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WILSON SAYS CONTRACT OFFER TO BRUCE IS FIRM AND FINAL

The Buffalo Bills are holding firm to their contract offer to holdout defensive end Bruce Smith, team owner Ralph Wilson said.

"We've made an offer to Bruce, and that's our offer," Wilson said while on hand for Saturday night's preseason-opener against the Denver Broncos. "We think it's a good offer, and he doesn't think it's so good."

The Bills have offered Smith a $5 million signing bonus as part of a four-year extension of his contract, which is due to expire after this season. Smith wants $7 million up front and he is seeking more of the rest of his salary to be paid in the early part of the deal rather than the latter portion.

Wilson said he was not angry about Smith's refusal to report to training camp. The Bills are fining Smith $5,000 for each day of camp he misses (the total was up to $80,000 through Saturday). However, coach Marv Levy said they would not exercise their option of fining Smith a regular-season game check, worth $137,500, for his missing Saturday night's game.

"He can do whatever he wants," Wilson said. "We reviewed Bruce's contract, as I promised him we would do (after last season). We've (offered) almost double his salary and a $5 million bonus . . . that's not too bad. It's good, but it's not good enough for Bruce.

"Bruce is a great player and has been a great player. But at Bruce's age (34) and with our situation with the salary cap, that's the best we can do."

Wilson said he had no plans to meet with Smith's agent, Leigh Steinberg, who has said that he thought a meeting with the owner might help lead to a resolution.

"I like Leigh Steinberg, he's a very nice guy," Wilson said. "But I can't get into talking to Leigh and going over (general manager) John Butler's head. Butler is handling the player salaries."

The owner said he learned his lesson of getting directly involved in contract negotiations last year when he met with quarterback Jim Kelly, who was entering the final year of his contract. The meeting did not result in a deal, and, in fact, created more tension. When the Bills refused to offer him a new contract after the season, Kelly retired.

"The first time in 30-some years, in the history of the franchise, I talked to a player about money was when I talked to Kelly, and what did it lead to? It led to Bruce coming in," Wilson said. "No more. I've learned my lesson.

"I think we have a very good offer. I don't know what Bruce is going to do."

Running back Thurman Thomas accompanied the team to Denver, but did not suit up for the game because of sore ribs.

Darick Holmes started in his place.

The Broncos' new logo and uniforms officially debuted Saturday night. The team wore navy jerseys with an orange Lycra strip that runs up to the neck, making them look almost like overalls.

The players are offering mixed reviews.

"After seeing the uniform for the first time, I wasn't pleased about it," running back Terrell Davis said. "I was like, 'Uchhh!' But after wearing them a few times, and doing a photo shoot for Nike, I like them. Not only do I like them, I love them."

But not all of Davis' teammates agree. In fact, it has been reported that Bronco players have been told by team officials if they don't have anything nice to say about the uniforms, they should say nothing.

Or they can do what Broncos defensive tackle Jump Geathers did, and ooze sarcasm.

"They are sooo beautiful," Geathers said. "Whoever designed that stuff . . . they should give that man a trophy."

The Bills' players are due to be off today. The coaches plan to meet tonight at Fredonia State College and review videotape of the game.

One practice is scheduled for Monday, at 2:30 p.m. Two sessions are scheduled for Tuesday (9:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.).

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