Bills practice in Detroit prepping for Jets game
ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) After days of simply trying to stay warm while over five feet of snow pounded the Buffalo area this week, the Buffalo Bills are finally getting back to a sense of normalcy in advance of Monday night's matchup in Detroit against the New York Jets.
''Today was great,'' Bills defensive tackle Marcell Dareus said after practice Saturday. ''It seemed like we were back to ourselves. We were playing fast, moving fast, playing with each other. It's all kind of clicking together.''
Originally scheduled to play Sunday in Buffalo, players and coaches - some even forced to travel to the airport in Buffalo via snowmobile - arrived in Detroit Friday morning, practiced Friday evening and then again Saturday afternoon. The Bills (5-5) will hit the Lions' practice field in Allen Park for a final cram session Sunday before taking on the Jets (2-8) at 7 p.m. Monday at Ford Field.
Members of both the Bills and Lions organizations hustled to get everything set after the location of the game was announced Thursday.
''It's been a challenge; the logistics are very difficult,'' Bills coach Doug Marrone said. ''Everyone did a good job, from the Detroit Lions - I can't say enough about what they've done to help us - to everyone at our organization. Our players, coaches, trainers - it goes right down the list.''
Players and coaches admitted they have no idea what to expect from the atmosphere in Ford Field Monday, and they'll treat the situation as if it were an away game. Free tickets were distributed on the Lions' website Friday morning, and a large crowd is expected Monday night. Who fans will be cheering for, however, remains to be seen.
When the Lions' played host to the Minnesota Vikings and New York Giants after the Metrodome roof collapsed in 2010, over 45,000 football fans attended the game.
''It's an experience that we'll take in stride,'' Bills running back Fred Jackson said. ''It's human nature to root for somebody who's going through something. Going through what we've gone through, you can definitely see some fans getting behind us and supporting us. If that's the case, we'll definitely welcome it.''
The Bills are in dire need of a win over the struggling Jets, who had lost six straight before a stunning victory over Pittsburgh Nov. 9. The Bills have struggled offensively, unable to score a touchdown on their past 21 possessions.
As players remained snowed-in at home, coaches spent multiple nights at the Bills' facility, using any means they could to help prepare the team for Monday's game. It seems to be paying off.
''I think our coaches did a great job with our game plan, actually coaching us through using iPads and stuff like that,'' wide receiver Robert Woods said. "Coming out here, it's kind of like we've been through it just because the iPad is so detailed. We just picked it back up and actually were in motion with what we saw on the iPads.''
Though certainly an unusual situation, this is not the first time Buffalo has played in Detroit this year, and that could play to the Bills' favor. Buffalo beat the Lions at Ford Field in October, meaning the team is already accustomed to the ins and outs of playing on Detroit's turf.
''Lighting, surface, we've done all that so we don't have to take that trip,'' Marrone said. ''From that standpoint, it helps us that we've been here before. We've played here, we know what shoes to wear, what the surface is like, what the sidelines are like, so that familiarity obviously helps.''
The unexpected trip marks another appearance in Detroit for Buffalo defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, who was fired in December after five seasons as head coach in Detroit. Schwartz was carried off the field on his players' shoulders following Buffalo's 17-14 victory at Ford Field earlier this year.
He declined an opportunity to talk to the media Saturday.
Jackson (groin) is listed as questionable for Monday's game, but Marrone said he expects him to play. Defensive end Jarius Wynn is out with a knee injury and did not travel with the team.
Even more than usual, the Bills will be playing for more than just the hopes of a playoff spot come Monday night.
''Every time we step on that field, we're not just representing the players or even just the organization - we feel like we're representing the region,'' Marrone said. ''It hurts me deeply when we're not able to win football games because the people of that region deserve it. They're great fans, great supporters so obviously we hope to rally around it and do a good job.''