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Tim Graham: Bills shouldn't be shy about unretiring No. 32

The Buffalo Bills never reissued four jerseys since last worn.

Jim Kelly's No. 12 is retired. Bruce Smith's No. 78 will be honored at the home opener. Thurman Thomas' No. 34 should be retired next year.

Three proper. Three righteous.

The other jersey will not be retired.

For that reason and some others, isn't it time to remove O.J. Simpson's honor and put No. 32 back into circulation?

Simpson remains on the Wall of Fame, but that was bestowed before his infamous murder trial and multiple convictions stemming from a robbery. No. 32 can't be retired now.

The Bills are taking that extra step for Kelly, Smith and Thomas. It would leave Simpson the lone Bills alum with some unspoken quasi honor.

Although it took nearly three decades, the Bills eventually reissued Jack Kemp's No. 15 (to Todd Collins) and Elbert Dubenion's No. 44 (to Darick Holmes). Billy Shaw's No. 66 wasn't given for 23 years (until Jerry Crafts). Bob Kalsu's No. 61 was worn (by Jim Reilly) five months after Kalsu was killed in the Vietnam War.

Simpson has plenty of accolades that won't vanish. The team, meanwhile, has tried to reconcile the uneasiness of honoring Buffalo's first nationally recognized superstar -- a Heisman Trophy winner, a first overall draft choice and future Hall of Famer -- with the man who was found liable for two homocides.

A fine way for the Bills to mitigate any perceived idolatry would have been letting some undrafted rookie wear No. 32 in training camp long ago. But this year would be an appropriate time to reintroduce it. Rookie running back Jonathan Williams, a fifth-round draft choice, wore No. 32 at Arkansas.

In a 2011 BuffaloBills.com article, former equipment manager Dave Hojnowski explained founder Ralph Wilson determined which numbers would be withheld and for how long.

"I think if you ask Mr. Wilson," Hojnowski said, "he would tell you that 32 will not be worn again only because O.J. was our first No. 1 overall pick and first Hall of Famer."

Wilson, with a glint in his eye, was fond of telling his top lieutenants they could do whatever they wanted with the Bills after he was dead.

Lou Saban was put to the Wall of Fame last year, the first full season with Terry and Kim Pegula as owners. Cookie Gilchrist, another Wilson burr, now has a legitimate chance to be added eventually.

So keep Simpson's name on the Wall and his bronze bust in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but if the Bills won't officially retire No. 32 -- and they won't -- then let somebody try to give it a different legacy.

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