Even in a league full of world-class athletes, Bills receiver Marquise Goodwin is usually the only player on the field who has also competed in the Olympics. But that will change Sunday.
The Patriots also boast an Olympian in safety Nate Ebner, who played rugby for Team USA at the Rio Games.
“I actually saw him at the Olympic training center this summer,” Goodwin said. “I didn’t know exactly who he was. I wasn’t sure what his deal was until after the Games.”
Goodwin knows now. The Bills-Patriots game at Gillette Stadium is hardly hurting for storylines, but a rare meeting of two former Team USA members is certainly an underrated aspect.
Goodwin qualified for the long jump finals at the 2012 London Olympics before finishing 10th. He also won silver at the 2015 Pan-Am Games but failed to qualify for Rio. Ebner’s rugby sevens took ninth place this summer. Ebner has been used primarily on special teams this season, but it’ll be something if they get the chance to go head-to-head Sunday.
Goodwin doesn’t recall ever playing football against a fellow Olympian before. Wikipedia’s list of Olympians who also played in the NFL over the past century spans about three dozen, though some never made it into a regular-season game. Most were sprinters, but there have been notable exceptions.
The most well-known is probably Herschel Walker, the Heisman Trophy winner who gained more than 13,000 yards from scrimmage with the Cowboys, Vikings, Eagles and Giants in the 1980s and ‘90s. While still playing in the NFL, Walker competed for the U.S. in the two-man bobsled in 1992, finishing seventh.
Another is former 49ers Pro Bowl nose tackle Michael Carter, who took silver in the shot put at the 1984 Games in Los Angeles. (His daughter, Michelle, followed in his footsteps, taking gold in the shot put in Rio.)
You may also know former Olympian Tommie Smith, who is pictured with fellow 200-meter medalist John Carlos in the iconic black glove photo from the 1968 Mexico City Games. He played for the Bengals in 1969.
And of course, it would be remiss not to mention Jim Thorpe, one of the greatest athletes of all time who won golds in the pentathlon and decathlon in 1912, played six seasons of major league baseball and played professional football until age 41. He is enshrined in both the Pro Football and College Football Hall of Fames.
In addition to ruling wide receiver Sammy Watkins (foot) out for Sunday’s game and placing him on injured reserve, the Bills also announced Friday that receiver Greg Salas (groin) and tackle Cyrus Kouandjio (ankle) will miss the game with injuries.
Without Watkins and Salas, the Bills will have only four receivers who are familiar with their offense for Sunday’s game: Robert Woods, Marquise Goodwin, Walt Powell and Brandon Tate – though Tate, primarily a punt returner, has only played six offensive snaps this season. Ryan also mentioned earlier in the week that the team had plays designed for running back Reggie Bush to line up as a slot receiver, but didn’t get to them against Arizona.
Kouandjio’s injury leaves Michael Ola and/or Cordy Glenn to man the left tackle position. Glenn is the first-stringer but just returned to practice on Wednesday following a high-ankle sprain and is questionable for the game. Ola was signed off the Giants’ practice squad mid-week but has 19 career starts.
Backup center Patrick Lewis is also out with a knee injury.
Questionable for the Bills are tight end Charles Clay (knee), cornerback Ronald Darby (hamstring), safety Aaron Williams (ankle), safety Colt Anderson (foot), safety Jonathan Meeks (foot), quarterback Cardale Jones (right shoulder), and Glenn (ankle).
The Patriots haven’t ruled anyone out yet for Sunday’s game. All eight players on the injury report are questionable, including quarterbacks Jimmy Garoppolo (shoulder) and Jacoby Brissett (thumb), who were both limited in practice all week.
Patriots tight end and Williamsville native Rob Gronkowski (hamstring) is also questionable, as are tackle Marcus Cannon (calf), guard Jonathan Cooper (foot), linebacker Jonathan Freeny (shoulder), linebacker Dont’a Hightower (knee) and corner Eric Rowe (ankle).
The Bills will wear white jerseys with white pants for Sunday’s game.
It will be the first time the Bills go white-on-white this year. They wore white jerseys with blue pants at Baltimore, red on red for the Color Rush game against the Jets, and then blue jerseys with white pants for the home game against Arizona.