Josh Pretko moved away from Buffalo when he was 3 years old. But his heart never left. Pretko’s room at the Virginia Home for disabled adults is adorned with Bills and Sabres memorabilia. “For years, the keepsakes fueled his imagination and soul, taking the 32-year-old beyond his four walls while cerebral palsy imprisoned his body,” Bucky Gleason writes in his touching Sunday column.
Pretko will attend his first regular season game at New Era Field today with his father and three brothers. Friday night he watched the Sabres. In between games, Pretko had the unforgettable experience of being welcomed onto the Bills practice field Saturday (see the photo gallery by Harry Scull Jr.). He met his favorite players, toured the facility and received a pep talk from Sean McDermott. “I hope we can win for you,” the coach told him. “We’re going to do everything we can, OK? You stay strong and keep cheering for us.”
An inspirational fight: The Bills will recognize 50 cancer survivors before today’s game as part of the NFL’s Crucial Catch initiative. It will be an emotional moment for offensive quality control coach Marc Lubick, who has undergone three surgeries, six months of chemotherapy and six weeks of radiation to treat rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare and highly malignant form of cancer he was diagnosed with at age 28. Jay Skurski shares Lubick’s story in his Inside the Bills feature.
A rookie’s reality: Zay Jones has struggled early in his first season in the NFL. If that has caused problems for your fantasy team, Jones doesn’t care. And he won’t be logging on social media to read your complaints. Jerry Sullivan chronicles how the young receiver is coping with the failures and criticism he’s faced at the start of his career.
Scouting report: The Bills host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers coming off of their bye week. Skurski breaks down the matchup and gives his prediction. Richie Incognito vs. Gerald McCoy, the Bills run game vs. the Bucs LBs, and Mike Evans vs. the Bills secondary will be the matchups to watch, according to Mark Gaughan’s analysis.
Injury report: Jameis Winston will start for the Bucs after being listed as questionable with a shoulder injury. That means Ryan Fitzpatrick won’t get the start, but he’ll be ready to go if the “Fitzpatrick curse” manifests itself again. Tight end Charles Clay (knee) and linebacker Ramon Humber (thumb) have been ruled out for the Bills. Wide receiver Jordan Matthews (thumb) and cornerbacks E.J. Gaines (groin) and Leonard Johnson (hamstring) are questionable.
Weather forecast: You may need a light jacket if you’re tailgating early but it’s going another bonus warm game in Buffalo, according to meteorologist Don Paul.
An air of optimism: “Hope should not be lost for the Buffalo Bills’ passing game, despite the team’s unproductive wide receiving corps,” is Gaughan’s takeaway from watching film of the loss in Cincinnati. “But the Bills must cut down on their own mistakes to exploit the Bucs.”
Looking back: This week marked the 30th anniversary of Orchard Park High School graduate and motion picture cameraman Todd Schlopy kicking two field goals barefoot to lead the Bills to a 6-3 win over the Giants during the 1987 NFL player strike. Nowadays, Schlopy likes to “kick footballs in weird places,” like over a bridge along the Kensington Expressway while filming the latest “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” movie.
Inside the NFL: “Panic is probably too strong a word, but there’s definitely a great deal of concern at the highest levels of the NFL over a significant decline in national television ratings,” Vic Carucci writes.
Sports Talk Sunday: Sullivan, Gleason and Carucci preview today’s game at 10 a.m. on WGRZ. You can preview the show here.
ICYMI: Marshawn Lynch has been suspended for the Oakland Raiders’ game next week in Buffalo.
All-time series stats: The Bills have never beaten the Bucs in consecutive matchups and other numerical nuggets from the 10 times the teams have met before.
Trivia: Who led the Bills in rushing in 1999, the team’s most recent playoff season?