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Knox believed in earning everything; Ch. 7 snags rights to Bills-Pats on 'MNF'

I know that former Buffalo Bills coach Chuck Knox wasn't viewed as warm and fuzzy by many members of the media.

But one interaction with the Bills coach – who died Saturday – won me over when I was a secondary reporter on the Bills beat in my sports writing days for The News.

I was at practice one day in 1981 – well before the arrival of Twitter – when I noticed a player wearing No. 30 on a practice jersey that didn't have his name on it.

I thought I recognized him as Lawrence McCutcheon, a Pro Bowl running back for five seasons when "Ground Chuck" coached the Los Angeles Rams. He played six games for the Bills in 1981.

After practice, I waited until I was alone with Knox and asked the coach if that indeed was McCutcheon.

He confirmed it. Then one of the members of the Bills public relations staff said my observation meant the team would release the information about McCutcheon joining the team.

Knox immediately told the public relations guy that wasn't going to happen. He said I was the only one who saw it and the story belonged to me.

And it did.

I appreciated Knox's handling of the situation and felt it was symbolic of his blue-collar background and belief that you earn everything you get, whether it is playing time or a news story.

While watching Sunday's local TV coverage of Knox's death at age 86, I couldn't help but think that almost all the local sportscasters on TV weren't born when Knox was the Bills coach from 1978-82.

In addition, none of the sportscasters was working in Buffalo when Knox coached the Bills. If you are thinking Channel 2's Stu Boyar might have been here, he didn't join the station until 1985.

The newest sports reporter-anchor to arrive is WIVB-TV's Jenna Harner, who I saw anchor a sportscast for the first time on Sunday. She now is in competition with Channel 2's excellent reporter Erica Brecher for the unofficial title of youngest-looking reporter on local TV. Harner didn't appear to be very comfortable dealing with the Knox story. But she appears to be an improvement over Shannon Shepherd, whom she replaced. Harner's voice isn't a distraction, which instantly makes her an improvement.

While we are on the Bills beat, WKBW-TV (Channel 7) General Manager Michael Nurse has confirmed that the ABC affiliate has earned the broadcast rights to simulcast the Bills-New England Patriots game on Oct. 29 via ESPN's "Monday Night Football."

Local stations in the markets of the competing teams bid for the broadcast rights to the game that is also available on cable.

The only other Bills games on Channel 7 next season are three of the four preseason contests. Mark Preisler, executive vice president for media and content for Pegula Sports and Entertainment, has confirmed that Andrew Catalon and Steve Tasker will work two of the three Channel 7 games. Tasker will work with a play-by-play person to be determined for a game in which Catalon is working the PGA golf tournament for CBS. The fourth preseason game against Cincinnati at 4 p.m. Aug. 26 is being carried by Fox.


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