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Buffalo Bills News - August 12, 2000

Marker Time running out for rookie [7:28 AM]
D and C reports: '[Ivan] Gustafson is the longest of long shots to make the Bills' roster, but that he is at St. John Fisher College trying to make it to the NFL is heartwarming. This is a kid who was bailing hay at his parent's farm outside Olympia, Wash., the day before he had to leave to come to Rochester for the start of camp. "I went to Whitworth, worked hard and had a fun college experience and got a college education which is what I wanted to do," said Gustafson. And that will someday reward him when he puts his degree in elementary education, as well as the masters degree he plans to obtain, to work. But as he said the other day, "everything is on momentary pause" right now because his stardom on the football field at Whitworth has opened the door to the NFL just a crack.'

Marker Linton elated with start [7:26 AM]
D and C reports: '"I'm excited about this opportunity," Linton said. "Anytime you get extended minutes in a ball game, you have to make the most of it. I'm looking foward to showing the coaches I can make a big contribution to this team." Depending on the ability of Smith to shake his injury bug, Linton's contribution could be as big as last season or more.'

Marker Competition at safety heats up [7:24 AM]
D and C reports: The competition for the Bills' vacant free safety job kicks into second gear tonight when the team meets Detroit. On the other side of the field, ironically, will be the reason Buffalo is looking for a new free safety. Kurt Schulz, who started six seasons for the Bills, signed with the Lions as a free agent. Keion Carpenter is expected to get the starting nod tonight for Buffalo, followed by Daryl Porter and rookie Travares Tillman. Carpenter also spent time at corner and strong safety this week in practice, and Porter also can play cornerback. Coach Wade Phillips has made it clear he wants to keep the best defensive backs overall, regardless of position. "That's the way coach Phillips handles things," Porter said. "If you're playing well and doing your job, he's going to play the best players. He's always saying, `I brought you guys here, I want to see you guys perform on Sunday.' That's nice to hear."'

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August 11, 2000

Marker Second preseason game important to Case, Johnson [9:00 PM]
AP reports: '"We didn't know how much we were playing against the Bengals," Johnson said. "We thought we could be out after the first drive. I think we eased up a little bit, which is not a good thing. "Hopefully, we can put some more drives together." Bills coach Wade Phillips plans to give Johnson and all the rest of his regulars a little more playing time this week. "I think we need some more work," Phillips said. "I think this game is where we're pointing to do that."'

Marker Smith to sit out Bills preseason game against Lions [8:57 PM]
AP reports: 'Bills running back Antowain Smith, nursing a swollen right knee, will miss Saturday's preseason game against the Detroit Lions. Smith, Buffalo's No. 1 rusher, did not participate in any contract drills at training camp this past week in Rochester. He was hurt in last week's preseason-opening victory against Cincinnati when he was struck by a helmet. Coach Wade Phillips, who insists the injury is to Smith's thigh, said the running back will continue to have fluid drained from his leg and should be ready to return next week.'

Marker Hill climbs depth chart as he excels in camp [9:14 AM]
Buffalo News reports: 'Raion Hill wasn't a high draft pick. In fact, he wasn't drafted at all. He's not a household name like some of the other young players being showcased at the Buffalo Bills' training camp this summer. But when it comes to making an impression on teammates and coaches, few have done it with as much regularity as Hill. Hill is making a strong bid to secure a spot on the Bills' regular-season roster as the primary backup to strong safety Henry Jones. "Raion is having a terrific camp," defensive backs coach Bill Bradley said after practice Thursday at St. John Fisher College. "He's doing so well it's hard not to notice him."'

Marker Camp attendance hits six figures [8:55 AM]
Buffalo News reports: 'The Buffalo Bills eclipsed the 100,000 mark in fan attendance in their inaugural training camp at St. John Fisher College. According to team officials, 8,400 attended the two sessions on Thursday, the highest single-day total thus far. Owner Ralph Wilson praised the fans in Rochester and the surrounding area who attended the practices, adding that attendance was "far beyond our expectations." "Maybe it's the highest turnout of any training camp in the country," Wilson said Thursday. "That I don't know, but it's really up there, first or second. It's been a great experience here."'

Marker Johnson ready to break out for Bills [8:01 AM]
CBS Sportsline reports: 'Said current Cleveland Browns coach Chris Palmer, the former quarterbacks tutor in Jacksonville, who got to work one year with Johnson: "It's all there. He can throw every pass. And he's a lot more mobile than people think, too." Indeed, he flashed his surprising ability to buy time in the pocket while leading the Bills to what should have been a game-winning field goal in last year's playoff loss at Adelphia Coliseum. But the reason the Bills shipped first- and fourth-round choices in the 1998 draft to Jacksonville to get Johnson, then rewarded him with a five-year, $25 million contract had little to do with his feet. At 6-feet-4 and 212 pounds, Johnson is a prototype pocket passer, a player who can stretch the field vertically and one who should benefit from a solid supporting cast.'

Marker Tillman gets better with time [6:14 AM]
D and C reports: 'Defensive end Erik Flowers had a sack, forced fumble and a tipped pass. Linebacker Corey Moore had a sack and a game-clinching blocked field goal. Wide receiver Avion Black scored on a dazzling 34-yard pass play. And free safety Travares Tillman? Well, the Buffalo Bills second-round draft pick didn't quite have the kind of splashy professional debut that the team's other top rookies did last Friday against the Cincinnati Bengals. Then again, the others aren't playing a position where the game is played more above the shoulders than below it.'

Marker Hicks provides plenty of protection [6:13 AM]
D and C reports: 'If a man is big enough to blot out the sun, that's the kind of man you want serving as one of your bodyguards. All Rob Johnson wants is someone big enough to prevent opposing defensive ends and linebackers from breaking him in two on Sunday afternoons, and in mountainous Robert Hicks, Johnson has found his man. "The only problem with having someone so big over there, sometimes you can't see too well (downfield), but I'll take that any day," Johnson said with a smile. "He can be a dominant player because he's big, he's athletic, he's in shape. If he stays healthy, he can have a huge year." That's what the Bills are expecting from the 6-foot-7, 330-pound Goliath who is beginning his second year as the team's starting right tackle.'

Marker Jones filling 'special' shoes well [6:11 AM]
D and C reports: 'The day he was hired as the Buffalo Bills new special-teams coach, Ronnie Jones made it a point to say he had nothing to do with "Home Run Throwback." He also acknowledged, quite astutely, that he will have to live with the ghost of the greatest special-teams blunder in team history until he can write more happy chapters. Yes, Bruce DeHaven may have been fired by coach Wade Phillips after the Tennessee Titans beat the Bills 22-16 on that disputed 75-yard trick kickoff return in last January's wild-card playoff game. Yes, Phillips may want us to believe he has rectified a growing team weakness by replacing a proven assistant, who may have grown stale after 13 seasons with the same team, with an energetic newcomer whom he will keep on a tight leash. The reality is that DeHaven is one of the very best special-teams coaches in NFL history while Jones has never coached special teams in the league on a full-time basis.'

Marker Corle sits, watches and wonders [6:10 AM]
D and C reports: 'As each day passes in camp, rookie running back Jason Corle watches as the men he is competing with for a roster spot -- Lennox Gordon, Sammy Morris, Josh Roth and Phillip Crosby -- go through drills, run plays live, and make impressions on the coaching staff. And all he can do is watch. Corle has been sidelined since the first week with a pulled left hamstring, and the inactivity is driving him nuts. "This has been terrible," said the free-agent signee from Towson. "I'm out here learning the offense and I'm learning what the game is about at this level, but it's frustrating not being able to go out and do what you have to do to make the team. "When you're a free agent, this is the worst-case scenario for me."'

Marker Basking in the glory of Bills training camp [6:08 AM]
D and C reports: 'Tens of thousands of people have traveled to the St. John Fisher College campus to take in a day of training camp. Some had basic, transparent reasons. They support the Bills. They're fascinated by quarterback Doug Flutie. They want potentially valuable autographs. It's an enjoyable summer escape for children. But a football training camp, sociologists and sports experts suggest, draws on potent aspects of American culture and personal psychology -- the worship of athletes, an attraction to the grotesque, gambling and something called "BIRGing." "BIRG" is an acronym created by social psychologists to describe an ego-supporting act -- "basking in reflective glory." "BIRGing is a very natural phenomenon," said Merrill Melnick, professor of physical education and sport at the State University College at Brockport. "We all want to identify with greatness, but we can't all be great. The next best game in town is to stand in the shadow of the great."'

August 10, 2000

Marker Bills Offensive Line Preview [8:13 PM]
AP reports: 'While much has been made of the cuts and defections the Bills suffered this off-season, those concerns do not apply to the offensive line, intact except for the loss of free agent Dusty Zeigler. "They look like a pretty strong group, especially together," said coach Wade Phillips. "It takes togetherness to be a good offensive line, not just great individuals, but playing together. I think we're a lot further along than we were last year at this time."'

Marker Smith, Brown questionable for Saturday's game [8:10 PM]
AP reports: 'Smith continues to have swelling in his right knee after being hit with a helmet in Buffalo's win over Cincinnati last week. Brown has been nagged by a sore right ankle. Neither starters took part in any contact drills at training camp this week. Thursday, coach Wade Phillips said he'll wait until game-time to determine their status, adding both would play if this had been the regular season.'

Marker Kelly makes a return visit to Bills camp [3:45 PM]
Olean Times Herald reports: 'But this, Kelly will be less involved with football than the days he was too young for Pop Warner. Rather than the rigorous schedule he worked for ESPN the last three years, Kelly will now only do NFL features for the all-sports network. "My priorities have changed...I look at it from a different perspective," said Kelly, who has three children including 3 1/2-year old Hunter who has Krabbe's disease and has already outlived his life expectancy. "He's not going to get any better but as long as he stays where it is ... that's a blessing." And that's why his new job appeals. "I'm really cutting back on what I did last year, I'm not going to be gone nearly as much as I was," he said. "With the features I'll be away one day, unlike last year when from Wednesday through Friday I was calling players and gone Saturday and Sunday. This gives me more time with my family, which is what I want." He's even postponed a planned move to Richmond for a couple of years and is currently looking to buy land for a hunting camp. "That should make everybody happy," he said with a laugh. But Kelly quickly pointed out his wife's family, his brothers and friends still live here. "I'd like to build a nice log cabin to come to a couple of weeks in the summer," Kelly explained, "and be able to come back for snowmobiling and the things I like to do in Western New York."'

Marker Jackson won't shrink from duties with Bills [8:57 AM]
Buffalo News reports: 'Jackson, who received his psychology degree from Nebraska, has been the target of more than one raised eyebrow since he joined the Bills last year as a seventh-round draft pick. "My high school teammates used to say, "Sheldon was one of those branches that fell off the tree a long time ago. He's just doing something his own way,' " Jackson said. "I'm a team player, but when the pads come off I enjoy my own little world. It's definitely different. To me, I'm OK. Everybody else is insane. Everybody else is a little weird. I love the way I see things through my eyes." The 6-foot-3, 237-pounder has a few idiosyncrasies, especially for a professional football player. He claims he doesn't know how to draw, but wants to be a tattoo artist. He has five tattoos himself, including depictions on his back of his mother, brother and sister. While some Bills drive new Hummers, BMWs, Jaguars and other prestigious cars, Jackson's fleet consists of an 1982 Chevy Monte Carlo, a '95 Chevy Z-71 pickup truck and a '77 Harley-Davidson Shovelhead. But one eccentricity stands out more than the others. In fact, 20 things stand out. Jackson polishes his finger and toe nails.'

Marker Flutie says Week Five his likely return date from groin injury [8:55 AM]
Buffalo News reports: '"I'm nowhere near ready, but I'm getting more comfortable. Right now all I can do is ride the bike and use the Stairmaster. Flutie was supposed to have a second MRI on the groin this week, but it got moved to Monday. "I wanted to have the MRI this week but it just doesn't make a difference," he said. "There's no need to rush it. (The MRI) should just update the healing." The timetable for Flutie remains about the same, with his return likely to be for either the third or fourth regular-season game. The Bills have a bye in Week Four so they may give him that extra week to recuperate, but Flutie said he sees Week Five as his latest possible return date.'

Marker Once-hated Thomas makes home debut tonight [7:43 AM]
Palm Beach Post reports: 'He has grown up through the years. He has mellowed. He no longer watches the tape of his draft-day plummet for inspiration. But he does have a little chip on his shoulder. He wants to beat the Bills. He wants to make them pay not just for letting him go after 12 years, but for how they did it. "To not make a phone call to me or to tell me before the season ended, that hurt," he said. "That's a motivational tool. I wouldn't say that's my whole deal that I'm using to continue to play, but it's a little part of it. I'm a little ticked off. But what really motivates me, what makes me feel good, is that the Dolphins were the first ones to call. I want to go out and make plays for this football team."'

Marker Flutie confident of early return from injury [7:39 AM]
AP reports: 'It'll be two weeks today since the Bills veteran backup slipped on the St. John Fisher College natural grass and suffered the injury. He was initially expected to be out until at least the middle of next month. There's still no clear indication when he will be back. Flutie said there's an outside shot of him being ready for the Bills regular-season opener on Sept. 3. "I still got three weeks. That's still a possibility," he said. At the latest, Flutie said he'll be back by Oct. 1, the Bills' fourth game of the season, which follows their scheduled bye week. He said there's no point returning for Game 3 only to take an additional week off.'

Marker Bills need big plays from Collins [6:05 AM]
D and C reports: 'There has been much excitement in this camp about the prospects of No. 1 tight end Jay Riemersma becoming a major cog in the Bills offense this season. And there has been much talk about the expanded role Sheldon Jackson -- like Collins a second-year tight end -- is receiving as he tries his hand at fullback and H-back. But no one seems to be paying much attention to Collins, who technically is No. 2 on the depth chart and figures to see ample playing time this season in two-tight end alignments. "I think people just want to wait to see," Collins said. What "people" are waiting to see is the 6-foot-4, 249-pounder display the explosiveness and big-play ability the Bills' deep thinkers think he possesses.'

Marker Change is clear to Kelly [6:04 AM]
D and C reports: 'An upbeat Kelly paid a visit to camp yesterday, observing practice, chatting with players, and signing tons of autographs for a legion of appreciative fans. Last night, he escorted a group of fans to dinner with defensive stars Ted Washington and Phil Hansen, winners of a charity raffle for his Hunter's Hope Foundation. While attending practice, Kelly was struck by the passage of time. The release of Andre Reed, Thurman Thomas and Bruce Smith means there are no Bills left from their first Super Bowl team of 1990. "It's time to move on, pass the torch, for the Bills to start a new tradition," Kelly said. "It's time for them to get a new identity and you can see with all the new players what they're trying to accomplish."'

Marker Tight end is red-zone threat [6:03 AM]
D and C reports: 'During red-zone work in practice, quarterback Rob Johnson continues to find tight end Jay Riemersma open for completions in the back of the end zone. It's always a mismatch, the 6-foot-5 Riemersma usually matched up against a shorter linebacker. On one particulary play, John Holecek was all over Riemersma, only to have the former Michigan all-state high school basketball player snatch the ball above his outstretched arms. "Jay's big in the red area because he's so tall," coach Wade Phillips said. "He can recognize the coverages, and he can anticipate and make plays. We're going to try to utilize him more. I think Rob feels good with Jay, I think it's a good combination. He looks for Jay in the middle of the field."'

Marker Wease puts Bills at ease [6:02 AM]
D and C reports: 'To many Bills players, Brother Wease is a pop cult figure. To them, the Rochester radio icon with the raspy voice and more body ink than Rodman is a breath of fresh air, especially during these dog days of training camp when questions about cover-2 zones have become as stale as an open can of day-old pop. Sure, the location of WCMF's makeshift studio just across the walkway from the team's locker room at St. John Fisher College has something to do with their willingness to share air time with Wease. But it's more than location. If they didn't care for him, they'd be sure to avoid him like a training camp Turk. "He's a guy you can go on the air with and have a casual conversation about everything, not just football," says Bills guard Ruben Brown. "Sometimes, Wease will ask you outrageous stuff, but it's all in fun. He lets you be yourself, be a person. Through the years, he's developed a good reputation among the players. We are reluctant to trust people in the media because you get burned so often. He's someone you can trust."'

August 9, 2000

Marker Color Sheldon Jackson different [8:45 PM]
AP reports: 'Jackson has gained attention at Bills training camp, and not simply because he's getting more responsibility in the offensive scheme, taking over for departed fullback Sam Gash. This summer, the second-year player has been featured in a sports drink commercial in which he's painting his fingernails just before game-time. Jackson has been conducting this ritual since his days at Nebraska, saying it's part of his expressive nature. The Bills' don't seem to mind.'

Marker Moore impressing Bills with his nose for ball [9:30 AM]
Lynchburg News and Advance reports: '"The Buffalo Bills base their opinions on production. That was not a hard decision," Dwight Adams, the team's vice president of player personnel, said of selecting Moore with the 89th overall pick. "That was not one for debate. There's Corey Moore, there's a productive player in a major program, with consistent production." It might prove to be one of the wisest selections in this year's draft. With a middle-round pick, the Bills secured the services of the 1999 defensive player of the year in college football (17 sacks, 35 career). No matter that he's undersized for a linebacker (5-11, 230 pounds -- up from his college weight of 225), let alone a defensive end; Moore makes plays.'

Marker One for the fans [9:05 AM]
Buffalo News reports: 'Starting with last Friday's preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals, fans are now allowed to bring nonalcoholic beverages in containers up to one-quart size. With a couple of caveats, this was a worthwhile change that will allow the Bills organization to crack down on alcohol while removing the penalty it had called against the many fans who wanted nothing more than a warm drink on a chilly day. But those caveats are important. The Bills say they reserve the right to check containers for alcohol. That's good, but they have to follow through. Security personnel should be prepared to check as many containers as they can, or at least to spot-check them. Alcohol is the primary fuel of anti-social behavior in the stands, and the Bills need to do everything they can to control it.'

Marker Will the Price be right? [8:59 AM]
Buffalo News reports: '"I'm going into this season with a little different set of circumstances," Price said Tuesday while walking off the Bills' training camp fields at St. John Fisher College. "I'm a starter and a lot more is expected of me, and I expect a lot more of myself."'

Marker Porter is never out of position [8:58 AM]
Buffalo News reports: 'Daryl Porter might roll out of bed this morning and find himself playing catcher. The Buffalo Bills defensive back has been all over the field at the team's training camp at St. John Fisher College. On Tuesday he played free safety, strong safety, cornerback and was on every special teams unit. "It's a positive for me and makes me a valuable player on this team," Porter said. "It's just a matter of not making too many mental mistakes because at one position you use one technique and at another you use another technique. "You just gotta be on your toes."'

Marker McDaniel back on the path to success [8:56 AM]
Buffalo News reports: 'After spending most of the '99 season on the practice squad, McDaniel has blossomed in this year's camp. He has caught everything thrown his way and made several dazzling catches for long gains. If he keeps it up, he will be a lock for a starting job as the third wideout in the Bills' three-receiver sets. He also should figure prominently on special teams as a coverage man. "Well, anything can happen," McDaniel said. "I don't think I'm a lock. We've got a lot of young guys who have to show their stuff. I'm just going to practice hard every day, eliminate my mistakes and hopefully have a good season. I always had a talent for catching the ball. The Lord blessed me and I thank him every day for that."'

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09/07 @ Chicago Bears 1:00 pm
09/14 Miami Dolphins 1:00 pm
09/21 San Diego Chargers 1:00 pm
09/28 @ Houston Texans 1:00 pm
10/05 @ Detroit Lions 1:00 pm
10/12 New England Patriots 1:00 pm
10/19 Minnesota Vikings 1:00 pm
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11/30 Cleveland Browns 1:00 pm
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12/21 @ Oakland Raiders 4:25 pm
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