Bills C Wood calls Toronto home games 'a joke'


Bills C Wood calls Toronto home games 'a joke'

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) Center Eric Wood wasn't laughing when referring to the Buffalo Bills playing so-called home games in Toronto as being ``a joke.''

That was the opinion Wood expressed during his weekly show on Buffalo's WGRF-Radio on Monday, a day after a 50-17 loss to Seattle at Toronto. And he stuck by his comments Wednesday, saying he believes the Bills are giving away their home-field edge by playing under a dome and in front of ambivalent crowds north of the border.

``Yeah, I did call it a joke,'' Wood said. ``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.''

Wood expressed his complaints despite not making the trip to Toronto. He stayed home because he's recovering from a sprained right knee. And yet, he saw enough on TV and also heard from teammates to appreciate how familiar the atmosphere was to the two games he's played in Toronto.

Wood was unhappy the Seahawks got the chance to play inside the Rogers Centre, as opposed to outdoors at Ralph Wilson Stadium, where the elements usually play a factor in December.

Wood cited the mixed support the Bills get in Toronto, noting there are sometimes as many fans cheering for the visiting team as for Buffalo. And he added, there are times when fans don't know when to cheer.

``Those non-Bills fans that go to the game are just cheering for plays as opposed to cheering for a team,'' he said. ``And that kills you.''

Defensive tackle Kyle Williams was in Toronto, and expressed similar sentiments.

``It's very similar to a road game, but also I understand the business side of things,'' Williams said. ``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 are 1-4 in regular season games at Toronto since the series began in 2008.

The five-year deal, in which Rogers Communications agreed to pay the Bills $78 million to play in Toronto, has now expired. The two sides have been in negotiations and are close to extending the series for what's expected to be another five years.

``I don't blame Russ for this,'' Wood said, referring to Bills CEO Russ Brandon. ``I respect the decisions that he makes to keep us in this market and provide a good business plan. But from a playing standpoint, unless it improves, it's not a whole lot of fun to play there.''

The latest complaints echoed those made by Bills veteran safety George Wilson last year.

Saying it's not a home game, Wilson described fan support in Toronto as being ``a night-and-day difference'' to Buffalo.

Last year, in a 23-0 win over Washington, the crowd was doing the wave, which led to the Bills offense jumping the snap on third down. On Sunday, there was little crowd noise drowning out Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson calling plays at the line on several third-down situations.

Customarily, home crowds remain quiet when their team's offense is on the field, and they grow louder to disrupt the opposing team's offense.

``That just doesn't happen at Ralph Wilson Stadium,'' Wood said. ``There have been times when there's been 40,000 people in there, and they're still not doing a regular cadence on third down in the first quarter.''

The announced crowd of 40,770 was well below the downtown stadium's capacity of 54,000. Many who stuck around for the second half started rooting for the Seahawks. By the fourth quarter, the fans who were left began chanting, ``Let's Go Blue Jays!''

Organizers went so far in a bid to drum up support by having Korean pop star PSY perform his hit ``Gangnam Style'' at halftime.

Wood was so worked up that he was preparing to share his frustrations on his Twitter account, before remembering the NFL rule barring players from using social media while their team is playing.

``I wrote and deleted about three tweets during the game,'' Wood said. ``That was probably best. Yeah, it kind of ticked me off.''


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It's hard to tell after three games how the Wizards and Pacers would match up in the playoffs

It's hard to tell after three games how the Wizards and Pacers would match up in the playoffs

The Wizards crossed off an important goal on Saturday night by beating the Indiana Pacers and therefore securing the season series. If the teams tie with the same regular season record, the Wizards will get the higher playoff seed. As of today, that would mean home court advantage in the first round.

Though the Wizards have beaten the Pacers in two of their three matchups this season, we only know so much about how they would match up in the playoffs. The first game between them didn't feature Pacers All-Star Victor Oladipo and John Wall didn't play in any of the three games. The Pacers were without both Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis on Saturday night.

Given the Pacers underwent so much change over the summer, there is no real data to go off of from before this season. They are a completely different team with Oladipo leading the way and Paul George now in Oklahoma City.


There are reasons to believe, however, that the Wizards would fare well against the Pacers over the course of a seven-game series. For one, they figured out how to slow Oladipo and his teammate Bojan Bogdanovic on Saturday night. Both had killed the Wizards in previous matchups.

Oladipo was held to 18 points, over five points below his season average of 23.5. He had four turnovers, shot 7-for-16 (43.7%) and finished a -18 in a game the Pacers lost by seven.

The Wizards had some success with Tomas Satoransky guarding Oladipo. Satoransky is 6-foot-7 with long arms. He was able to recover on several occasions to alter Oladipo's shots.

Satoransky and Bradley Beal also did a good job keeping pace with Oladipo on the fastbreak. The Pacers had only four fastbreak points in the game. Oladipo is especially dangerous in the open court.

“We just made sure that we were aggressive with him and made sure he saw a lot of bodies in the paint," Beal said. "The last game, he got a lot of easy ones in transition. We just made sure that we got back on the shot, loaded to the ball and forced the other guys to attack.”

For Bogdanovic, it was about limiting open shots from the perimeter. Bogdanovic had 11 points, three below his season average and had four turnovers. Beal and Otto Porter stripped Bogdanovic for steals and Marcin Gortat took a charge on one play in the third quarter.


But it was all about taking away the outside shot. Bogdanovic only hit one shot in the first half and it was a three. The only reason he got it off is because Kelly Oubre, Jr. lost his balance backing up. That gave Bogdanovic the window he needed. Otherwise, Oubre helped frustrate the former Wizards small forward. So did Gortat and Ian Mahinmi, who did a good job covering their teammates off screens.

The Pacers are an average offensive team, ranking 16th in points per game and 14th in offensive rating. They are better defensively, ranking ninth-best in opponents points per game and 12th in defensive efficiency.

If the Wizards can limit Oladipo and Bogdanovic, the Pacers' two leading scorers, they should have a good shot at beating the Pacers in the playoffs. Beyond them, the Pacers are thin in the scoring department. Turner only averages 13.6 points and no one else beyond him can consistently make an opposing defense pay for mistakes. Conversely, several Wizards players have given the Pacers major trouble through three games this season.

Gortat, who had 18 points and eight rebounds on Saturday, has averaged 13 points and eight rebounds on 57.7 percent shooting against Indiana. Kelly Oubre, Jr., who had 16 points in 18 minutes, has averaged 15.5 points and is shooting 50 percent from the field.


In addition to those guys, Markieff Morris, Porter, Mike Scott, Mahinmi and Satoransky are all shooting over 50 percent against the Pacers. Satoransky is shooting 71.4 percent through three games.

The Wizards have the pieces to counter what the Pacers do best. Indiana is seventh in three-point percentage, but the Wizards are the best team in basketball in opponents three-point percentage. The Pacers are built around an All-Star guard, but the Wizards have two All-Star guards. The Pacers have a collection of talented wing players, but so do the Wizards.

"Hypothetically, I do like Indiana," Beal said. "I like how we match up with Indiana and I feel like there is a lot of stuff that we can take advantage of. In a lot of categories, I think we can win them."

Add it all up and the Wizards have every reason to feel confident if they see the Pacers in the posteason. Keep that in mind because they very well could meet up in the spring.

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Need to Know: Looking ahead—Key Redskins 2019 free agents

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Need to Know: Looking ahead—Key Redskins 2019 free agents

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, March 18, 39 days before the NFL draft.  

Looking at next year’s free agents

There is still work that the Redskins can do in free agency and they still have some of their own players they want to retain. But with a lot of the player movement already in the books, we can take a look forward some of the key Redskin who currently are set to be free agents when the 2019 league year opens.

Note: I’m not including Brandon Scherff here because the team has a fifth-year option on him that they surely will activate before the May 2 deadline.

QB Colt McCoy (Week 1 age 32)—Lots of questions here. Will the Redskins want to keep him around for another year as Alex Smith’s backup? Or will they want a younger and cheaper backup? Will McCoy want to move on rather than back up another QB who doesn’t miss many games?

OL Ty Nsekhe (32)—The Redskins gave him a second-round restricted free agent tender this year so it’s possible that he could be gone or on a long-term contract in Washington. If he is a free agent, his value and the difficulty of retaining him could depend on if he ends the season as a reserve tackle (easy) or as a starting guard (hard).

OLB Preston Smith (25)—As we saw with Trent Murphy (three years, $21 million with up to $30 million), pass rushers get paid. Smith also makes big plays. Since Smith came into the NFL, he is the only player with at least 20 sacks, 3 interceptions, and 4 forced fumbles. If the Redskins can’t reach a deal on an extension with him this year the franchise tag is a distinct possibility.

WR Jamison Crowder (25)—This year the supply of quality receivers both as free agents and in the draft sent contract prices skyrocketing. To guard against that happening next year, the Redskin should start talking to Crowder about an extension soon.

ILB Zach Vigil (27)—As I noted here, Vigil went from being cut in September to a very valuable reserve in November. Both Zach Brown and Mason Foster will still be under contract, but the Redskin still should make an effort to retain Vigil for special teams and as a capable backup.

Other Redskins who are slated to be UFA’s next year are DL Ziggy Hood and ILB Martrell Spaight.

It’s also worth noting that WR Maurice Harris and DE Anthony Lanier will both be restricted free agents next year. Both positions were pricey in free agency this year, so both could require at least second-round tenders, which likely will increase to about $3 million in 2019.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

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Regarding the reported visit of defensive lineman Jonathan Hankins with the Redskins:


Days until:

—Offseason workouts begin (4/16) 29
—Training camp starts (approx. 7/26) 131
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 175

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