Bills race clock to clear snow-filled stadium
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) The Buffalo Bills are looking for anyone with a snow shovel and plenty of spare time.
With 4 feet of snow having fallen at Ralph Wilson Stadium over the past two days, the Bills are racing the clock and Mother Nature to have the facility cleared in time to host the New York Jets on Sunday.
With another 1 to 2 feet of snow projected to fall by Thursday night, it's unclear whether they'll make it.
''It's hard to tell. If we didn't get any more snow from here on out, we would be fine,'' Bills Vice President of Operations Andy Major said Wednesday. ''Knowing that we have another 1 to 2 feet potentially coming overnight, that just poses another challenge.''
It usually takes three days to clear a 1-foot snowfall, Major said. The snow removal has begun, and Major hopes to round up 500 people working three shifts around the clock to clear the facility.
The team has stayed in constant contact with the NFL, which will have the final say on whether to postpone the game or have it played elsewhere.
''We are working with the Bills today to determine the status of the stadium,'' NFL spokesman Michael Signora said in an email to The Associated Press. ''If a change to the schedule needs to be made, the league will make the decision working closely with the club and local authorities.''
The weather is supposed to warm by the weekend. The forecast for Saturday calls for a high of 39 and rain. On Sunday, the forecast calls for a high of 46 and partly cloudy skies.
Though rare, changing the date or location of a game has happened before.
The most notable switch occurred in 2005, when the New Orleans Saints were forced to split their season playing in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and San Antonio, Texas, after Hurricane Katrina damaged the Louisiana Superdome. In 2010, the Minnesota Vikings were forced to play their home game against the New York Giants a day later in Detroit after the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome's roof tore open.
The storm forced the Bills to cancel practice Wednesday due to a driving ban in Orchard Park and its surrounding communities. And it's unclear how many practices the team can get in before Sunday.
Coach Doug Marrone and his staff spent the night at the team's headquarters going over the game plan and staying in contact with players.
''Us being able to go out and practice is obviously not an option for us,'' Marrone said. ''This is very challenging. It's a tough, tough situation.''
The Bills (5-5) are already coming off an extended break after getting the weekend off since a 22-9 loss at Miami on Thursday night. The Jets (2-8) had a bye weekend off since a 20-13 win over Pittsburgh on Nov. 9.
Buffalo practiced Monday, before players got their regular day off on Tuesday.
Though he grew up in the Bronx and spent five seasons coaching at Syracuse, Marrone had never experienced such a snowfall before.
''I've never seen anything like it,'' Marrone said. ''It's very difficult to put into words exactly what's going on.''
Marrone, defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz and defensive line coach Pepper Johnson found themselves in the thick of the storm while attempting to drive to the stadium Tuesday morning. They required help from a New York State trooper to exit Interstate 90. And couldn't get closer than within 5 miles of the stadium.
Marrone did his part by helping push cars out of the snow.
As much as 5 feet of snow hit a narrow region of communities south of Buffalo during a lake-effect storm that began Monday night.
The Bills describe this is an unprecedented snowfall in their 65-year history. They estimate 220,000 tons of snow that need to be cleared from the stadium and surrounding parking lots. That would be enough to fill the team's practice fieldhouse facility eight times over.
Bills players spent much of Tuesday sharing their snow-day experiences on social media.
Running back Fred Jackson produced an amusing video of himself playfully tossing his children into a large snow drift.
Receiver Marquise Goodwin posted a photo himself standing in the snow shirtless and wearing only sweatpants under the caption: ''This snow doesn't scare me.''
And kicker Dan Carpenter proved to be a good neighbor. Roy Noble, 88, told The Buffalo News that he and his 87-year-old wife Lorraine were pleasantly surprised to find Carpenter, who lives next door, shovel a path through 5-foot drifts to ensure the couple was OK.
The storm drew attention from around the league.
New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin deflected attention from his team's struggles by opening his news conference on Wednesday saying: ''Good morning. We could be in Buffalo.''
Former Bills coach Wade Phillips issued a message on his Twitter account which read: ''Hopefully all my friends in Buffalo are ok.''
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