Buffalo Bills Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly is a busy guy. He's particularly busy today, having joined the Today Show this morning to talk about his wife's new book, while working in time to promote prostate cancer awareness for Depend and ZERO. I got the chance to chat with Jim about not only prostate cancer awareness, but the new-look Bills and the start of the 2010 season. Kelly is encouraged by what he's seen - but only to a point.
"I'm encouraged more than I was last year, you better believe it," Kelly told BuffaloRumblings.com. "At least you see an offense that has put points on the board in the preseason, which we're not used to seeing. You see a system that looks like it's more open for what Trent Edwards likes."
Kelly, who will be in attendance for Sunday's season opener against the Miami Dolphins along with several other former Bills, also expressed excitement about the team's new defense, which did not show a lot schematically during preseason play.
"I can't wait to see what our defense does," Kelly said. "Implementing the 34, compared to the 43 defense they used last year and years past. I want to see what it will do. I know they didn't show a lot, because they didn't want to show teams too much early on. But it will be interesting to see what happens there."
I told Kelly that rookie C.J. Spiller had been named the team's starting running back today, and asked him what a back of Spiller's caliber can do for an offense.
"He takes pressure off Trent," Kelly said. "We'll have to wait and see, but he's an all-purpose back in Thurman's mold, that can help you in a lot of different ways and on special teams. I'll be honest, I like Fred Jackson a lot, and I don't know whether it's health or what with him right now, but I'm a little bit surprised that they'd get Spiller in that quickly. I thought they'd work him in a little bit more, but you know what, they've got a lot of talent there, and I'm anxious to see it."
We got onto the subject of Trent Edwards, so naturally, I had to ask him about his much-publicized off-season comments about California quarterbacks, and Edwards' response.
"Here's the thing about that," said Kelly. "You can sit down for a five-minute interview and say a million things, and one little comment is all anyone remembers. All I brought up was that quarterbacks out of California that have come to Buffalo have struggled, you know, when you talk about Rob Johnson, and then J.P. Losman, and now Edwards. And Trent has struggled. But he's a great kid, he studies hard. I hope he does great things for this team. I'm rooting for him."
When Buddy Nix was promoted to the position of General Manager on New Year's Eve last year, Kelly was at One Bills Drive to support the move and provide his thoughts on Nix at that time. With Nix hiring Gailey, the team re-tooled and ready for the regular season, I asked Jim if his assessment on Nix had changed at all, and if he liked everything that had transpired to date.
"All except those accents," Kelly joked. "They're Southern guys. They've got those accents. Sometimes you need a translator to figure out what Buddy's saying.
"But what a great guy. He knows the game of football. You look at Spiller, everybody asked 'why draft another running back?', and now you're talking about a starting running back in the NFL, a really talented young football player. He knows the game of football, he knows what it takes to play in this league.
"Chan tells it like it is," Kelly continued. "He's willing to put guys in their place, and that's good to have with a young football team. He'll get them back to doing the little things well, and they'll play as a team."
Kelly has noticed everything that's gone on in the AFC East this off-season, knows that expectations for the Bills are very low, and understands that the division is as tough as ever. None of that has deterred his belief that the Bills can compete in 2010.
"There's no doubt," Kelly said. "They have to start off strong, because a few early losses can become a mental thing, where preparing through the week gets harder because you're not winning. They have to start strong, with three of their first four games against the AFC East, and they need to get used to winning. But absolutely. They have a chance to do really well."
Bills fans typically get a jolt of adrenaline whenever they see Kelly on the sidelines at a Bills game. He was at the season opener a year ago in New England on Monday Night Football, and he wouldn't dream of missing an opener against Miami, either.
"It's Dolphin week. That's our biggest rivalry, so of course I'm going to be there full force. I'll have my red, white and blue on, pulling for my Bills."
Is he predicting a 'W' this weekend?
"27-17. Mark it down."
Kelly is currently campaigning for The Campaign To End Prostate Cancer, an awareness program sponsored by Depend and ZERO. Having turned 50 this past February, Kelly had his first PSA test as part of the campaign, and is promoting early detection for a disease that has a very high cure rate. Kelly wants to make sure that men his age are proactive about their health.
"When you get to be 45, 50 years of age, you cannot wait until the last minute to do this," Kelly says. "Everyone talks about how you get up there and you need to go through this and through that, but you don't. It's a simple blood test, and the PSA test is so important. Prostate cancer is treatable, and it's something that can be conquered down the road. But if you're 45 or 50 years old, all you have to do is get your physical and get your blood work, and you're on the right track."
For more on the prostate cancer awareness campaign, Kelly's involvement (there's a fun video to watch), and information on what you can do to be proactive with your health, visit DependPCA.com.