DETROIT – How’s this for hospitality? Dislodged by last week’s snowstorm, Buffalo Bills President Russ Brandon, in a ballcap and with a three-day scruff, set up shop Friday night in Detroit Lions President Tom Lewand’s office.
As Brandon worked away, Lewand arrived in a black tuxedo. A white cloth was draped over Lewand’s forearm, elegant waiter-style.
“May I get you a drink, sir?” Lewand said.
Lewand had attended a black-tie function earlier that night. They were laughing about it three nights later on the sideline at Ford Field, where the displaced Bills walloped the New York Jets, 38-3.
Detroit has been the Bills’ beacon amid the snowy, blustery chaos. The Lions opened their doors to their practice facility in suburban Allen Park and provided the stadium for Monday night.
“I don’t think we would have been as prepared without the way they opened their arms to us,” Bills coach Doug Marrone said.
A Detroit radio station tried to antagonize Bills defensive coordinator and former Lions coach Jim Schwartz, who asked his players to carry him off the field after the Bills beat the Lions in Week Five. The station instructed fans to show up in green and cheer for the Jets.
The gag didn’t work. The crowd of 56,044 was behind the Bills significantly more than the fans for any of the Bills’ games in Toronto.
Marrone admitted he heard about the radio station’s stunt and was worried about it.
“Our fans? They were phenomenal,” Marrone said. “You don’t know what to expect. … You get concerned about, ‘Is this going to be a home field?’ You get ready for a silent count.”
When Marrone emerged from the tunnel and saw all the blue and red, “I was like, ‘Holy cow, baby. Here we go. We got the crowd.’ That was a little bit of a relief for me in the beginning of the game,” he said.
Detroit’s stadium crew painted the familiar charging buffalo logo at midfield and stenciled “Bills” in the end zones. The press-box meal included Buffalo chicken wings – with bleu cheese, of course.
“It shows what this league was built on,” Brandon said. “I go back to what Mr. Wilson used to say: ‘We compete one day a week, and we’re partners the other six days.’ ”
Ralph Wilson, a Detroit native, owned a minority stake in the Lions before he founded the Bills. The teams maintained a close working relationship over the decades and regularly faced each other in the preseason.
Wilson’s widow, Mary Wilson, attended Monday night’s game.
“We’re all blessed to be in the National Football League,” Lewand said on the field before the game, “and the opportunity to help out a fellow club is something we feel honored to be able to do. We really do feel grateful to be a good partner.”
Brandon provided updates on Ralph Wilson Stadium and Sunday’s game against the Browns.
The reports were glowing, everything considered.
“The gates, the lots, the stadium grounds, the stands are in very good shape,” Brandon said. “We don’t anticipate any parking concerns either. It’s all a go for the Browns on Sunday.
“We’ve had structural engineers in all week. We’ve had no structural damage which we feel compromises the building in any way. We’ve had pipes and some things that have had issues, but right now everything is being worked through.
“All indications lead to a full game-day experience on Sunday.”
Brandon also reported the ADPRO Sports Training Center is in good shape and available for a normal practice schedule.
More than 500 people earned $10 an hour and tickets for the Browns game to shovel Ralph Wilson Stadium the past few days. The lower bowl and the field essentially are cleared. Starting today, no extra workers will be needed. Brandon said the stadium’s regular work crew will handle the rest.
Bills defensive end Mario Williams continued his recent tear with a sack in each of the first two quarters. He has 12 sacks, two shy of his best season and one away from league-leader Justin Houston of the Kansas City Chiefs.
Williams has posted multiple sacks in consecutive games for the first time since October 2008 with the Houston Texans. He has at least one in three straight games.
Bills receiver Marquise Goodwin was deemed healthy enough to play Monday night but was inactive again. He missed the previous game with a rib injury. He has one catch this year for 42 yards.
Fullback Frank Summers was a healthy scratch for the first time this year. The Bills dressed three running backs: Fred Jackson, Anthony Dixon and Bryce Brown.
Tight end Chris Gragg hobbled off the field with a right knee injury late in the third quarter and didn’t return.
Steve Tasker, the Bills Wall of Famer, hasn’t been to his East Aurora home in over a week because of the storm.
He called the Monday night game Nov. 17 for Westwood One Radio and flew back to Buffalo, but driving bans sentenced him to a hotel.
CBS Sports eventually flew him to Atlanta to be the analyst for Sunday’s game between the Browns and Falcons and then assigned him to Monday night’s game in Detroit as a sideline reporter.