ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Bills coach Sean McDermott did his best to keep things light amid the heavy snow falling outside his window, and the disruption to Buffalo’s schedule — most notably forcing the team to play its “home” game against Cleveland at Detroit on Sunday.
“Yeah, I want to get out there once we can get through this,” McDermott said Friday during a Zoom call from his home, noting he might have shovel duty later in the day. “I think the family is upstairs on calls with my folks checking in on us, so, yeah, that’s all part of the human part of this.”
Aside from McDermott conducting a virtual meeting with his players, though not all because some had lost power, football was mostly placed on hold. With more than a foot of snow on the ground already in some places, making travel treacherous if not impossible, the Bills canceled what was essentially their final practice of the week.
On Saturday, they'll have to dig themselves out to gather at the airport for a 45-minute flight to Detroit. And it’s not out of the realm of possibility that some might have to make part of the trip by snowmobile, as happened in November 2014, when a similar storm led to the NFL shifting Buffalo's home game against the New York Jets to Detroit’s Ford Field.
“That’s obviously TBD at this point. We want to head out tomorrow as close to the normal time as possible,” McDermott said. “However, seeing what’s happening around us right now, just want to make sure that all the staff and players’ families are safe and dug out before we try to get out of here.”
The storm, projected to dump between 2 and 4 feet of snow on the region, is supposed to ease by Saturday in Buffalo’s Southtowns, where the Bills are based.
How game-ready the Bills — at 6-3 and coming off two consecutive losses — might be is another question.
Aside from the snow putting a dent in Buffalo’s practice schedule, the team is also dealing with a rash of injuries and illnesses. On Wednesday, the Bills didn’t have enough healthy bodies to hold a full practice and instead conducted a walkthrough session.
McDermott on Friday ruled out starting linebacker Tremaine Edmunds (groin), starting defensive end Greg Rousseau (ankle) and cornerback Tre’Davious White, who is active but yet to play since tearing a ligament in his left knee nearly a year ago.
On the bright side, McDermott said most of the six players who came down with non-COVID-19-related illnesses are “trending in the right direction.”
Perhaps, the coach said, the challenges presented by the injuries and snow could turn into a bonding experience.
“I think it has a chance to bring your team closer together,” he said. “I think there’s some good to it when guys pull together and rally for a cause here.”
Several players went on social media to share their experiences.
Veteran pass-rusher Von Miller posted a video of his vehicle nearly completely covered in snow. Second-year safety Damar Hamlin posted a video of him stepping out his front door and plunging his feet in snow up to his knee.
The Bills even got into the act by posting several pictures of the inside of their stadium blanketed in white, with only the yellow goal posts exposed.
For some players who grew up in warmer climates and are new to Buffalo, the storm represents their first real experience with snow.
For others, this is nothing new.
Veteran safety Jordan Poyer is among the few remaining Bills who played in near white-out conditions in December 2017, when a major storm hit Buffalo an hour before kickoff of their 13-7 overtime win over Indianapolis.
The snow fell so hard at times that the Colts burned a timeout to dig a hole for the ball to be placed for Adam Vinatieri to hit a tying point-after after he missed two field-goal attempts. And the Bills celebrated running back LeSean McCoy’s winning 21-yard touchdown run by making snow angels on the field.
“Yeah, I thought I was crazy for coming to Buffalo, New York, to play in that stuff,” Poyer said. “But now that I look back on it, it probably was one of the most fun games I played in.”
The Bills will be making their first of two trips to Detroit in less than a week. They’ll be the home team on Sunday, and then the visitors for a game against the Lions on Thanksgiving Day.
For familiarity’s sake, the Bills chose to use the visitor’s locker room, sideline and coaching booths on Sunday.
“Just the comfort level from one week to the next,” McDermott said. “But we’re just focused on this week right now.”
NOTES: Linebacker A.J. Klein, whom the Bills claimed off waivers on Wednesday, has a chance of being active despite having little time to practice, McDermott said. The 10-year veteran was cut by Chicago and returns to Buffalo where he spent the previous two seasons. ... Buffalo opened a roster spot to sign Klein by placing WR Jake Kumerow (ankle) on injured reserve.