After the Buffalo Bills unveiled their new uniforms last night, MRW and I were allowed back into the team locker room to take part in a few interviews with event participants. Matt spoke at length with Booker Edgerson, which he'll be writing up next week, and we got a little one-on-one time with Jim Kelly, as well.
CEO Russ Brandon spoke first, followed by Kelly and Steve Tasker, who emceed the event. Here are some quotes we gathered up from last night, as well as a chronological rundown of what the locker room experience was like.
Bills CEO Russ Brandon: We got to speak to Mr. Brandon before the event for a little one-on-one time before the ceremony began. Very nice, well-spoken guy. After the event, he spoke to reporters about the end of an 18-month jersey modification process.
"I tell you one thing, after the process that we’ve talked about a hundred times – the 18-month process – the best part about it was hearing the roar and hearing the appreciation for the military individuals and the guys that were a part of tonight," Brandon said. "That was real emotional, and to have those guys be a part of it was really special."
John Murphy then asked Brandon if any consideration was given to keeping the team's helmets red, given the history behind the decision to switch from white in the first place.
"We talked about a lot because there’s a little bit of myth that goes along with it," Brandon explained. "We talked with our athletes, the equipment guys, to Chan, to Buddy, to Mr. Wilson and everybody across the board, and everyone was very comfortable with the white helmet and very comfortable with the fact that it really did highlight our brand."
Jim Kelly: In speaking to reporters, Kelly was a bit nostalgic about the new look, but admitted that he was excited about the white helmets.
"The uniforms remind me of back when we played which is a big plus," Kelly said. "But what I like more than anything is the helmets - the white and how the buffalo stands out, and how they still went with the charging buffalo, even though the tradition back in the '60s was the standing buffalo, I’m all for going forward. The charging buffalo and the aggressiveness stands out more on the white helmet, so that’s pretty cool. I like it."
He also told MRW later that his back feels a lot better now than it did before the surgery, even though it's still stiff. It'll be 4-6 months before he'll have full range of motion, but he was tired of waking up every day with bad back pain. He got his brace off just a couple days ago. He was also very willing to talk about his nephew, Chad, who just verbally committed to play football at Clemson, and who has been working out with Ryan Fitzpatrick. Kelly is impressed with Buffalo's starter.
"As a matter of fact, I've been with (Fitzpatrick) for the last two-three weeks and have been so impressed with the knowledge he has of the offense, how he goes about it with his leadership. I've been with him because my nephew Chad's been working out with him also, and just watching how he communicates with the receivers and how they listen to every single word that comes out of his mouth. Whether it's Lee Evans or whoever it may be, the guys are really paying attention. Stevie Johnson and the routes he runs, if there's something Fitzpatrick didn't like he'll tell them, and vice versa. Stevie’ll tell him ‘Here’s how I’m gonna try and run it this time.’ Just watching how they work together is something I like and it brought back memories to when we went on strike (in 1987). I remember going to UB and having our practices. Even though there’s not a lot of defensive backs out there the receivers and quarterbacks need that timing. It kind of humbled my nephew, to be honest with you, how impressive Fitzpatrick was throwing the football. I told my nephew ‘Now you see how far you have to go.’"
Steve Tasker: Tasker spent a lot of time with Mark Bermingham of BuffaloWins.com after a quick presser about hosting the event. He admitted to having a tough time introducing the military men modeling the uniforms.
"There was a point where I kind of got choked up when I was introducing the military personnel in the jerseys," Tasker said. "I’ve been talking to them all day and got to know them. They’re a great bunch of guys. It was fun to see them and fun to get to know them."
After MRW talked to Edgerson (which, again, he'll cover more in-depth next week), we wrapped up our evening with Scott Berchtold, the VP of Communications, and the Bills' media relations department. Everyone involved - Scott, Chris Jenkins, Matt Heidt, Dominick Rinelli and Stephanie Ohol - could not have been more accommodating. This was a first for us, and we're very appreciative of the opportunity.
Also spotted in the locker room: a slew of reporters (obviously); Tom Gibbons, the team's new Director of Pro Personnel, and his family; Charley Ferguson and, for a very brief period of time, Thurman Thomas; and all of the military participants, who were terrific.
One of the coolest moments of the night involved U.S. Army Specialist Nick Stone, who got the loudest cheer from Bills fans in attendance during the ceremony. In May of 2010, Specialist Stone lost his leg in a roadside bomb. As reporters spoke with him, he showed off a Bills logo decal on his prosthetic leg.