SBD/December 20, 2012/Franchises

Bills Players Speak Out Against Toronto Series, Calling It "A Joke"

Wood (l) made the comments after watching Sunday's game from home
Bills C Eric Wood on Monday said the Bills in Toronto Series "has turned into pretty much a joke," according to Tim Graham of the BUFFALO NEWS. Wood: "I don't think it's turned out the way we wanted, and I hope we don't renew it." He added Rogers Centre is "a bad atmosphere for football," and "nobody wants to play there." Wood: "You're making a team from out west travel, and then you give them the comfort [of] a dome, and you don't make them play in our stadium. We have no home-field advantage allowed. We travel, too. I just think it's a joke" (BUFFALONEWS.com, 12/19). Wood yesterday stood by his remarks, saying, "Yeah, I did call it a joke. It stunk that we were up there. And I was heated when I said it was a joke. And I’m not going to sit here and retract all my statements because that’s what I meant and what I felt." Wood added, "I understand the benefits of the Toronto game. I understand we have a small market and we have a huge market just north of the border. I love the city of Toronto ... but the game just has a different feel.” He continued, "I don't think that many people from Seattle made the trip, but I think the non-Bills [fans] that go to the game are just cheering for plays as opposed to cheering for a team, and that kills you." Bills DT Kyle Williams "expressed similar sentiments." Williams: "It's very similar to a road game, but also I understand the business side of things. I don’t think you’d find a guy in here that wouldn’t agree that they would much rather be in Ralph Wilson Stadium” (GLOBE & MAIL, 12/20).

GUY ON A BUFFALO: ESPN.com's James Walker wrote the Toronto series was "a business move by Bills ownership that hasn't been great in terms of fan turnout." But an "extended agreement is in place until 2017." Bills players need to "get their minds off Toronto and focus on playing better football" (ESPN.com, 12/19). The AP's John Wawrow noted Wood expressed his complaints "despite not making the trip to Toronto." Wood stayed home because he is "recovering from a sprained right knee," but he saw "enough on TV and also heard from teammates to appreciate how familiar the atmosphere was to the two games he's played in Toronto." Wood said he does not "blame" Bills CEO Russ Brandon for the Bills in Toronto series. Wood: "I respect the decisions that he makes to keep us in this market and provide a good business plan. But from a playing standpoint, unless it improves, it's not a whole lot of fun to play there" (AP, 12/19). In Buffalo, Jerry Sullivan writes, "For once, an athlete spoke from his heart and didn’t backpedal later. I was afraid management might take him to the Wood-shed and order him to walk back his comments." Bills players "generally mouth the company line about the Toronto games being good for business." It is "about time a player stood up against a shameless money-grab that takes away a true home game and compromises the team’s competitive advantage once every season" (BUFFALO NEWS, 12/20).

STAY A WHILE: In Buffalo, Tom Precious noted Erie County (New York) Exec Mark Poloncarz yesterday "was sounding confident ... after what he described as 'significant talks' Tuesday night by representatives of the county, state and Buffalo Bills about keeping the team from leaving town." Poloncarz said that all sides are "focused on a multiyear effort that would include public financing -- including capital and some operating costs -- for the team in return for a commitment to stay" (BUFFALONEWS.com, 12/19).
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