Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Lineman says joke is on Bills players

Home-field advantage lost in Toronto games

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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Centre 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."

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 are close to extending the series for what's expected to be another five years.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 20, 2012 D4

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