BUFFALO, NY (AP) — Buffalo Bills executives Ron Raccuia and Derek Boyko weren’t going to let a little — actually a lot of — snow stop them from picking up left tackle Dion Dawkins on Saturday morning.
When their vehicle couldn’t get any further because of mounds of snow blocking the road in one of Buffalo’s southern suburbs, Raccuia did the next best thing.
“Ron said, `I’m going to walk to Dion’s house and walk him back to the car.’ And that’s exactly what he did,” said Boyko, the vice president of communications for the Bills.
No big deal, Raccuia added during a phone interview with The Associated Press as he and Boyko headed to Buffalo International Airport to catch the Bills’ flight to Detroit for their relocated “home” game against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.
“It was probably a quarter of a mile,” said Raccuia, the team’s executive vice president and chief operating officer. “Boyko would have done the same thing.”
The operation of getting everyone to the team facility began at 9:30 am and ended with every member of the staff and players boarding buses, which received a police escort to the airport for a 45-minute flight that departed at around 4:45 pm EST.
The Bills are off to play at downtown Detroit’s Ford Field after a massive lake-effect storm dumped as much as 7 feet of snow over western New York since Thursday night. One of the hardest hit areas was Orchard Park, where the Bills are based and many of their players live.
“We had a lot of resources willing to help, including a couple of snowmobile clubs,” Raccuia said, although snowmobiles weren’t needed in the end.
“We had snow-plow drivers, we had staff members, everyone in football ops, security, game-day ticketing, Derek, myself, everybody chipped in,” he added. “We had car pools. We dug players out of their driveways. We picked up players. Anything you can think of to get it done.”
Numerous players posted videos and pictures on social media to thank the many residents who assisted them in a place which dubs itself “The City of Good Neighbors.”
“Wow, let’s go. Never seen anything like it,” Dawson Knox said in a video showing neighbors digging a path for him and fellow tight end Tommy Sweeney to get from their house to the road.
Backup quarterback Case Keenum showed a video of several people snow-blowing clear his driveway.
Tight end Quinten Morris woke up to find his driveway already cleared, and posted a picture with a note that read: “Lord gone bless you whoever did this.”
The storm hit almost to the exact same day as in 2014, when another major snowfall forced the Bills to relocate to Detroit, where Buffalo went on to beat the New York Jets 38-3.
This time, the logistics of moving the game were more complicated, in a decision announced on Thursday.
The NFL was unable to push the game back a day as it did eight years ago because the Bills already face a short week in returning to Detroit to play the Lions on Thanksgiving.
In Detroit, Lions coach Dan Campbell said stadium crews had to dismantle some equipment already in place for a pregame show on Thursday in order for the Browns and Bills to play.
Despite the short notice, tickets for the game on Sunday sold out within the first few hours they were made available on Friday, Raccuia said.
“The Lions deserve a tremendous amount of credit for getting the stadium ready for us. Our fans have been unbelievable,” Raccuia said. “It’s very impressive the dedication, the skill and commitment that everybody has shown.”
NOTES: The Bills elevated CB Xavier Rhodes and WR Tanner Gentry from their practice squad for Sunday’s game. … The Browns made plans to make the 170-mile trip to Detroit by bus.
AP Sports Writer Larry Lage contributed.
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