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Buffalo Bills News - July 24, 2000

Marker Rochester, Buffalo 2 cities, 1 team [6:34 AM]
Business First of Buffalo reports: 'Gaining support from Rochester-based corporations is one of the keys to the franchise's ability to compete financially in the NFL. Buffalo-area fans of the Bills may shudder at the thought of having to share their team with another city, but the economic reality of professional sports speaks to greater priorities -- survival. Population projections support the Bills' broad-based marketing strategy. The Buffalo metropolitan area continues to shrink, ranking among the NFL's smallest. By 2025, the region that stood among the nation's 20 largest markets when Ralph Wilson brought the team here in 1959, will be close to falling out of the top 50. While the loss of population put the Bills at a competitive disadvantage with its NFL brethren, the corresponding erosion of private sector businesses based here has created greater obstacles. When companies such as Trico, Bethlehem Steel and National Gypsum cut back their operations or moved, the core of corporate support here withered even as major professional sports franchises increasingly turned to local business in search of sponsorships. By stretching the Bills market, companies such as Wegmans are taking a higher profile in the team's marketing plans. The direct appeal to fans becomes stronger as well, as the players spend three weeks in Rochester each summer.'

Marker Levy evokes memories [6:18 AM]
D and C reports: 'Levy had a roster in his hands, and he said he counted only 21 players who were with the team when he last coached. Of course, the three most notable absences were Bruce Smith, Thurman Thomas and Andre Reed, all of whom were released in February. "I hated to see those last three remnants of all four Super Bowls go, but there are young players and things change," said Levy, a hint of sadness in his voice. "But I've said this before, when Babe Ruth left, Joe DiMaggio came, and when DiMaggio left, Mickey Mantle came. There is a changing of the guard. "When I came into my last camp, Jim Kelly (who retired following the 1996 season) wasn't there. If you coach long enough, great stars are going to leave. There was quite a bit of sentiment when I heard they were releasing them. John had told me a couple days before, and he told me it was going to be one of the toughest things he'd have to do."'

Marker Jackson learning playbook [6:17 AM]
D and C reports: 'The second-year player, a seventh-round draft choice out of Nebraska, is one of the busiest players in the Bills camp as he is trying to learn two positions -- tight end and fullback. "For a guy in his second year in the league, that's about as tough as it gets," Jackson said yesterday during a break at St. John Fisher College. "I can't think of anything harder, other than playing quarterback, than to have to learn two positions. "There's no real scheme to it, you just know when you're playing tight end you think about playing tight end, and when you're playing fullback you think like a fullback and just go with it."'

Marker Panos makes a forceful return [6:16 AM]
D and C reports: '"I haven't felt healthy like this in a long time," said the hard-nosed Buffalo Bills offensive guard, who missed the 1999 season after underdoing neck surgery. "I've never taken for granted what I have, but I do appreciate it all the more. This training camp isn't drudgery at all for me."'

Marker Bills: Camp fans make a difference [6:14 AM]
D and C reports: 'Yesterday, there were approximately 8,000 sets of eyes providing analysis from the stands and hillside. The crowd, believed by the Bills to be the largest ever for a basic training-camp session, again made a routine practice a little more fun for the players. "With all these people, it's like you have a game-day atmosphere," said second-year wide receiver Jeremy McDaniel. Life at St. John Fisher College already is better than the Bills believed it would be, and the players appreciate it. "People love to play the game but don't let anyone fool you, people love playing in front of the fans, too," said second-year tight end and fullback Sheldon Jackson.'

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July 23, 2000

Marker Bills Sign DE Flowers [11:21 PM]
AP reports: 1st round draft choice, Eric Flowers, is in Rochester with a new contract and will practice Monday morning.

Marker New NFL elite might not have long stay at top [9:17 AM]
Baltimore Sun reports: 'Contenders: Buffalo: No team has done a better job in the salary-cap era than the Bills. Now they have to show they can do it without the veteran leadership of Bruce Smith, Thurman Thomas and Andre Reed. They also lost three other starters from their defense that was ranked No. 1 last season and didn't sign a single unrestricted free agent. On offense, quarterback Rob Johnson has to prove he can stay healthy and keep Doug Flutie on the bench.'

Marker Antowain toes the line in backfield competition [9:00 AM]
Buffalo News reports: 'This is an important year for Smith, who is entering the last year of his contract. The Bills are still committed to him, but he must avoid the injury bug and re-establish himself as the elite running back in the offense. "It's basically put up or shut up," said Smith, who ran for 1,124 yards in 1998. "I'm at the point now where I know I have to produce. I won't say I've got something to prove to myself, but I want to go out there and let my teammates and the coaching staff know that I am the guy that can carry this team."'

Marker Wilson says charging for camp is not in club's future [8:59 AM]
Buffalo News reports: 'Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson is not a proponent of such money-making devices. He said he would never force fans to pay to watch practice. "Not as long as I've got a pulse," he said. "We just like to get as many fans out as possible to build up some enthusiasm and interest in the team now through the regular season. Whatever other people do, it's up to them. But we wouldn't do it. It might prevent some people from coming. We're trying to attract more fans, not turn them away."'

Marker Sixteen isn't so sweet for Bills defense [8:58 AM]
Buffalo News reports: '""We're not much different than we were last season,"" Cottrell says. ""We planned for Bruce Smith's leaving by drafting Marcellus Wiley three years ago and Erik Flowers this year. We like Keith Newman (the replacement for departed linebacker Gabe Northern) a lot. Antoine Winfield, our new right corner (in place of Thomas Smith), proved he could play last season. ""The only real surprise was Kurt Schulz signing as a free agent (with the Detroit Lions), but we have some good athletes at the free safety position."" Cottrell likes his unit again, and its performance in the Saturday morning training session at its St. John Fisher College base seemed to back his opinion.'

Marker Flutie put on hold by Bills [6:28 AM]
Toronto Sun reports: 'Doug Flutie may not be the starting quarterback, but he could have a special role in the Buffalo Bills offence. At the end of practice yesterday, Flutie was the holder on field-goal attempts, replacing punter Chris Mohr, who usually is assigned the chore. Included in the special-teams drill were a number of fake field-goal trick plays. "It was nothing, we were just trying a few things," said Flutie, who remains wildly popular with Bills fans, judging by the lineups to get his autograph.'

Marker Smith gets historical [6:27 AM]
Toronto Sun reports: 'Smith isn't longing for legendary Bills Thurman Thomas, Andre Reed and Bruce Smith, who were released by the Bills in the off-season and moved to the Miami Dolphins, Denver Broncos and Washington Redskins respectively. Antowain Smith just wants to regain the form that two years ago had him touted as the featured runner in the Bills backfield and logical successor to Thomas. And Smith may be ready. A rigorous off-season training program has the 28-year-old in the best shape of his three-year pro career.'

Marker Forget Big Three; Bills have leaders [6:17 AM]
D and C reports: 'Forgive the lack of sentimentality, but missing the Big Three is like missing a toothache. After 15 seasons, their absence is a much needed breath of fresh air. Any more harping on life without them demeans the quality of the current team, denying a horde of Bills their long overdue recognition as leaders. Thirty-something veterans Phil Hansen, Henry Jones, Ted Washington, John Fina, Jerry Ostroski and Sam Rogers cast a quiet confidence any team with championship aspirations can build around.'

Marker Football, fun, sun for $1 [6:15 AM]
D and C reports: 'From the up-close look at the players on the practice field to the interactive football games on the artificial turf of Growney Stadium, fans are treated to hours of entertainment all for the price of a $1 shuttle bus ride.'

Marker Lighter Brown faces test blocking [6:14 AM]
D and C reports: '"Guys were saying I lost too much weight, but I'm moving good and I feel strong," he said. "I may have lost a little bit of strength because I was up to 325 and obviously I'm not going to be as strong as a 325-pounder, but I'm quicker, I feel more energetic and hopefully I can stay injury-free during the season. "That's the main thing, you work out and exercise so your body will be able to take the abuse during the season." Through weightlifting, Brown figures he will go up to the 295-pound range by the time the season starts.'

Marker Smith looks regain form of 1998 [6:12 AM]
D and C reports: '"My main focus coming into camp was to stay healthy throughout the season, and that's a hard thing to do," said Smith. "I just want to get back to the form that I know I'm capable of. "I know what I can do when I'm healthy and I think my teammates believe in me, it's just a matter of me staying healthy and showcasing my talents."'

Marker Bills say thanks to loyal fans [6:11 AM]
D and C reports: 'Fans attending the yesterday afternoon practice session were given a surprise treat -- a mass autograph session by the entire team. A half-hour into practice, coach Wade Phillips blew his whistle and all 79 players headed to the fences surrounding the fields. Standing nearby with handfuls of Sharpies were team public relations staffers. Players signed for 15 minutes. So did Phillips and owner Ralph Wilson. When they were finished, the crowd let out with applause and screams of "Thank you."'

July 22, 2000

Marker Moulds charged up for Bills season [10:50 PM]
AP reports: 'Helping motivate Moulds is this being the final year of his contract. He can't help but consider the multimillion-dollar prize that could be awaiting him next winter. "You're a competitor, and you see all these guys getting these big contracts and, of course, you would like to be in that situation,'' Moulds said. "But you still have to go out this year and have a good showing."'

Marker New-look, slimmer, trimmer Brown shows up at Bills camp [6:42 PM]
AP reports: '"My wife wanted to lose weight after having the baby," Brown said following Saturday morning's session at St. John Fisher College. "So she and I got together and started working out." Brown, who's weight was as high as 325, is now a trim 286 pounds. And that has left some wondering whether Brown is in too good a shape. "Everybody was kind of like, 'He lost too much weight,"' said Brown. "But I'm moving good. I feel strong. I may have lost a little bit of strength because I was 325 (pounds). ... But I'm quicker. I feel a lot more energetic." Brown said he's now working on adding some bulk, aiming at a playing weight of 295.'

Marker Bills expand their coverage [2:33 PM]
Syracuse Post-Standard reports: '"This is why we did this (move to Rochester)," said Lynch, pointing to a media credential with the name of the Syracuse Newspapers written across it. "The only way we can survive is as a regional franchise. It's the only way it can work."'

Marker Road show [2:29 PM]
Buffalo News reports: '"It's a clean environment. Everything is fresh and new," he said. "In Fredonia, there wasn't much to entice you to stay after practice." That isn't the case here. On the artificial turf field next to the practice fields, the Bills have set up The NFL Experience, a football-themed fun land geared for children. Kids could get timed in the 40-yard dash, field punts and passes tossed by modified pitching machines, kick field goals or run through an inflatable obstacle course. But probably the most popular of the Experience activities was a giant, inflatable slide that entertained a constant stream of boys and girls of all ages. "It's obviously more appealing to the kids," said Lisa Plukas of Irondequoit, who is originally from Angola. Her three kids slid, stumbled and dove down the slide, then quickly scrambled to the steps for another trip down.'

Marker Jones, Hansen step into Bills' leadership role [2:27 PM]
Buffalo News reports: 'Phillips didn't mention strong safety Henry Jones and defensive end Phil Hansen by name, but he didn't have to. With 10 years each with the Bills, the leadership mantle automatically falls to them. "I guess I won the title by default," Jones said after the first training camp practice Friday at St. John Fisher College. "It feels a lot different not having Bruce and those guys around. I've always had somebody here older than me to look up to and listen to. But now, I'm that guy people are coming to for advice." "It's really hard to believe that Bruce, Thurman and Andre are gone," added Hansen. "They were such a big part of our success for more than a decade. Now it's time for guys like myself and Henry to take a more prominent role."'

Marker Tillman relieved to be in camp [2:26 PM]
Buffalo News reports: 'Tillman admitted to having some anxiety over the drawn-out negotiations, which threatened to keep him out of training camp. "I was getting a little worried because it was very important for me to be here on time to get out and start working again," he said following the morning session. "I just told my agent I wanted to be here, and I wanted him to make it happen."'

Marker Thurman Thomas dons Dolphins uniform [7:57 AM]
Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel reports: '"It wasn't because when I first signed here and got to be in this locker room with all these players, you kind of forget about that,"; said Thomas, a likely Hall of Famer. "The only time you're reminded about it is when (the media personnel) ask me."'

Marker Bills kick off camp at Fisher [7:48 AM]
D and C reports: 'The official kickoff yesterday of the Buffalo Bills' first training camp workouts in Rochester provided a peek into what lies ahead for the team, on and off the field. Though inclement weather and a work day kept attendance to moderate numbers and far below what officials predicted, it didn't dampen people's enthusiasm. From the moment 81-year-old team owner Ralph Wilson walked onto the practice field at 9:30 a.m. to warm cheers, the party was on. "I could never have envisioned all of this, but who could?" said Wilson, glancing at the carnival-like scene of corporate tents, merchandise sales and interactive games.'

Marker Porter, Bills look ahead to future, but remember Titans' kickoff return [7:45 AM]
D and C reports: 'Daryl Porter realizes that for as long as he lives, the horrible memory will remain deep in his mind. "I still haven't gotten over it," Porter said yesterday when asked to recall Homerun Throwback, the miraculous 75-yard trick kickoff return that Tennessee executed last Jan. 8 which doomed the Bills to one of the most heartbreaking losses in their history. "That will be something that's in the back of my mind for the rest of my life."'

Marker Bills wait for Metz to send Flowers [7:43 AM]
D and C reports: 'Butler called talks "ongoing" but gave no positive indications that a deal would be struck soon. Bills vice president of business administration Jim Overdorf is handling the details with agent Eric Metz. One issue is that Metz has numerous other clients he's trying to get signed with other teams and hasn't been devoting total attention to Flowers. It's believed the Bills and Metz are talking over a deal similar to the one last year's top pick, Antoine Winfield, received: $7 million over five years with a $3.5 million bonus. However, unlike a year ago, the Bills are struggling to find salary cap room that can accommodate a large bonus for Flowers. "It's got to meet terms, length, money," Butler said. "He (Metz) has a client to take care of, and we have a club to take care of."'

Marker Californians make dream a reality [7:41 AM]
D and C reports: '"This place is fantastic," said Miller, who is spending two weeks with his sister and brother-in-law in Niagara Falls. "Everything about this facility is first class. The sight lines are great. "We'll probably come back one more time before we head back." Miller, his wife and four of their children are all registered members of the Southern Cal Bills Backers club. He hasn't had a chance to register 5-month-old son Jacon yet. The family usually watches the Bills play on Sundays at a sports bar near their home.'

Marker Hansen recalls the good 'ol days [7:40 AM]
D and C reports: '"For me what was more disappointing than the loss (to Tennessee in the wild-card playoff game) was to see all the players go in the offseason," Hansen said. "I thought we were on the verge of something special last year. "Those were major contributors to this team. That team will never be together as a team again."'

Marker Bills having deep thoughts [7:36 AM]
Toronto Sun reports: '"I just have to stay away from getting hurt," Johnson said. "A lot of quarterbacks get hurt. The hits you take with the size of the guys that are hitting you, you are going to get bumps and bruises. "But you have to stay away from the major wounds." Johnson's frailties are part of the reason the Bills don't mind having Flutie waiting in the wings. It also is why in his heart, the former Argo believes he'll get another shot at starting.'

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