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Bills to drop Toronto game for this year, play all 8 at The Ralph

Bills to drop Toronto game for this year, play all 8 at The Ralph The Bills may not play at the Rogers Centre in Toronto this season. (James P. McCoy/Buffalo News)

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The Buffalo Bills have announced they will not play a game in Toronto this season and have all eight of their 2014 home regular-season games in Orchard Park.

The Bills were working diligently the past week with their Toronto series partner, Rogers Media Inc., to move this season’s Toronto game back to Ralph Wilson Stadium, a source connected to the series told The News, which reported the likely move prior to Bills President and CEO Russ Brandon's official announcement this morning. Brandon was non-committal about the odds of the series starting back up in 2015.

Buffalo has played a regular-season game in Toronto’s Rogers Centre each of the past six years. The Bills began a five-year partnership with Rogers, the Canadian telecommunications giant, starting in 2008. They extended that deal for five more years starting in 2013 and running through 2017.

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Update: Russ Brandon's official statement on 2014 game's move from Toronto

Related: Tim Graham: Bills pulling out of Toronto a hopeful sign of front office's commitment to winning

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The Bills have yet to create a strong, home-field environment for the games in Toronto. Last year’s game drew an announced crowd of 38, 969, at least 12,000 short of a sellout. The Bills lost an overtime decision to the Atlanta Falcons, 34-31. The atmosphere arguably was the worst yet from the Buffalo perspective in the Toronto dome, with almost as many fans rooting for the Falcons as the Bills.

Brandon acknowledged today that the dismal atmosphere for the Dec. 1 game against the Falcons prompted the organization to seek a re-evaluation of the series.

"I think that's a fair statement," he said. "We’re trying to build a fan base north of the border, and this year I would say it was a neutral crowd, and some of that had to do again with how we played over the last six years has really not been conducive to building a lot of fans."

"We’re going to look at every aspect that if we do come back, we have a more robust fan experience and try to create more of a home field advantage for us," Brandon said. "Right now that was not the situation, and that was one of the reasons we want to get into a lot of detail with our partners up there and see if that’s viable moving forward."

The initial five-year deal was a financial windfall for the Bills, with Rogers guaranteeing the Bills roughly double the revenue from the games in Toronto that Buffalo would gross for games in Orchard Park. The terms of the five-year extension have not been made public. But sources have told The News that the terms are not nearly as tilted in the Bills’ favor, and that the team is not grossing much more than it would take in at The Ralph.

The Southern Ontario market is important to the Buffalo franchise. The team says it attracts more fans from Southern Ontario than from the Rochester area to games in Orchard Park.

The Bills originally got approval from the NFL to take regular-season games to Toronto. The team would not have to get a change in the series approved by a league vote. However, the Bills have kept the NFL’s international committee appraised of their intentions on the series since the season ended.

Buffalo is just 1-5 in regular-season games played at the Rogers Centre since 2008.

  • Austin Hood

    The Canadians appear to be a much more jaded group of sports fans than the Americans. The Hope and Change philosophy of the Buffalo Bills (as well as the Buffalo Sabres) doesn't seem to play too well in Toronto.

    The fans in Canada don't want to pay high ticket prices, go to a game and then watch a major fiasco on the football field. They don't want excuses. They want results. And, unlike their American counterparts, the loyal fans in Buffalo, they just don't have the patience anymore waiting for the "Hope and Change" which has been promised for so long, but has never materialized.

    • Mike Michaels

      They also don't want jammed down their throats that they should be Bills fans as well just because we're close by and we're giving them a game.

      • Jesse Czelusta

        So we should provide a platform for them to root against us? The Bills want more fans, I'm not going to a Leafs-Habs game......with a Sabres jersey on. All the Bills had to do, Canadiens are easy, make a red jersey, white maple leaf on shoulders, special Canada Bills jersey, game on.

        • Austin Hood

          If the Bills want more fans, why not try this radical experiment?
          Give the public their monies worth.

          Hire the top coach in the NFL. Give him a blank check and a free hand in running the team.

          Ralph Wilson and the Bills management should do nothing but sign the checks while the new super coach builds a winning Super Bowl Team.

          This is not rocket science. Once the bean counters get out of the way, watch the real magic happen.

          • Jesse Czelusta

            Disagree. I want fans who love the team win or lose. Sure, winning helps pick up band-wagon jumpers...as soon as win streak ends, so does the bandwagon. Fans, IMHO, are made by simple gestures like a Red Canadian jersey.....or the fact we sacrificed a game up there to begin with. If the Blue Jays or Raptors did the same here, probably, 85% pick me up as fan. But they haven't and probably won't.

          • Rollo Tomasei

            Raptors and Jays games don't draw all that well up there eithr

          • B H

            Canadians as a whole only care about that boring game called hockey and do not understand NFL football.

          • Ridgewaycynic2013

            It's too bad Disqus took away the tally of 'down' votes so readers could keep track of how asinine some statements truly are.

          • Alan Baumgardner

            Boring game of hockey? Do you realize that an NFL Game consists of an average of 11 minutes of actual play, where people are actually moving on the field? Contrast that with hockey where except for commercials and injuries, they don't generally take time outs. Plus the speed of play in hockey is an order of magnitude faster. Bad analogy. If you don't care for the game, fine... but boring is not the adjective you want.

          • B H

            It's boring for me so it's the correct adjective for "MY" post....most of the time the puck is played between the blue lines...return the red line rule and take away the blue lines.....and since Da Bills have set a NFL record (and I expect it to continue) for NOT making the playoffs, they are the NFL joke around the country.

          • Jamie Rozek

            Show me where the Bills are a joke. Cite sources.

          • B H

            Hahahahahahaha.....you're joking right......LOL

            How about 14 consecutive seasons with OUT making the playoffs....DUH...is this not a NFL recorded that Da Bills will keep building on. At least they are know for something other then 4 consecutive Super Bowl LOSSES ! ! !

            Keep drinking the Ralphy juice......not only are the Bills a JOKE but so are many of their brainwashed fans.

          • Jamie Rozek

            Yet, hockey has opportunities to make the game even more exciting (AKA more scoring) and they refuse to do so. Simply making the nets wider will help that issue.

          • Sand Ripper

            There are plenty of Canadians who are fans of the NFL and understand the game. Some of them probably know more than you do.

          • Jesse Czelusta

            You said it Rollo, as much as they bag on us, that city full of fair-weather fans. If we had a MLB team here, it would be the thing to do downtown in the summertime, combined with the concerts etc.

          • Adam Sroslak

            I'll give you the Jays, though before last off-season, ownership never showed any commitment to the fans so why should we show any back? But the Raptors? Despite being absolutely lousy for most of their existence, they're top 10 in attendance every year. So that statement is not true.

          • Rollo Tomasei

            Raptor were 12th last...Toronto 'a pop is
            Is almost 3 million,and that's just the city proper.thats not a good attendance figure at all!.oklahoma city avg. was more than Toronto and their pop is 1/4 of Toronto

          • Adam Sroslak

            http://espn.go.com/nba/attendance

            According to this year's attendance figures, the Raptors are 12th. After 6 years out of the playoffs. Are you really comparing a perennial contender to the "Bills" of the NBA? Theyre also outdrawing the Pacers, a basketball hotbed and championship contender, as well as the Hawks who have been in the playoffs countless years in a row and were ahead of the Raptors in the standings not that long ago and also a large North American city.

            Dont let facts get in the way of a baseless, ignorant comment though. Carry on.

          • Rollo Tomasei

            I was not comparing them to the Bills at all.Ignorant comment?.Facts?.those comments were not ignorant and they are the facts.They are 12th in attendance with one of the top populations in the NBA and North America.Carry On

          • Adam Sroslak

            I never said you were comparing them to the Bills. I did. They've been the Bills of the NBA in on-court success and up until this year have been top 10 in attendance every year. City size matters to a point. If your team is terrible, you could be New York and not sell out (Mets are a prime example, but also look at the Dodgers before new ownership, Blackhawks, Bulls in the Chandler/Curry years, Patriots before Bellichek etc etc). The fact that they continue to do so speaks to the large hard core fan base the Raptors have.

            The ignorant comment I was referring to was the very first one you made saying the Raptors don't draw well. That's just not true and the facts back that up.

          • EaglesfaninRoc

            they can't recruit top coaches. They have no money for big signing bonuses. They can't even muster the same opportunities as the Bengals. Yup - the Bengals are a better franchise then the bills.

          • Jamie Rozek

            "They can't recruit top coaches."
            Wrong. They had an excellent defensive coordinator last year, and another this year.
            "They have no money for big signing bonuses"
            Right. I guess Mario Williams didn't get anything, right? This is such an annoying argument because it has been proven wrong over and over again.

          • EaglesfaninRoc

            coordinators aren't in cities (especially BLO) for the long haul. They are in a place for a couple of years and then either are fired or move on to the next opportunity. Don't brag about recruiting top coordinators. That's just dumb. We're talking about a Chip Kelly, Sean Payton, Bill Cowher, Brian Billick.

            Jamie if you'd learn about the way signing bonuses work, you'd learn that it requires teams to ave cash on hand. Millions doled out with limited cash coming in. They don't generate year round funds like the Giants or Cowboys or Pats. They are actually cash poor compared to other teams. The gamble on Mario Williams might actually prohibit them from locking up Byrd and from ever paying a top tier QB.

          • Rollo Tomasei

            They have this thing called a "salary cap"!

          • Steve

            Sounds like you need to lay off the Madden NFL game's franchise mode.

        • Paul Bruhns

          Wow Jesse,
          the jersey idea you have is a good one! It might sell a butt ton, and actually generate some team buzz in Ontario.

          I hate it! lol

          • Jesse Czelusta

            Well, I waited to list this idea after the cancellation, haha......the Bills were never all in on the event and neither Toronto.....like they couldn't waive the "no tailgating law" for just that one Sunday? Toronto tolerated the game, like we have, but never embraced it, like us as well.

        • anemia716

          you're right. slap a maple leaf somewhere on that jersey, tweak the logo and they would have eaten it up.

          and I'm being completely genuine. i think that's a pretty cool idea that maybe should have been implemented. something to really make them feel like they were rooting for "their" team.

          ...but regardless, glad it's over

          • Adam Sroslak

            I'll be very upfront here. I'm a Dolphins fan, went to the first game in '08. The reason why it failed was simple and has been touched on a few times...the Bills aren't OUR team. In the Fins game, there were just as many Dolphins fans as there were Bills fans. It has nothing to do with the brand being strong up here blah blah blah. People love the NFL in the Greater Toronto Area. But we're not going to support someone else's team. If there was a Toronto team (Bills moving here or otherwise...I'd rather the people of Buffalo keep their team tbh) I guarantee it'd be wildly successful. I'd sure as hell support them, Dolphins be damned. But I'm not going to root for another team when I'm not guaranteed anything beyond a game a year for the next 5 years (and in this case, that 5 year guarantee didn't seem to mean much to begin with).

        • Mike Michaels

          The platform was bad football. I went to the UB game in Toronto when they got a Bowl Game and most of the fans I interacted with loved football but were Cowboy, Steeler or Packer fans. They just felt the Bills were forced on them with bad football, overpriced tickets and just a poor venue from a Stadium perspective.

    • No_Illusions

      "The Hope and Change philosophy"

      Actually that sounds like Maple Leaf fans.

  • Austin Hood

    The Canadians appear to be a much more jaded group of sports fans than the Americans. The Hope and Change philosophy of the Buffalo Bills (as well as the Buffalo Sabres) doesn't seem to play too well in Toronto.

    The fans in Canada don't want to pay high ticket prices, go to a game and then watch a major fiasco on the football field. They don't want excuses. They want results. And, unlike their American counterparts, the loyal fans in Buffalo, they just don't have the patience anymore waiting for the "Hope and Change" which has been promised for so long, but has never materialized.

    • anemia716

      i doubt that. leafs still do pretty well for themselves in regards to ticket sales and attendance.

      i think it boils down to the NFL not having a very strong brand up there. they have their supporters, but culturally, the NFL doesn't really appeal to canadians the way it appeals to Americans. they were literally giving tickets away and still rogers centre was fairly empty.

    • Alan Baumgardner

      Austin, this isn't any more convincing the second time you posted it. Do you have any idea what tickets for ANYTHING cost in Toronto? Not the reason. How about the fact that they HAVE a football team already and their own league - the CFL (basically the NFL's farm club). Maybe people don't like having the NFL experience jammed down their throats while trying to support their own league.

  • Datdude77

    Where are all the Trolls from Toronto posting how big bad Toronto is gonna take our team? FAIL! Whether the Bills were good or not only matters if you are actually fans of the team, or the nfl for that matter. Nfl football was a passing fancy in TO, and that's that. I don't care how many people TO has, it's not a football market, and never will be.

    • Alan Baumgardner

      The NFL is not going to put a team in Toronto and DESTROY the CFL.

      • No_Illusions

        The NFL could probably care less about the CFL.

        Canada is the easiest market to expand into because they already enjoy American Football...you know because of the CFL.

        Anywhere else in the world is made much more difficult since American Football does not have much of a presence or following.

        • HP MegaVeg

          "The NFL could probably care less about the CFL"

          Couldn't care less.

    • Jamie Rozek

      I don't really believe that. However, the NFL has made it clear that it has other markets in the US it wants to deal with first (LA). They aren't interested in Canada at the moment. Doesn't mean they won't be in the future. However, when you think about it----Toronto and Montreal are really the only two cities where it would make sense anyway?

  • B H

    This not only proves MONEY is always the most important thing to Old Ralphy but also the front office of the Bills don't know what they are doing.....they just extended the deal with Rogers and now they are trying to back out of it. Just more of the same from Da Bills........But it's always funny to read about Da Bills as they are the joke of the NFL. And when you are tired reading about the funny stuff Da Bills are doing you can always switch over and read about the Sabres winning "CUPS"....LOL

    • Alan Baumgardner

      Isn't Jacksonville the current NFL joke? Just sayin'..

      • Steve

        And Cleveland.

    • Jamie Rozek

      This was a nice try, but, unfortunately when it comes down to it the Bills are a business, and if they are going to get a better turnout in Buffalo, they will come here.
      Stop complaining about a deal that should not have been made in the first place.
      It's funny, I haven't heard any jokes about the Bills in the NFL.....Jacksonville and the Raiders...Cleveland....but not the Bills.

      I guess you can just keep making stuff up, though.

      • B H

        HELLO.....is that you Brandon. Maybe your buddies don't want you to hear the jokes so not to hurt your feelings.

  • EaglesfaninRoc

    I live on the east side of Rochester. It's a nightmare to get to games. It's only about 80 miles but always takes about 2.5 - 3 hours to finally get parked. It's another 3 hours to get home if you stay to the end of the game. The location of RWS is horrible. I'd much rather watch the games at home in high def without worry of getting beer spilled on me or getting punched by an inevitable fight.

    • no.buff.87

      What are you, a fear monger? The BN sensationalizes any bad fan behavior, that's how it is. I enjoy games and have never once felt like it was a bad idea or unsafe to go to one. As far as it being 3 hours to finally get parked.. no kidding. You think it's different anywhere else? It takes two hours from ROC to get parked for an SU game, and then you are either walking a mile, or riding a shuttle. Keep complaining and stay in the ROC.

      • EaglesfaninRoc

        Yes, I think... wait I know it's much different in other cities. Many have public transportation (train/bus/subway). There aren't many (if any) stadiums built in suburbs like this.

        My point is the amount of time invested getting to and from a game is not worth the experience of seeing it live.

    • The 14221

      Did you ever stop to think that the reason guys are spilling their beer on you and punching you is because you are a whiner?

      • B H

        Did you ever think that the only way fans can watch a complete game at the Ralph is to be stinkin drunk.

  • Todd

    Bon Jovi is gonna be pissed

    • bluger

      Why would Bon Jovi be pissed? The supposed venture with him has nothing at all to do with the Bills in Toronto series.

    • Niagara Falls NY 14302

      And Rob!

      • Frank Buxton

        Rob ?

        • Niagara Falls NY 14302

          Rob Ford, Mayor of Toronto.

  • Steve Stuarts

    I LOVE IT!!! The NFL DOES NOT belong in Toronto or ANYWHERE in Canada or any other country for that matter. Too bad Toronto EHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • http://facebook.com/erniewimpolman Gloverboy6

      Calm down dude, damn lol

  • Frank Buxton

    Many in Ontario despise and root against Buffalo simply because Hamilton will never get an NHL franchise because of the Sabres. That has long stuck in their craw. Imagine the money an NHL team in Hamilton would generate not only for that area but all of Ontario. The conspiracy theorist in me thinks sometimes that is why NHL rulings out of Toronto go the way they do against the Sabres. If the Sabres finish last and lose the lottery draft it will only further this suspicion.

    • Alan Baumgardner

      Hamilton will never get an NHL franchise because of Toronto more so than Buffalo. I'm still surprised the Knoxes got Toronto to agree to allow the Sabres. Maybe Ballard got a big old bag of money from Seymour and Norty to go along.

      • Frank Buxton

        Respectfully, Toronto would not block Hamilton. The Toronto metro area has over 5 million people. The Maple Leafs haven't been very good for a while and still have sold out 400+ straight games and counting. Unlikely as it would seem, there has been discussions to consider a 2nd franchise in the city of Markham, just north of Toronto.

    • Gail Kole

      Ah,, but Canadians love American money, eh ?

  • Rodney Copperbottom

    Regardless of how it plays out. There is a contract in place, and although it may not be "as tilted in the Bills favor", they are still making out if Toronto breaks their contract and ceases to hold any more games at the Rogers stadium.
    Personally, it's the smartest thing to do. Cut their losses, and just move the games back to Buffalo, including any pre-season. The "fans" in Toronto CLEARLY aren't warming up to Buffalo's presence, and they can't seem to sell out a single game, despite that the stadium is much smaller in size than a typical football stadium.

  • JP Fitzpatrick

    I'm pretty sure this is the first time in years that Bills fans are actually excited that their season ticket costs are going up.

  • Dan R

    This is a good strategy by Brandon and the Bills. Maybe they can't get out of the contract yet, but to postpone this year is fine. I don't think any Bills fans should find fault in this. Clearly the Bills management are not happy with the support and atmosphere at the Toronto games. We all know it's stale and bland in that stadium with zero home field advantage. I'm happy to pay for the 8th home game.

  • Molson Cree

    As a Bills fan from here in WNY, it always seemed like a bad idea. and frankly I always felt a little sorry for the people of TO. Just because, we're close by who says they are even Bills fans to begin with? I've been to dozens of Jays games over the years in TO... but I was only there to watch my Yankees, and not to mention... boo the jays... BECAUSE of my loyalty to the Yanks. I expected (and got) no less from the fans in TO when they were force fed a team that they didn't want to begin with. And BTW, the Bills did themselves no favors either... they had 6 (not even to count the pre-season games played there) opportunities to possibly "win over" some of those non committed fans by, I don't know.... a stellar effort perhaps? Or not even that, a competitive team might have even done the trick... but even that the Bills couldn't muster.

    Bottom line, lets just hope they let it die here, and that this the last we ever hear from this colossal mistake.

  • ralphyboy

    Knick-knack paddywhack, give the dog a bone.

    • The 14221

      Who hacked ralphyboy's disqus account and why?

      • ralphyboy

        :) Thanks, 14221. Nobody hacked me. More manipulation of the fan base. Throw us another bone (as Byrd flies, signing Williams to an extension -- no connection; hork, cough, lugie) and Russ Brandon gets thank you's. We have the most enthusiastically gullible fan base in the Solar System as well as the most pliant, open-pocketed governments an owner could ask for.

  • Rich

    Canadians aren't stupid. Why should they support a lousy product any more then we should. The next time the Bills have a winning record will be when Wilson is in the ground and the Bills are in another city.

    • Jamie Rozek

      Wow.

  • Gail Kole

    From what I gather, there is not that much interest in Toronto. They have to give tickets away by the thousands, just to make it look good. If we are paying for all these improvements to the Ralph, they darn well better be using it. Personally, I would like to see the money-grubbing, poor-performing, tax fund sucking team leave.

  • Ron Warren

    Interesting to note last week that I heard an interview with Paul Beeston, CEO of the Jays. He confirmed that 2018 is a target date for the Rogers center to convert the surface to real grass, however, there is more than usual construction required to do it and once it is done they will no longer be able to move the seats in to the football configuration, hence, no matter what, football of any kind, is done and it will be a "baseball only" facility. The Argos will be moving in to a "expanded" BMO field where the MLS soccer team plays.

    Tim Liewicke, the new hotshot CEO of MLSE, originally from LA, has some pretty strong rumours flying around that MLSE(Leafs, Raptors and other assets) are going to buy the Argos, essentially to appease the NFL, strengthening their overall position for the future acquisition of an NFL team so, as usual, sometimes where there is smoke there is fire. Given Liewicke's penchant for securing an NFL team in Toronto, it is safe to say that all this is not done yet.

  • mamacrat

    I think at play is the preseason as well. My feelings are the stadium will not be ready and we will lose those games. They are doing three off-seasons worth of work in one. I can't imagine it will be done by August 1st. I bet they got the TO game back to compensate for loss of two PS games.

  • wellarmedliberal

    Just to be fair, I think the Patriots should now be forced to play one regular season game a year at the home stadium of the Montreal Alouettes.

  • Bob

    Thanks Brandon - we hated that game!

  • Big Frank

    Torontonians - collective shoulder-shrug
    Buffalonians - a reason to live

  • Niagara Falls NY 14302

    1. Mayor Ford is NOT gonna like this!
    2. There is now ANOTHER game that will now be blacked out locally.

    • Jamie Rozek

      As opposed to it being blacked out anyway in Toronto?

      • Niagara Falls NY 14302

        Better chance now.

      • B H

        See now you are showing how little you actually know about this.

        SInce Da Bills games were SOLD to Toronto (Rogers Media) they were then considered a sell out once that happened and those games were never a threat to be blacked out in Buffalo......but I'm not sure that was actually a good thing for those of us who actually watched any of those Toronto games.

        Bottom line Rogers Media bought all the tickets and then resold them like a scalper would do if Da Bills were even close enough to have a scalping market.....LOL.....that is why Rogers Media gave away THOUSANDS of tickets for each game, thinking at least if somebody shows up for this charade we can sell them overpriced beer and food because it works at the Ralph, so why not here in Canada. And it worked....Hahahahahaha

  • Vidiot

    Awesome Move!!!! Thank you Brandon!

  • Sonya Ango

    My initial one word reaction: Hooray. It's about time. The game ruined the Bills momentum, especially if it came before or after the Bye week. There was too much of a gap between true home games if the Toronto event came into play. And let's not ever kid ourselves, the Toronto game was never anything like a true Buffalo Bills home game. A pre-season game in the Carrier Dome in Syracuse makes more sense. That would connect with the Bills fan base.

  • Ron Warren

    Be careful what you wish for, the game in Toronto is usually in December and if next season the Bills are out of the playoffs by then, AGAIN, it could be another blacked out game. The Toronto Sun is reporting that the series will resume next year for the balance of the contract(4 reg. season games plus 1 pre-season). It looks to me like the Bill's brass did this just to temporarily appease the fans who were upset about all this.

    • B H

      Who CARES once they are AGAIN out of the playoffs except some of the brain damaged fans posting here........I consider Da Bills like I would with a movie....if it's good entertainment like a "good" movie is suppose to be, well then I pay the price and see it. However, if it's a bad movie like Da Bills have been for over 14 years, then I skip it and spend my money elsewhere. Why would I pay good money to see a bad movie....that might only encourage the producer/director of said movie to produce another bad movie just like it.....any of you brain damaged Bills fan following this.....didn't think so.......now back to our regular programming. Go Bills and take the Sabres with you......LOL...actually not so funny.

  • disqus_aX8keHetXc

    If they go back to Toronto have them on Saturday night.

  • Roy Stevenson

    one less thing for Jerry Sullivan to whine about

  • Lloyd M. Jr.

    The idea of a "home" game is to play it in front of the HOME crowd; not some "neutral" site where fans cheer good plays of either team.
    Good on the Bills for scrapping the Toronto experiment this upcoming season. They should drop the whole thing altogether from where I stand.

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Vic Carucci returned to The Buffalo News as a Bills beat reporter in September. Carucci covered the Bills for 17 years before joining NFL.com as a columnist in 1999. Prior to rejoining The News, he spent three years as a senior editor for the Cleveland Browns.

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida.