- Associated Press - Saturday, October 31, 2015

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) - It’s not easy being a Buffalo Bills fan.

Just ask Brandon Campbell.

“I almost have to bite my tongue every time a customer comes in and I’m wearing a Bills hoodie, and they ask me, ‘Are you still wearing that?’” said Campbell, who works at a Buffalo-area car dealership.

“People make fun of me all the time. But I’m always going to wear it loud and proud.”

Loud was what Campbell was looking for in early September when Buffalo was still buzzing with Rex Ryan-inspired hype.

Following the Bills’ impressive season-opening win over Indianapolis, Campbell devised a plan in a bid to have Ralph Wilson Stadium recognized as the world’s loudest outdoor facility.

In a matter of days, his Internet campaign raised the required $7,000 to have a Guinness World Records official travel to Orchard Park and measure the sound during Buffalo’s game against New England.

The Bills, of course, lost 40-32 and the noise peaked at about 124 decibels, about 18 short of the record set by Chiefs fans at Arrowhead Stadium.

Some six weeks later, barely a peep can be heard across western New York regarding the Bills (3-4), who limped into their bye week facing questions of whether they’ll extend the NFL’s longest active playoff drought to a 16th season.

“It’s just like whatever is bad that can happen is happening,” Campbell said. “It’s tough, man. It’s tough.”

New coach. New owners. New high-priced player additions.

Same old Bills, who have a losing record through seven games for the 10th time 12 seasons.

A rash of injuries, longstanding concerns at quarterback, a leaky defense and a lack of discipline - the Bills are the NFL’s most-penalized team - have combined to put a huge dent into the sky-high expectations fans had in buying a franchise-best 60,000 season tickets.

Even Ryan acknowledged how the Bills have let down their followers after a sloppy 34-31 loss to Jacksonville in England last weekend.

“I know our fans deserve better than 3-4,” Ryan said before giving his team the rest of the week off. “But this team deserves our fan base to stay by them, which they will.”

There’s little doubt of that, especially the die-hards who have grown accustomed to their team finding new ways to disappoint them come late October, and yet surprised, nonetheless, each time it happens.

“Oh, my gosh, no. Nobody saw this coming,” said Del Reid, co-founder of the team’s fan group which calls itself The Bills Mafia.

Exasperating as the past seven weeks have been, Reid isn’t about to give up even on a team that enters a stretch of playing five of its next seven on the road.

“At least it’s better than no chance,” Reid said. “Bright side, if I had another middle name that’s probably what it would be. They’re not out of anything.”

Reid jokes he’s been a Bills fan since taking his first breath, growing up in a home where an O.J. Simpson poster hung on the wall until 1994, when the former Bills star running back was charged with murder.

“The Bills are in my DNA,” he said.

For others, patience is beginning to wear thin.

Receiver Sammy Watkins, who played hurt through his entire rookie season last season, caused a stir this week responding to fans criticizing him for being sidelined by an assortment of injuries.

Watkins posted a message on his Instagram account Tuesday by calling his critics “losers” and suggesting they wished they were in his position while “working y’all little jobs.”

The message was deleted and Watkins posted an apology on Wednesday.

Watkins said he spoke out of frustration, called his comments inappropriate and ended with, “(hashtag)letsgtobuffalo.”

Turns out, it’s not easy being a Bills player, either.

As for fans, Reid chuckled when asked if anyone has ever suggested he consider therapy.

“Maybe once or twice,” Reid said. “But the Bills can go 0-16 for five years in a row, and I’m still going to be there every Sunday.”

The one thing Reid has difficulty grasping is how consistent the Bills have been in missing the playoffs for a 15-year stretch despite all the changes.

Since 2000, the Bills are on their seventh coach, sixth general manager, had 11 quarterbacks start at least five games and changed owners after Terry and Kim Pegula purchased the team after Bills founder Ralph Wilson died last year.

And yet, the drought continues.

“So no, it’s not the same old Bills,” Reid said. “That’s what’s so frustrating.”


AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

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