Buffalo Bills to continue to play in Toronto for 5 more seasons
Buffalo Bills fan Dan Malette, of North Bay, Ont., tries to get the attention of a friend during the second half of a pre-season NFL football game between the Bills and the Pittsburgh Steelers at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, Thursday, Aug. 14, 2008. (AP / David Duprey)
The Canadian Press
Published Tuesday, January 29, 2013 4:58PM EST
TORONTO -- The Buffalo Bills and Rogers Media announced a new agreement Friday that will keep Rogers Centre as the team's second home.
Buffalo will play one regular-season game at the home of the Toronto Blue Jays for the next five years, and the new contract also includes one preseason game in 2015.
The existing five-year deal -- which was worth $78 million -- expired when Seattle posted a 50-17 win over Buffalo Dec. 16. But an extension had long been expected despite lingering attendance problems. Only 40,770 fans attended the Seahawks' win, far short of a sellout. Some 53,000 fans had been expected.
It was not a good day for the Bills, all around. With 5:20 left in the game, fans in one end zone began chanting "Let's Go Blue Jays!" Of course, it was fine by Seattle, which rolled to its third of what would be six consecutive wins.
"This was exciting for us," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said at the time. "We looked at it like a little bit of a bowl-game situation."
Buffalo, which finished 6-10 and underwent a coaching change this month, is just 1-4 in regular-season games in Toronto, and some players have spoken out about the deal, worried that taking away a home game from the Buffalo region is somewhat counterproductive.
"Yeah, I did call it a joke," Bills centre Wood said at the time. "It stunk that we were up there. And I was heated when I said it was a joke. And I'm not going to sit here and retract all my statements because that's what I meant and what I felt.
"Those non-Bills fans that go to the game are just cheering for plays as opposed to cheering for a team. And that kills you."
Defensive tackle Kyle Williams concurred.
"It's very similar to a road game, but also I understand the business side of things," Williams said then. "I don't think you'd find a guy in here that wouldn't agree that they would much rather be in Ralph Wilson Stadium."
Wood understands how playing in Canada's financial capital and largest city benefits a small-market team such as the Bills by generating additional revenue and luring fans to attend the team's games at Orchard Park. He emphasized he wasn't criticizing Toronto as a community, because he enjoys makes numerous trips there.
"I love the city of Toronto for eating and for pleasure," Wood said. "But the game just has a different feel. And it's not a whole lot of fun to play in at this point."
The Bills recently extended their lease at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, N.Y., for 10 years, which should solidify the franchise's short-term future.
After the season ended with a 28-9 win over the New York Jets, Buffalo fired coach Chan Gailey, replacing him with Doug Marrone. Buffalo lost three of its final four games.