BUFFALO, N.Y. — This has been a weird 2020 NFL season.
There aren’t many other ways to put it, particularly for Buffalo Bills fans, as the coronavirus pandemic has kept them from witnessing the team’s playoff run in person until last weekend. While 6,772 fans will be inside Bills Stadium to see the team’s AFC divisional-round game Saturday against the Baltimore Ravens (8:15 p.m., ET, NBC), the rest will have to get creative.
The Transit Drive-In, a Buffalo-area theater, has opened its gates for viewings of Bills games in the past and plans to do so Saturday.
But even as fans find new ways to enjoy Bills games in lieu of the trademark tailgates around the stadium — including a block party in downtown Buffalo — some have opted for a more relaxed approach at home. With a state-imposed 10 p.m. curfew in effect for outdoor dining at bars and restaurants (and even concession stands in Bills Stadium), they don’t have much of a choice.
Ken Obstarczyk hoped to travel with the team this season after witnessing the Bills’ wins in Dallas and Pittsburgh in 2019, but those plans wilted once the realities of the 2020 season set in. He used to have season tickets with his father, also named Ken, but that has evolved into a trip to his dad’s house in Williamsville, New York, and a day full of beverages and Bills football.
“We were saying that out of all the years the Bills are supposed to be a solid team and do great things, they do it in a year where no one can actually witness it,” he laughed. “The Bills-iest thing to do would be to actually win the Super Bowl and have everyone not be able to celebrate.”
Obstarczyk figured it was only right to spend last Saturday’s game, the Bills’ first home playoff game in 25 years, with the same man he has watched “so many awful games” with.
It went smoothly for the most part — until that all-too-familiar feeling crept in as Indianapolis mounted a comeback toward the end of Buffalo’s 27-24 win against the Colts.
“You get to that moment where, it’s a ‘Buffalo moment,'” he said. “[The Colts] started crawling back, [Bills QB] Josh Allen fumbles at the end and it’s like, ‘is he making that mistake that everybody wants him to make?’ [Buffalo] managed to pull it off, it was a great experience, and I was glad I was with my dad and able to experience that with him.”
Like the Obstarczyks, Jason Hahl did the same from his home in East Aurora, New York; well, outside of his home, technically.
Hahl said he has set up an outdoor television to watch games so frequently that it now has an increasingly permanent spot in his dining room between game days — for ease of access, in lieu of bringing it all the way back to the basement.
Sometimes he’ll be by himself, other times he will have a few people with him, but Hahl has watched nearly every Bills game this season via his outdoor setup. He said he doesn’t care how cold it is, either, although sometimes he’ll build a fire, when necessary.
However, last weekend Hahl was forced to put a canopy up, and not because of the temperature, which was just above freezing.
“It was so sunny that you actually needed a canopy to protect from the glare,” he said. “We could barely see the TV, so we put a canopy up in January because it’s too sunny.”
If he can’t be at games, spending game days outdoors feels like the next best thing. Turns out, he’s not the only one in his neighborhood with the idea.
Hahl said he has heard his neighbors doing the same, especially during the Bills’ past few games — although their celebrations have been a bit staggered.
“Because everybody’s streaming the game through a different service, you will hear one family erupt and scream, then another,” he said. “It’s kind of going off like fireworks around you because of the delay between plays. It’s another interesting outdoor pandemic phenomenon.”
Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul having surgery on left knee
The three-time Pro Bowler posted news of the procedure, which was scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. ET, on his Instagram Story.
In July, Pierre-Paul underwent arthroscopic surgery on the same knee to clean up cartilage that was causing discomfort.
He was on the injury report throughout the 2020 season with the knee injury, even missing a practice leading up to the Super Bowl, but he did not miss a game this season.
He finished the 2020 season with a team-leading 9.5 sacks and a career-high 4 forced fumbles, with 2 interceptions and 2 fumble recoveries. His two sacks played a key role in defeating the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship.
Pittsburgh Steelers want Ben Roethlisberger to return in 2021, team president Art Rooney II says
Team president Art Rooney II acknowledged the mutual desire between the Steelers and their longtime quarterback in a statement Wednesday morning.
“Ben Roethlisberger and I met yesterday morning and we had a productive meeting” Rooney said. “We were able to discuss a lot of things that relate to where we are and where we want to go. Ben assured me that he is committed to coming back to help us win, and I told Ben that we would like to have him back to help us win a championship. We both understand the next step is to work out Ben’s contract situation.”
— Burt Lauten (@SteelersPRBurt) February 24, 2021
The final year of Roethlisberger’s current deal comes with a $41.2 million cap hit, though a contract restructure and extension could lower that by a maximum of about $14 million.
Roethlisberger, who turns 39 next week, also could opt to take a pay cut to the veteran minimum, which would put his cap hit just over $23 million.
In a statement to NFL Network on Tuesday night, Roethlisberger’s agent Ryan Tollner said “we are happy to creatively adjust his contract to help them build the best team possible.”
Rooney’s statement is the most committal the Steelers have been toward bringing the two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback back for at least one more season.
General manager Kevin Colbert was lukewarm last week in his assessment of Roethlisberger’s status with the team, saying “hopefully, there is a way we could try and figure out and do what’s best for the organization and do what’s best for Ben.”
Rooney echoed some of Colbert’s sentiments in Wednesday’s statement, saying that the sides still have to resolve Roethlisberger’s contract situation — something that has to be done by the open of the new league year on March 17.
Cam Newton? Marcus Mariota? Jimmy Garoppolo? Patriots must move soon at QB – New England Patriots Blog
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The New England Patriots‘ approach in filling their quarterback void can be described in two words: Strategically patient. They are exploring all options — free agency, the 2021 NFL draft and trades.
But their patience will soon be put to the test.
Time is running out, as evidenced by Los Angeles Chargers tight end Hunter Henry‘s recent remarks. Henry will be a top free-agent target if the Chargers don’t assign him the franchise tag, and he told Sirius XM NFL Radio the two most important factors to him will be money and a “good quarterback.” Henry said the quarterback is “huge for our position; it makes things a lot easier.”
Not having a clear picture at quarterback by the start of free agency in mid-March will undoubtedly make things a lot more challenging for the Patriots as they potentially court top tight ends (Henry, Jonnu Smith) and wide receivers (Allen Robinson II, Chris Godwin, Kenny Golladay) to address glaring needs.
And even if coach Bill Belichick decides the draft is the best path forward at quarterback, he’ll still need to do something before then, with only third-year player Jarrett Stidham and practice-squad option Jake Dolegala on the roster.
The Patriots’ M.O. has been to account for as many needs as possible entering the draft, thus giving them the flexibility to select what they deem the best value regardless of position. There’s also the realization at pick No. 15, and with lower odds of making a bold trade into the top five by dealing away a future first-round pick, there’s no guarantee the Patriots will be in the mix for a top quarterback.
One veteran option who could at least temporarily fill the void is Cam Newton, who stumped for his return to New England in an entertaining appearance on the “I Am Athlete” podcast. Longtime captain and safety Devin McCourty is among those who would endorse Newton’s return, noting how the QB was put in a tough spot after missing the 2020 offseason with the team.
But Newton, who threw eight TD passes and 10 interceptions last season, will be a tough sell to a vocal part of the Patriots’ fan base that understandably didn’t like what it saw in 2020. It was always going to be a drop-off from Tom Brady, but the depths to which the passing game struggled– albeit with a lack of top pass-catchers around Newton — was dramatic.
The Raiders face a salary-cap crunch, they need to improve their defense, and Mariota ($10.625 million base salary) might be a backup-QB luxury Las Vegas cannot afford. Thus, if they can land a mid-to-late-round draft pick for Mariota, they might be motivated sellers for a player who could also be in jeopardy of being released.
ESPN NFL analyst Tim Hasselbeck, a backup quarterback in the NFL from 2001 to 2007, could envision Mariota in New England.
“The Patriots love to be value shoppers, Marcus Mariota played really well last year in relief, he’s due just $10.5 million, which means he could easily be paired with a young quarterback,” Hasselbeck said on ESPN’s Get Up this week. “His ability as a runner, but also as a passer, I think it would actually be a great fit in New England and makes a lot of sense.”
Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo might make the most sense for the Patriots, given their background together (2014-17). But the San Francisco 49ers have no urgency to trade him unless they know they have an upgrade in place.
Deshaun Watson would be an option, but the Houston Texans are reportedly telling teams he isn’t available. Meanwhile, the New York Jets might trade Sam Darnold, but that potential QB domino falling doesn’t seem imminent.
Which all comes back to the Patriots and timing.
It’s one thing to be strategically patient — kicking the tires on Matthew Stafford, staying out of the Carson Wentz fray, and studying free-agent possibilities such as Jameis Winston (New Orleans Saints), Ryan Fitzpatrick (Miami Dolphins) and Mitchell Trubisky (Chicago Bears) — at this point of the NFL calendar.
But with free agency approaching March 17, the clock is ticking and could soon force the Patriots’ hand.
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