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Bills’ George Wilson: Toronto’s a nice place to visit, but I don’t want to play there
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Buffalo Bills safety George Wilson regards Toronto as a nice and diverse place to visit. Just don't ask him to get excited about playing "home" games there.
"It's not a home game," Wilson said before practice Wednesday.
Making sure not to knock the city or its residents, Wilson focused his concerns on questioning the loyalty and passion of fans who have attended Buffalo's games at Toronto over the past three years.
"Is that a question?" Wilson said, when asked about the support the Bills receive at Toronto's downtown Rogers Centre. "The fan support in Toronto is a night-and-day difference from what we have in Buffalo. For the most part, it's a show. You see just as many jerseys for the opposing teams as you do the Bills. They cheer for any big play regardless of whichever team makes it."
Wilson went public with his frustrations as the Bills (4-2) come out of their bye week off to prepare to host the Washington Redskins (3-3) in Buffalo's annual regular season game north of the border.
In becoming the NFL's first team to play annual games outside the United States, the Bills consider the five-year, $78 million pact with Toronto-based media and communications giant, Rogers Communication, as part of the small-market franchise's bid to expand its market and draw additional revenue out of Toronto, about a 90-minute drive from Buffalo. The deal already has paid off for the Bills. They get about $9.75 million per game in Toronto, more than twice than they generate at Ralph Wilson Stadium. The Bills also have reported a large bump in season-ticket sales from fans across the border, who now represent about 15 percent of the team's base.
The downside has proved to be a general lack of interest the Bills have received in Toronto. They play in a domed facility that's better suited for baseball, with the stands further removed from the playing field. Overpriced tickets - a majority of them more than $200 - have made it difficult to draw fans to the 54,000-seat facility. And many who have shown up are either NFL fans, who root for other teams, or are there to see the opposing team.
Playing under a roof has also neutralized the Bills' home-field advantage when it comes to the elements. That was particularly apparent in 2008. While it was snowing in Buffalo, the Bills were essentially knocked out of playoff contention following a 16-13 loss to the warm-weather Miami Dolphins in the cozy, dry confines of Rogers Center.
Around the league
• RAMS: Sam Bradford still is in a walking boot, and it appears that at least another week will pass before the St. Louis quarterback gets back on the field. Bradford was not at practice Wednesday, leaving his availability in doubt for the second straight game. Backup A.J. Feeley got his first start since 2007 in a 34-7 loss at Dallas
• VIKINGS: Minnesota cornerback Antoine Winfield will be a full participant in practice Thursday, hoping to test his injured neck and see if he can play in Sunday's game at Carolina. He has missed the past three games because of the problem.
• EAGLES: Unhappy he was trade bait, cornerback Asante Samuel criticized management and compared Philadelphia's front office to people who play fantasy football.
Samuel, a four-time Pro Bowl pick, said he doesn't have any problem with coach Andy Reid. "Me and Andy talked, cleared it up, everything is good," Samuel said.
• BENGALS: Bernard Scott has waited two years to get this chance, and now the shifty running back will be a focus of the Cincinnati Bengals' offense Sunday in Seattle, taking over for suspended starter Cedric Benson. It'll be his first featured appearance since he started two games as a rookie in 2009.
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