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Future Of Bills In Doubt

Golisano Remains Interested: Sabres owner Tom Golisano told AP that he's kept a half an eye on the situation regarding the Bills international plans in Toronto. He told AP he has had numerous discussions about buying the team once Ralph Wilson is no longer with us. He would not elaborate on the discussions or who they were with. He said he realizes how important the Bills are to the Buffalo community. These comments aren't a departure from one's he made two years ago. I'll say the same thing I've said before: If the situation arises, I would do what I can to try to keep the team in the area."

Saturday February 9, 2008

Eagles Lay Down Franchise Tag: The time period is now open to place franchise tags on big time unrestricted free agents. The Bills have no free agents worthy of a tag but one of the players they may have been interested in is now pretty much off the market. Eagles TE L.J. Smith is the first player franchised during the period that runs until 4pm on February 21st. The Bills with a big need at tight end may have had some interest in Smith since he's the top player at that position on the market. It is doubtful the Bills would have been able to get into a bidding war for him anyway.

Friday February 8, 2008

Ticket Prices Announced: The Bills are raising season ticket prices by an average of 10% although fans will be paying for just eight games instead of 10 since a preseason and regular season game will be played in Toronto. Ticket prices will still be the cheapest in the league and will be on average $16 less than the average season ticket prices around the league. Individual game tickets will go up in six of the stadium's 13 sections. Season tickets will range from $35 to $70 per seat and individual game tickets will range from $36 to $77.

Lawmaker Looks For Community Ownership: Erie County Congressman Brian Higgins wrote a letter to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell asking him to change the league's constitution to allow for community ownership. Higgins invisions a plan like the Green Bay Packers have, they were grandfathered when the rules barring community ownership went into effect. His objective is to make sale to a local investor group easier. Higgins is trying to make sure the team stays in Western New York after the Ralph Wilson era is over. In his letter he proposes two options one dealing with total community ownership and a hybrid blend of community and traditional ownership.

Kelsay, Simpson Healing Up: The team's website is reporting that two injured players are healing up real well from ankle surgeries. Chris Kelsay is recovering from his surgery and is doing light weight work while being in an immoblizer boot. He is expected to be doing rehab work when the organized team activities start in March. Simpson broke his ankle on opening day and is now nearing 100%. He is rehabbing and should be ready to go when the OTAs start. Injury Page.

Thursday February 7, 2008

Wilson Reassures Schumer: Senator Chuck Schumer reached out to Ralph Wilson today and received assurances that he won't be moving the team to Toronto or anywhere else. Wilson told the Senator that this was just another way of expanding the fan base and increasing the revenue to make it possible to keep the team in Western New York. Schumer said Wilson guaranteed him that he will make every effort to keep the team in Western New York and this is just another way to strengthen that future.

Brandon Says Business Is Healthy: Bills COO Russ Brandon told WGR radio that the Toronto deal was a necessary step in the regionalization process of the team. Toronto is an area of growth and is in the team's home market area as defined by the NFL. The whole deal is about keeping the franchise viable and creating bi-national collaboration. It is also about the Bills being a catalyst for economic growth throughout the region and creating more opportunities. Having the 5th largest city in North America right up the street will help them have a good, long future in Buffalo. Brandon said they have had a tremendous amount of response on this initiative. He called it an eye opening experience that will open the region and broaden the experience. He said putting Buffalo, Rochester, and Southern Ontario together gives you a pretty powerful situation. He would not comment on Ralph Wilson's statements from the press conference about not speculating on the future of the team. Brandon said the business of the Bills has never been healthier citing the largest season ticket base since 1992 and having all the luxury boxes soldout and great sponsorship levels. The facts from a business point of view doesn't make it as big a concern as people are speculating according to Brandon. Every individual inside the organization is trying to provide a porfolio that is very compelling. They continue to push the envelope with the business that will provide a greater strength in the Buffalo community.

Wednesday February 6, 2008

Press Conference Depressing: Time for a bit of commentary. After listening to the entire press conference on WGR55 sports radio in Buffalo, it becomes increasingly apparent that the team will head to Toronto on a permanent basis after this five year deal. I was looking for a sliver of hope that it wasn't the case but all the comments by Ralph Wilson didn't alleviate any fears of a move, in fact it seemed to promote a permanent move. There was little talk of the regionalization helping Buffalo but more talk of what a glorious NFL market Toronto is. What do you think? Take our poll on our homepage and let us know.

Wilson Won't Speculate On The Future: Wilson didn't alleviate fears that the team will move in the future. He said while Toronto is growing Buffalo is going the other way with everyone leaving. He joked to Ted Rogers that he should send some people to Buffalo. Wilson did say that it would be a death knell to the region if they left but the only way to stay was increasing visibility by regionalizing the team. He said the regionalization of the team east to Rochester was successful but they have tapped out that market now they need to regionalize up north to Toronto. He thinks these eight games will create a little excitement. His message to the fans of Buffalo was that he can't speculate on the future but don't worry about it right now. The other owners applaud Wilson for the actions the team has taken over the past 15 years to keep the Bills viable in their market because of regionalization. Wilson said there is no negative to playing these games because it is to save the franchise in Buffalo. He doesn't know what the numbers will work out in helping the Bills in Buffalo by this move. Wilson did mention in his opening comments that the move is on a "trial basis" but when questioned about it he said don't read anything into it.

Concentration On These Eight Games: Phil Lind of Rogers Communications led off the press conference and said they are pleased to announce what he called a "super series" of games over the next five years. He immediately answered the question about it being a prelude to future NFL football in Toronto. He said their focus is on these eight games and they won't speculate on perception and the hypothetical future of games in Canada. Larry Tanenbaum confirmed that during a question and answer session although they didn't say they weren't interested in a future NFL franchise in the city. The Toronto contingent just said they wouldn't speculate right now. Lynn believes the series is good for the sport of football overall and everyone will benefit from the exposure. The Bills are popular in Toronto and this should add to their popularity. Many of the details are still being worked out. Ticket distribution will be on a random lottery basis but will be done by the Rogers Centre. If people are interested in tickets fans need to register at Argonauts season ticket holders will get priority and they will be sold as a full series but money is not expected up front. There will be some tickets available under $100.

Wilson Happy With Partnership: Ralph Wilson took the podium second. He said they aren't total strangers to Toronto, he spoke about the exhibition game they played against Dallas in Toronto in 1995 and the Packers in 1997 across the border. They started talking about this a year ago and got all local and state approvals. They also got a unaminous vote from the league's owners. He said the Bills are happy to be there and mentioned that he isn't unfamiliar with Toronto and mentioned Doug Flutie, Steve Christie, and Cookie Gilchrist as players that either played in Canada or came from Canada and played for the Bills. Wilson said he's happy to have a partnership with Toronto and they will give it their best. It is up to the NFL what game will be there but he said earlier that he doesn't want a cellar dweller opponent for the game. In answering a question about Toronto being a viable city for an NFL franchise he said that it is with all the new buildings going up.

Press Conference Representatives: Ralph Wilson, Thurman Thomas, financial guru Jeff Littman, and Bills Chief Operating Officer Russ Brandon were among those representing the Bills at today's press conference in Toronto. Canadian representatives included Ted Rogers who is the lead figure in bringing the Bills to Toronto. He is the owner of the Rogers Centre and is the CEO of Rogers Communications. Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment chairman Larry Tannenbaum was in attendance along with Toronto Argonauts ownership. Not in attendance were the owners of the Hamilton Ti-cats and CFL Commissoner Mark Cohon.

Press Conference Today: Bills COO Russ Brandon and owner Ralph Wilson are expected on hand at a press conference in Toronto this morning at 11am to discuss the details of the Toronto initiative. The Bills will play eight games in the next five years in Toronto and ticket sales are expected to be among the things discussed along with the reasons for the move. We will have complete coverage throughout the day of the news coming out of Toronto.

Tuesday February 5, 2008

Bills Hire Assistant: The Bills have hired Ray Brown as their new assistant offensive line coach. Brown replaces Sean Kugler who was promoted to offensive line coach. This move was expected for a couple of weeks but took a while to be announced. Brown said he's excited to join the Bills staff. He played in the league for 20 years and played in 261 games and started 197. He played with Derrick Dockery in Washington in his last two years in the league.

Hamilton Not On Board: Hamilton Ti-Cats owner Bob Young says his team is not on board with the Bills playing eight games in Toronto. He would like to see a more extensive agreement between the NFL and CFL not a move by an owner to play games in Canada. With Hamilton not on board they won't be part of the initial ticket surge. The Argonauts season ticket holders will get first crack at tickets while the Bills season ticket holders will now get second shot with Hamilton out of the picture.

Monday February 4, 2008

Whittle Likely To Stay: Jason Whittle told his hometown newspaper that he expects to be back with the Bills this season. He is an unrestricted free agent who had his season cut short with a torn hamstring. The Bills could use him back for veteran depth on the interior of the offensive line. Whittle said while he hasn't signed with the team the Bills have expressed interest in him coming back. Whittle said his family definitely likes it in Buffalo. He called signing a new contract just a formality.

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