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Inside the Bills: Ticket-taker's service started in the Rockpile

Maynard Bunn is not a name familiar to most Bills fans, but his face might be one they recognize.

Bunn, 79, is a ticket taker stationed outside Gate 7 at New Era Field. He was honored last week for becoming the first employee ever to work 50 years for the team.

“That’s pretty special,” said Andy Major, the team’s vice president of operations and guest experience. “He’s just a great person. Forget for a second about the job he does. He’s just a nice man. He kind of represents the Buffalo community.

“The fans love him. They’re used to seeing him at Gate 7. He’s got the neighborly, fatherly, brotherly feel about him. He’s one of us. He’s a fan. He loves the team, and that’s why he’s been here for 50 years.”

General Manager Brandon Beane, coach Sean McDermott and defensive tackle Kyle Williams all took part in a short ceremony after practice last week to honor Maynard, who is finishing his 51st season with the team. He started in 1967, back when the team still played at the Rock Pile.

“I started maybe two years before O.J. Simpson came here,” Maynard said, showing that his memory is sharp – Simpson’s first season with the Bills was 1969.

A former high school football player growing up in Cooperstown, Bunn now enjoys watching not only the Bills, but also his twin grandsons, Jacob and Jared, who just finished their senior year with the West Seneca East football team and are planning to play in college at Brockport.

“He’s always at our house, talking about the Bills, how much he loves working for the team,” Jared said. “Our whole family, it’s football all year-round.”

Bunn has been retired from GM for 24 years after a 32-year career. In addition to working for the Bills, he also has a part-time job at Prior Aviation.

“I lost my wife at Thanksgiving time last year, and this helps keep my mind off of it,” he said of what keeps him working so hard. “We were married for 55 years. She had Alzheimer’s and I took care of her for 14 years.”

Williams recognized Bunn immediately from Prior Aviation, where he assists players before they board their chartered flights for games and after they arrive.

“He’s just a dedicated, hard-working good dude,” Williams said. “It’s fun to make people’s day that are like that.”

Bunn has three children – sons Jeff and Greg, and a daughter, Tammie.

"Work ethic," Jeff said when asked what he's learned from his father. "He’s always been a hard worker and family man. My mom was always No. 1."

Asked what his message to Beane and McDermott was, Bunn said: "I just said best of luck to them. They need a lot of it. I’m being truthful. It's a rough business to be in. I know from how many coaches and players I've seen come and go."

What went wrong with Matthews?

Jordan Matthews’ first and perhaps only season in Buffalo came to an inconspicuous end earlier this month when he was placed on injured reserve because of a knee injury. Matthews raised some eyebrows Thursday when he posted about having a pair of surgeries — one to repair his left knee and one to repair his right ankle — writing in his post that the injuries “have plagued me the past two years.”

It begged the question, did the Bills get damaged goods from the Philadelphia Eagles in the August trade that brought Matthews to Buffalo? It wasn’t a secret that Matthews missed significant time during the spring because of “knee tendinitis.” Les Bowen of the Philadelphia Daily News reported in July that “there is talk around the locker room that Matthews’ issue is more serious than tendinitis. But there is talk elsewhere in the building that Matthews could have practiced more in the spring, that the real issue is his contract.”

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McDermott had an opportunity to set the record straight in regards to what the Bills thought Friday, but he declined.

“Yeah, I’m not going to go there with that. I’m not going to go there at all,” was McDermott’s response when asked how much the Bills knew about Matthews’ pre-existing injuries before making the trade.

That’s a weak response from the Bills’ coach. The question presented to him was a fair one. Not answering it invites speculation from fans or media members wondering why Matthews came so far short of living up to expectations.

When the trade with Philadelphia was executed, it went down the same day Sammy Watkins was shipped to the Los Angeles Rams. Right or wrong, Matthews was expected to step into that vacated Bills’ No. 1 receiver role.

Remember that he is one of five receivers in NFL history to catch more than 65 passes for more than 800 yards in each of his first three NFL seasons, joining Randy Moss, Odell Beckham Jr., A.J. Green and Mike Evans. That’s elite company.

Matthews didn’t come close to duplicating those numbers, for a variety of reasons. He suffered a chip fracture in his sternum 15 minutes into his first practice with the team, which kept him out of three preseason games and numerous practices, robbing him of valuable time to build chemistry with quarterback Tyrod Taylor.

He returned for the season opener and through the first three weeks of the season led the team with eight catches for 151 yards. Then in Week 4 at Atlanta, Matthews broke his thumb.

Although the injury cost him just one game, it’s entirely possible the injury impacted him after he returned.

The first time Matthews showed up on the injury report because of his knee was before the Week 11 game at Los Angeles. He sat that game out, but returned the following week against Kansas City. Over Matthews’ final three games, he had just four catches for 43 yards.

The final numbers — 25 catches, 282 yards, one touchdown — are a far cry from what Matthews produced in his first three seasons. Matthews’ fit in Buffalo was always going to be a question. He does his best work out of the slot over the middle of the field and it’s well documented that Taylor struggles making plays in that area. Before going on injured reserve, he was asked about how he thought he fit in offensive coordinator Rick Dennison’s system.

“If you ask any receiver, they always feel like they can do more,” he said. “I think there's a lot more that I can do, but at the same time, I want to be able to help my team and play within the confines of what ‘Rico’ and all the guys are asking me to do. My biggest job is to make sure I come out here and make the plays whenever I have the opportunity."

Having added Kelvin Benjamin in a midseason trade, and with rookie Zay Jones making some progress in his development, the Bills have a pair of receivers to build around in 2018. If Matthews departs in free agency, which wouldn’t be a surprise, it doesn’t necessarily mean the trade with the Eagles, which saw cornerback Ronald Darby go to Philadelphia, was a loser.

The Bills also acquired a third-round pick in the deal. The reality is that might have the more valued asset, anyway. Whether Beane uses that pick or packages it as a part of a move at the draft remains to be seen, but any final conclusions on that trade must wait.

New corner turned heads

The Bills filled the vacancy on their 53-man roster created by placing left tackle Cordy Glenn on injured reserve Friday by signing cornerback Breon Borders off the Oakland Raiders' practice squad. An undrafted free agent out of Duke, Borders worked with the Raiders' first team at nickel cornerback over the summer, catching the eye of quarterback Derek Carr.

"Throughout the offseason and here at camp, he's really proven himself," he told USA Today in August. "The more guys that we can have like that that make plays, I'm all for it."

Borders, though, didn't survive final cuts with Oakland, but was brought back on the practice squad the following day. He recorded 12 interceptions and 34 passes defensed with Duke as an outside cornerback, but worked out of the slot in Oakland.

Cornerbacks E.J. Gaines, Leonard Johnson and Shareece Wright are all scheduled to be free agents after this season, so bringing Borders in now gives the Bills a chance to see him in practices over the final three weeks of this year, as well as in the team's offseason program.

Hyde leads fan voting

Bills strong safety Micah Hyde led his position in fan voting for the AFC's Pro Bowl squad, it was announced Saturday. Fan voting accounts for a third of the total formula named for the team, with votes from coaches and players making up the other two thirds.

The AFC and NFC squads will be named Tuesday night.

Hyde, who signed a five-year contract worth up to $30 million in the offseason as a free agent from Green Bay, has 65 tackles, 11 passes defensed and an AFC-leading five interceptions this year.

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