make up for that this Sunday.'
Bills fans awaiting public enemy No. 1 - the Titans [5:59 AM]
Nashville Tennessean reports: '"Hey, I've been chewed out and cussed out in the city already and I wasn't even here for the thing," said Bills special teams coach Ronnie Jones, who was hired to replace the fired Bruce DeHaven. "It was a big play that cost this team a chance at a ring. It's going to be mentioned until we go out and prove that something like that can't happen again."'
Peerless knows Vols will be there [5:58 AM]
Nashville Tennessean reports: 'A crew from a television network in Norway was at the Bills practice facility yesterday to interview defensive tackle Leif Larsen. Larsen, the Bills' sixth-round draft choice this past April, is the only native Norwegian in the NFL. Larsen played at Texas-El Paso -- he went there on a track scholarship. Current Bills special teams coach Ronnie Jones was at UTEP last season and Wesley Phillips, son of Bills Coach Wade Phillips, is the UTEP quarterback.'
Jeff Legwold's NFL capsules [5:55 AM]
Nashville Tennessean reports: '9. Bills...A quality group, but the Bills have the league's most difficult schedule -- their opponents were a combined 150-106 (.586) last season. That includes nine games against opponents who finished over. 500. QB Doug Flutie also suffered a severe groin pull in training camp and will be slow in coming back.'
Flutie upgraded to questionable [7:57 PM]
AP reports: 'Buffalo coach Wade Phillips said Thursday that Flutie might serve as the team's third quarterback behind starter Rob Johnson and backup Alex Van Pelt, but a final decision may not be made until game time.'
New-look Bills plan to remain competitive [7:56 PM]
AP reports: '"It is different certainly without the Big 3 and they certainly are in our minds and in our hearts,'' said coach Wade Phillips, who returns for his third year. "But I hope there's a Big 6 or Big 8 or Big 10 that show up with this year's team. We have a lot of good young players. "If they play well, then those are the guys we'll remember 10 years from now."'
Buffalo gets a quick shot at revenge against the Titans [7:54 PM]
AP reports: 'The Titans, who fell a yard short of sending the Super Bowl into overtime, might be the league's best team. The Bills almost always draft well and have stayed respectable even while the stars of the early '90s fade from the scene. But they're young. No miracles needed. TITANS, 24-16.
Dolphins fans quick to embrace former nemesis [7:52 PM]
AP reports: 'It wasn't his choice to leave Buffalo, but apparently fans there resent his decision to join the Bills' archrivals in the AFC East. "I've gotten nasty mail -- `Watch your back when you come to Buffalo,"' he said. "I'm thinking they mean maybe a couple of snowballs, but you never know when you get letters like that." He can't say former teammate Jim Kelly didn't warn him. "Jim was the first person I called when I came down here," Thomas said. "He said, `If you still think you can play, go ahead and do it. But you're probably going to make a lot of people in Buffalo mad."''
'Miracle' loss is long over for Johnson [1:24 PM]
Olean Times Herald reports: 'But that's not to say last year's playoff disappointment didn't affect Johnson. His performance against the NFL's premier pass rush, while playing behind an injury-devastated offensive line earned him big points with his teammates. Not only were they impressed that he had rallied them in a road playoff game, but also that he was quick to take the blame for his team's struggles in the first half. Tennessee's initial score was a safety when Johnson bobbled a snap from center Jerry Ostroski and was tackled in the end zone by Titans' All-Pro defensive end Jevon Kearse. Afterward Johnson could have blamed Ostroski, but instead he insisted the mistake was his also. He that he had unwisely called an audible in the din of Adelphia Coliseum and Ostroski couldn't hear it. In Johnson's view, that was totally his own fault. But that approach - whether or not it was the truth - was a sharp contrast to his predecessor, Doug Flutie, whom he replaced a week earlier. Flutie took great pains to distance himself from blame for any mistakes, a trait duly noted by his teammates. Johnson's "my fault" attitude was embraced by the team and he came to be viewed differently after that game. "I think the team sees me differently," he conceded. "The team believes (I) can do it. But to me, I haven't changed."'
Bills linebackers in hot pursuit of home run payback [9:05 AM]
Buffalo News reports: 'Most of the Bills insist they've put that loss behind them. They'll tell you it's a new season, with a bunch of new players. They'll tell you they're not thirsting for revenge in Sunday night's opener at Ralph Wilson Stadium. And you don't believe them. Looking into Cowart's eyes, you can almost see the fire smoldering inside him. It has been nearly eight months since Kevin Dyson raced down the left sideline to steal a victory away. That is hardly enough time to forget. "The players who were in that game know how it felt," he said. "So we'll be playing with a little more incentive. They're the only team to beat us in 2000, so we want to pay them back."'
Titans' offense kicks it up a notch [9:04 AM]
Buffalo News reports: 'It would be an understatement to say the Tennessee Titans' offense was like vanilla ice cream in last year's playoff game against the Buffalo Bills. It was like non-fat vanilla ice cream. The Titans' offense played an ultra-conservative game and squeezed out one touchdown and two field goals against the Bills' defense. That was then. The Bills are staring at a Titans offense that looks a lot more balanced and dangerous this week as they prepare for Sunday's rematch of the Music City Miracle at Ralph Wilson Stadium. "We've seen them go down the field a lot more than they did last year," said Bills cornerback Ken Irvin. "They have a different offensive coordinator this year, and with the receivers they have, why not?"'
Flutie well ahead of schedule for return [9:02 AM]
Buffalo News reports: '"I feel good enough that I could contribute," Flutie said. "It feels real comfortable dropping back and setting up. All I've ever said was it would be somewhere in the first few weeks of the regular season." Flutie stayed out of the 11-on-11 drills as a precaution so he wouldn't be tempted to make a fast cut. "It's definitely not 100 percent right now," Flutie said. "It's somewhere around 90 percent. I've played feeling worse."'
Johnson's live arm drives fans' expectations over the top [9:01 AM]
Buffalo News reports: 'That's why Buffalo fans have to be excited and intrigued by Rob Johnson. Whenever he throws the ball downfield, you're reminded of why he was brought here in the first place, and of the possibilities contained in his right arm.'
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