|Bills seeking to make positive showing in making rare Monday night appearance|
|Written by Admin|
|Monday, 08 October 2007 08:41|
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) -On an otherwise special evening, and set on a national stage, Thurman Thomas had one concern as he awaited the formal presentation of his Pro Football Hall of Fame ring.|
Would his former team, the Buffalo Bills - as banged up as they are and as inept as they've been in the seven years since he retired - show signs they're a still relevant and competitive NFL franchise when they host the Dallas Cowboys in the first Monday night game at Orchard Park in 13 years?
``You know what, I think a lot of people around the National Football League and around the world have pretty much forgotten about the Bills,'' said Thomas, the star running back finally getting his ring two months after his induction.
``There's a lot at stake here on this football game. Hopefully, the team can go out and play well, and put us right back out there so people can say, `Wow, the Bills had disappeared for a long time. But it looks like they've got a young group of guys that can put this team right back on the map.'''
Monday night football hasn't been entirely the same since it made the move to cable last year. Then again, neither have been the Bills, and for a much longer stretch.
The NFL's TV network partners seem to agree, considering the Bills are making only their ninth prime-time appearance in eight years, and haven't been on Monday night since playing at Indianapolis on Dec. 11, 2000.
The AFC's winningest franchise in the 1990s, a stretch in which the team won an unmatched four consecutive conference titles, the Bills this decade have become one of league's biggest losers with a 47-69 record.
That doesn't sit well with Thomas and several other members of the team's old guard. They're hope, as former center Kent Hull put it, is the Bills ``don't fall flat on their face,'' on national TV.
``This is a chance for the young guys in this organization to step up to the plate and say, `We're going to put a mark on the 2007 football season right here,''' Hull said.
Hull is particularly worried about the future in Buffalo if the team continues down this track, in which they've missed the playoffs seven straight years. That matches the worst drought in franchise history.
Another concern is the perennial rebuilding that's taken place. Dick Jauron is the fourth head coach since Hall of Famer Marv Levy retired following the 1997 season, and rookie third-round pick Trent Edwards is the eight starting quarterback since Hall of Famer Jim Kelly retired after the 1996 campaign.
``In the market they're in, if they're not very successful in the near future, that franchise could actually move somewhere. And that bothers me,'' Hull said. ``I'd hate to be watching the Buffalo Bills of Anaheim.''
It's not the first time someone's expressed fears of the franchise relocating, a topic that has stung the team's fans since the late 1990s before owner Ralph Wilson signed a 15-year lease that runs through 2012.
Wilson, who turns 89 this month, has since maintained he has no plans to move or sell the Bills, but with the region's troubled economy and perennial population drain, there are concerns about the future.
A win Monday night certainly won't solve the Bills troubles.
Following so many down years, however, it would provide a salve for loyal fans who have continued to show their support. After selling out only four of eight home games last year, the Bills have sold out six already this year, including Monday.
``That just goes to show that the red, white and blue of the Buffalo Bills really does matter,'' Kelly said.
For Kelly, fan support is what needs to be touted during the prime-time broadcast.
``It's important not just from the standpoint of the players getting out there and giving a good showing,'' Kelly said. ``But it's also important to show this country, it doesn't matter what our record is, the Buffalo Bills fans will always be supportive.''
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