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Bills C Wood calls Toronto home games 'a joke'

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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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Wizards and Hawks pay tribute to Kobe Bryant with 8- and 24-second violations to begin game

Wizards and Hawks pay tribute to Kobe Bryant with 8- and 24-second violations to begin game

Emotions were very raw on Sunday as the Wizards and Hawks played a game in Atlanta, just hours after the passing of NBA legend Kobe Bryant.

Players and coaches wiped back tears during a pregame tribute, as shown on the NBC Sports Washington broadcast. And as the game began, the two teams honored his jersey numbers with an eight-second and 24-second violation.

The Hawks held the ball after tip-off for eight seconds without crossing halfcourt and then the Wizards held the ball for 24 seconds to run out the shot clock. After each team did their part, they resumed play.

Bryant's impact was felt across sports and all over the world. His legacy is particularly strong among the current generation of NBA players due to the fact he was in his prime when many of them were kids.

Hawks point guard Trae Young also began the game wearing a No. 8 Hawks jersey. Soon after the game started, he switched to his normal No. 11 uniform.

Many players tweeted their condolences before taking the floor. And the Wizards released a statement on his passing.

Bryant, 41, passed away in a helicopter crash along with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna. Other passengers also perished, though their identities have not been confirmed.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.

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Lamar Jackson wins Pro Bowl Offensive MVP as AFC beats NFC

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Lamar Jackson wins Pro Bowl Offensive MVP as AFC beats NFC

The Ravens were the most represented team at the Pro Bowl, so it was only fitting two of the biggest contributors were from Baltimore, too. 

Lamar Jackson and Mark Andrews combined for three touchdowns as the AFC beat the NFC 38-33 in the Pro Bowl on Sunday in Orlando. 

Jackson was named Pro Bowl Offensive MVP in just the first Pro Bowl of his young career. 

In addition to the 12 players that were selected from the NFL’s top regular season team, the AFC was coached by Baltimore’s coaching staff. 

Mourning Kobe Bryant

The Pro Bowl’s priority in the grand scheme of things took a backseat Sunday afternoon after NBA legend Kobe Bryant passed away in a helicopter crash in California. He was 41 years old.

Ravens players tweeted their condolences after news of his death broke and the sports world slowed to honor Bryant.

Jackson was interviewed by ESPN’s Lisa Salters during the game, where he spoke highly of Bryant’s career. 

"That's a legend, man,” Jackson said. “He did so much for the game of basketball. A lot of people looked up to Kobe Bryant, including myself. From what I heard, he was a great person as well. My prayers are with his family."

Lamar Starts

The second-year quarterback had a strong outing in his first ever Pro Bowl appearance. 

Jackson finished 16-of-23 for 185 yards through the air with two touchdowns and an interception. He added six yards on the ground on just two carries. 

His two touchdown passes were tied for a game-high as he played for a majority of the first half. 

For his day, he won Pro Bowl Offensive MVP. It almost assuredly won’t be his only MVP from the 2019 season. 

Other Ravens In Action

But it wasn’t just Jackson that saw the field for the Ravens. 

Andrews finished the game with a game-high nine receptions for 73 yards -- a team high. He also caught a touchdown pass from Jackson in the second quarter. 

Mark Ingram led all players on the ground with 31 yards on five carries, with the help of three of his offensive linemen: Ronnie Stanley, Marshal Yanda and Orlando Brown Jr. 

Defensively, Marlon Humphrey had three tackles, Earl Thomas had two and Matthew Judon added one as well. 

Late in the fourth quarter, Thomas intercepted a pass on the Pro Bowl’s new onside kick rule, which replaces a standard onside kick with a 4th-and-15 play. Thomas then lateraled the ball to Humphrey, who pitched it to Judon before the play was whistled dead.

Justin Tucker added a first half 50-yard field goal, too, as the Ravens made sure they were well-known at the Pro Bowl.