Furious over the "thuggery" displayed by fans after Sunday's victory over the Miami Dolphins, Buffalo Bills General Manager Bill Polian said stringent measures would be taken to prevent the scene from being repeated at any future playoff game at Rich Stadium.
The first step, according to Polian, is the banning of beer sales at the Jan. 12 or 13 second-round game, and, if the Bills advance that far, the Jan. 20 American Football Conference Championship Game.
Several thousand fans, sparked by what Polian described as a "small minority of undisciplined individuals," poured onto the field after the Bills defeated the Dolphins to clinch the AFC Eastern Division championship and home-field advantage through the playoffs. Polian said their havoc was not limited to tearing down goalposts.
"There were injuries to policemen and security people, and there was damage to the playing surface, which makes our job all the harder in terms of
preparing the field for the playoffs," Polian said Wednesday. "People actually went down there with knives, attempting to cut pieces out of the turf.
"I would categorize what went on, not as celebration, but as thuggery. First of all, there was no reason to celebrate. We'd won the AFC East for the third year in a row. Everyone associated with this team has clearly pointed out that the Bills have larger goals in mind.
"And I reject categorically the premise, which appeared in an article (in The Buffalo News) on Christmas Day, that this kind of behavior cannot be stopped. It can be stopped and it will be stopped."
Polian said he spent most of Wednesday meeting with police officials and members of the Bills' security staff. Afterward, a decision was made, with the input of Bills president and owner Ralph Wilson, to ban beer sales at any future playoff game.
The Bills do not sell beer at night home games, but this is believed to be the first time in club history that they won't sell it during the day. "We're not going to take the chance, because that (beer) fuels the fire, no question about it," Polian said.
He also said the team intended to employ "very different means than were used Sunday" to deter fans from storming the field. By most accounts, little resistance was offered by the 150-man security force deployed in the final moments of the Dolphins game.
"A strong, uniformed presence can put a stop to that kind of thuggery instantaneously," Polian said. "And believe me, anyone who tries it from here on in, will do it at their own risk -- both physical and legal. We're going to take every legal step we can to see that these people are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."
He would not divulge specifics, but did say that he and other team officials are developing a new plan.
"I don't want to reveal any part of that plan right now, because we're not going to help out this cadre of irresponsible individuals," Polian said.
"But I urge the 99 percent of loyal Bills fans and Western New Yorkers, who take pride in their team and their town, to join with us in condemning this kind thuggery. Let's put our best foot forward now that the rest of the nation's going to be looking at us."