Snowed-out Bills head to Detroit to 'host' Jets
Buffalo, N.Y. — Whether by plane, snowmobile or sled dog, the Bills are leaving snowbound Buffalo behind for Detroit to play their "home" game against the New York Jets on Monday night.
And there's no telling when they will be back.
The Bills' schedule is suddenly in upheaval because of a lake-effect storm that dumped more than 5 feet of snow on the Buffalo region since Monday. Another 1 to 3 feet was projected to fall by Friday.
The storm that paralyzed much of the community surrounding the Bills' home at Orchard Park led to the NFL's decision Thursday to relocate the game, which will be played at the Lions' downtown Detroit home, Ford Field.
"It really wasn't an option to try to play the game (in Buffalo) at any point Sunday, Monday or even potentially Tuesday based on what the forecast is," Bills President Russ Brandon said. "All the focus needs to be on the safety of not only the fans but the community. And everyone needs to be focused on helping our neighbors."
Given the cleanup job, Brandon said the team is considering spending next week practicing out of town. And he wasn't sure if Ralph Wilson Stadium will be ready for the Bills' next home game against the Cleveland Browns on Nov. 30.
"That's a good question," Brandon said. "It's going to be a full-on effort by our stadium operations crew and everyone involved here to get that facility ready for next week. There's an enormous amount of snow to be removed."
Preparing for the Jets is the Bills' first priority after the team canceled its past two days of practice because of impassible roads and numerous driving bans in the community.
The team plans to fly to Detroit on Friday afternoon and practice at the Lions facility in the evening. The Lions are at New England on Sunday.
This marks the second time the Bills will play at Ford Field this season following a 17-14 win over the Lions on Oct. 5. It also is the second time in four years the facility has hosted a neutral site game.
The last time an NFL game was moved to Ford Field unexpectedly, the fans who did show up witnessed a bit of history. Brett Favre's streak of 297 regular-season starts came to an end that night — on Dec. 13, 2010 — when the Minnesota Vikings lost to the New York Giants 21-3. Favre was sidelined by shoulder and hand issues.
That game was moved to Detroit because the Metrodome roof collapsed.
"We are pleased to be hosting the Bills and Jets for their game Monday night," Lions president Tom Lewand said. "While our thoughts are with the people of the Buffalo area during this difficult time, our team at Ford Field will do everything we can to be good hosts to their team this weekend."
The Bills also get an extra day to prepare, with the game pushed back from Sunday.
"A big part of preparation is practice and lifting and nutrition, and that's been compromised," Brandon said before the relocation was announced. "And it's certainly something we're looking into and trying to do the best as we try to prepare to play the Jets whenever that may be."
Bills coach Doug Marrone and his staff have been living at the Bills' headquarters since Tuesday. They've been going over the game plan and consulting with the team by phone and computer because a majority of the players have been snowed in. And those who can get out are unable to travel to the facility.
The next step is devising a way to get all the players and staff to the airport, which has remained open because it is north of where much of the storm hit.
The Bills (5-5) are already coming off an extended break. They had last weekend off following a 22-9 loss at Miami on Nov. 13. The Jets (2-8) are coming out of their bye week, and haven't played since a 20-13 win against Pittsburgh on Nov. 9.
Jets coach Rex Ryan said his team wouldn't be hampered by a change of venue.
"It wouldn't affect us," Ryan said. "We'd just aim our plane in a different direction, I guess."