Trading bonanza

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The Buffalo Bills kicked off the start of the new National Football League year with two trades. Since then the trades are still rolling in.

The Bills stunned the entire football world when they traded linebacker Kiko Alonso to the Philadelphia Eagles for running back Leseasn McCoy. The second trade came the very next day, which was surprising as well. In that trade the Bills sent two undisclosed draft picks for quarterback Matt Cassel and an undisclosed draft picks.

Those two trades may have triggered something as other teams have since gotten in the mix.

The next one was also a shocker by itself as the Seattle Seahawks sent a first round pick in the upcoming 2015 NFL Draft and center Max Unger to the New Orleans Saints. In return they received tight end Jimmy Graham and a fourth round pick.

If that wasn’t enough, not even an hour later another big one came out.

This one saw the Eagles got active again trading quarterback Nick Foles, a fourth round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft and a second round pick in the 2016 NFL draft to the Saint Louis Rams for quarterback Matt Stafford and a fifth round pick in 2015 NFL draft. According to NFL.com, there is one clause that if Bradford doesn’t start eight games they will receive a fourth round pick in the 2016 Draft, which could become a third if he is reinjured.

Then this past Friday three more trades were announced.

The first was the Kansas City Chiefs sending an undisclosed draft pick to the New Orleans Saints for offensive lineman Ben Grubbs. The next one was saw the Saints trading wide receiver Kenny Stills to the Miami Dolphins for linebacker Dannell Ellerbe and a 2015 third round pick. Finally the Dolphins then sent wide receiver Mike Wallace and seventh round pick in 2015 to the Minnesota Vikings for a fifth round selection.

Typically, most trades happen around the time of the Draft as teams look to move up near the top of the draft to get a player that they covet.  This many trades at the start of a new NFL season is unusual and should make the Draft very interesting

Bills introduce Cassel

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The Buffalo Bills introduced quarterback Matt Cassel today after making the trade with the Minnesota Vikings official on Monday. In the trade the Bills sent undisclosed draft choices to the Vikings in exchange for Cassel and an undisclosed draft choice.  To Cassel to become the starter he has to earn it.

“I think I’ve been in this league long enough to know that you have to compete in everything you do,” Cassel answered. “You have to earn every opportunity that you get. I know that there is going to be competition and I know that EJ is here. He is a young, talented player and I expect that there is going to be a competition. Again, you have to go out and earn your opportunity in this league.”

From there Cassel went on to give some insight on what it means to be a quarterback in the NFL. That is you’re not just competing for a starting position, but you also have to be a good teammate.

“I’ve always taken the approach that first and foremost you are teammates with everybody,” Cassel replied. “We spend a lot of time in the room with each other throughout the course of the year.  That relationship has to be solid because you want their support just as much as they want your support when you’re out on the field and playing and doing all that.”

Cassel then went on to explain that the decision on who is starting is the coaches to make.

“At the end of the day the coaches are going to pick the guy who they think is going to help them win ball games because that is the only stat that matters,” Cassel went on. “I’ve never been one of those guys that would hope that the other guy doesn’t do well or you hope the worst for somebody. I always try to lift somebody up and I think through competition, everybody becomes better. That’s always been my approach.”

The one that Bills fans can take away is that he understands what it takes to win in the NFL, especially in Buffalo. Something the Bills haven’t heard from a quarterback since Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly.

“Well I have played here a few times and I have played here late in the year, but I think that the weather conditions can be used as an advantage of us,” Cassel answered. “Late in the year anytime somebody comes into our stadium, especially with the fan base that we have and the excitement that they bring, I think it is going to be very tough for teams to come in here and play us.”

Bills have a chance at history

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The Buffalo Bills offseason has been a whirlwind to Bills fans. From the hiring of Rex Ryan as head coach it has been one stunning move after another. However, there is one question that nobody in the media here in Buffalo has asked.

Who is going to be the fifth defensive lineman in the Bills 3-4 defense?

With the Bills announcing over the weekend that they resigned defensive lineman Jerry Hughes, we know that the outside linebackers will be Hughes and Mario Williams. That leaves fellow defensive linemen Kyle Williams and Marcel Dareus to cover the nose tackle position and one of the defensive end spots. However, in a 3-4 defense there are five defensive linemen.

There is one name out there that if the Bills were to sign even New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady will not to face the Bills defense. That person is former Patriot nose tackle Vince Wilfork who would allow Dareus to go after the quarterback which he excels at.

Since Wilfork’s rookie season in 2004, the Patriots have only been in the bottom half in the league in run defense once, which was 2013 where they were third last in the league.

If your 35-years-old you may remember that the Bill in the late 1990s had a massive man at the nose tackle position in their 3-4 defense. That person was Ted Washington who along with Hall of Fame defensive end Bruce Smith and Phil Hansen created an interior that was virtually impossible to run on. Their only weakness was that their outside linebackers stunk, especially after Bryce Paup left the team.

Just imagine what kind of defense the Bills would be with Wilfork in the middle. Hughes, Dareus and both Williams recorded 30 sacks between the four of them.

What you would have folks is a historic defense that people have not seen the likes of since the 1985 Chicago Bears. In 1985 the Bears front seven combined for 56 sacks on their way to winning the Superbowl. Yes, things were much different back then, but that still don’t mean the Bills could make history.

The Bears at the time ran a 46 defense, which meant that eight players were on the line of scrimmage. Those were two defensive tackles, two defensive ends and two linebackers, but that’s because teams ran the ball more than they passed.

Today’s NFL is different as teams pass more than they run thanks to the early 1990s Bills.

However, one thing has remained the same over the years. That is you have to be stout on defense in the middle.

What I’m talking about is that during a passing play you need a man in the middle that can get doubled teamed and still get penetration up the middle. This is a key, because quarterbacks will slide up into the pocket to avoid outside pass rushers.  So, when you got a big man in the middle getting penetration a quarterback cannot slide up and will be in the pass rushers path.

If they don’t sign Wilfork it will be a shame as they will pass on a chance to make history

Western New Yorkers are Lucky

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The Buffalo Bills on Monday announced that they resigned Jerry Hughes, along with reports that the team is keeping running back Fred Jackson signifies one thing.  Those two moves signifies a new era in Bills history.

For many years the Bills under owner Ralph Wilson in his later years, key players would be let go on the grounds that they were older or not worth the money to keep on the roster, but that isn’t the case anymore.

On Monday morning the buzz in Buffalo was that Jackson would be release. That was the case until owner Terry Pegula got word of what team officials were thinking. According to the Buffalo News, via ProfootballTalk.com, Jackson isn’t going anywhere, which is a relief to many Bills fans.

If you live near Hamburg and drive on McKinley Parkway you will see a sign that reads We (the heart symbol) Fred Jackson.

Jackson is the epitome of what Western New York is. That is a community who work their rears off every day just to make ends meet.

What the move also means is that the NFL is lucky to have an owner like Pegula.

This past week it has been reported that long time Houston Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson will be cut. On Monday that was made official by ESPN.

What this all means is that the residents of Western New York are lucky to have an owner like the Pegulas who have the common sense to get things done.

Why the Alonso trade makes sense

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Many people were stunned by the trade of Buffalo Bills linebacker Kiko Alonso to the Philadelphia Eagles from running back Lesean McCoy. Many have read and heard the various reasons why it was good or bad. However, you may have not read why they Bills did so.

The reason why Alonso was traded was for two reasons. One of which you have may already have heard. Those are he was expendable due to the defenses play in 2014 and the other, which you may have not, is that Alonso injury history is a big factor.

The first reason you heard various times due to the play of linebackers Preston Brown and Nigel Bradham. The second you haven’t unless your read the various articles on the internet when Alonso hurt his knee prior to the 2014 season.

The reason that Alonso injury history is a big concern is that the Anterior Cruciate Ligament tear is his second of his career. The first came in college in 2009 while in college with the Oregon Ducks that caused him to miss the entire 2009 season. So, what does this mean?

It means that going forward anymore knee injuries could cause a decline in his play. That means the Bills would be with a player that is a shadow of himself which would be a huge problem. The problem is that his contract expiring after the 2016 season which would make the offseason prior a huge headache.

So, why not trade a player who is a huge question mark going forward for a sure fire short-term answer with a defense that played well without him.

The inside scoop on Walmart

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We all have been to WalMart at one time or another. We also have read recently the article from the Associated Press about how Walmart is trying to change its perception that it doesn’t care about its employees. Well here is the inside scope from a recently fired employee.

I started working in October in hopes of finding a career, but instead I found a corporation that has policies that many will find ridiculous.

As for why I was fired? The answer in its policies and procedures that starts with the number of absences an employee is allowed.

An employee is coached after four unexcused absence in a rolling six month period. Excused abscesses are natural disasters, jury duty bereavement and a leave of absence. An illness or an emergency in the family doesn’t count even with a doctor’s note

My first coaching was for that exact reason. I accrued four absences in a six month period, even though I provided doctor’s notes. The second was for leaning on the counter with my forearms multiple times. The last one was for swearing in the back and kicking a bin for not being asked why I was leaning and telling a customer that Walmart doesn’t provide enough coverage.

Was I wrong for what I did? Yes, I should have said I’m going home, because I’m mad and don’t want to do something stupid.

However, I’ve been wanting to write something since I saw the article by the AP.

Walmart was founded on the simple principal of customer satisfaction guaranteed. My Tire Lube Express manager David Swann, which is at the Hamburg, NY Walmart location, told me the story of how a manager refused to replace a bike that a customer ran over and demanded to be replaced.

The story goes the story goes that the manager refused to replace it citing it wasn’t their fault. The customer then called corporate headquarters in Bentonville, AK and got Mr. Walton himself as he was allegedly notorious for picking up the phone. Mr. Walton then called the store and told the manager to get a dozen roses, get a new bike, go to the customer’s house and apologize.

So, what is the moral of the story? It’s that Walmart has lost its morals and has become the typical corporate machine.

When Mr. Walton was alive it was about making sure enough customers were working to meet the customer’s needs. Today that isn’t so as they have been the typical corporation of trying to schedule as little as possible to satisfy the bottom line. The very day I was fired a customer had to wait 30 minutes for someone in sporting goods after I personally put the request over the loud speaker.

So, where does the blame lie? Does it lie with corporate or with its policy of hiring from within?

The answer to that is that latter as the answer was in the second reason I was coached. At no time did my Support Manager ever ask why I leaned on the counter so much. The reason is that I’ve had osteoarthritis in my lower back for 20 years and it helps alleviate it.

Before I was fired I was told that by him that he’s getting the assistant manager position of TLE since it’s becoming its own separate entity again. Barto is the typical type of manager within Walmart a buddy of the other managers that will blindly follow rules and procedures of the company despite what they feel. Not only does he blindly follow orders he never asked if us service writers needed a break when we were by ourselves as he was occupied in back talking with the other technicians.

I could give you readers a plethora of excuses as why I was fired. The reality is it doesn’t matter. What this article is about is the truth of Walmart’s troubles and how they can go about fixing them.

The first step is stop being cheap with both labor and supplies. At the Hamburg, NY TLE someone took our jump box for cars with dead batteries, our magnet for unlocking security devices and never replaced broken walkie talkies which led us to putting request over intercoms.

The second step is changes to allow employees to call in for illness or an emergency. Asking someone to come in to work even though their child or loved one has been rushed to the hospital is irrational. The last one is Walmart’s biggest challenger.

The last step is their policy of hiring from within. Manto call in for illness or an emergency. Asking someone to come in to work even though their child or loved one has been rushed to the hospital is irrational. The last one is Walmart’s biggest challenger.

The last step is their policy of hiring from within. Many times Walmart hiring’s are managers based on experience from within. The problem with that is most of times they lack the qualifications to be hired at the same position somewhere else. They in turn follow procedures to the letter to satisfy their bosses despite employee and customer feelings.

So, until the upper echelon of Walmart realizes these changes are made, customers are better off going somewhere else for quality customer service.

D-Days for Marrone

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Bills head coach Doug Marrone is on the hot seat this year

Bills head coach Doug Marrone is on the hot seat this year

Last Sunday the Buffalo Bills suffered a huge loss at the hands of the New England Patriots which made their record 3-3 and on the outside looking in at the NFL Playoffs. That means the next two weeks are D-Days for Marrone.

The two wild card teams right now are the Denver Broncos with a 4-1 record and the Baltimore Ravens with a 4-2 record. Marrone has to lead his team to victory the next two weeks for one reason. The Bills bye week is week nine which is midway through the season.

Changes are typically made during the bye week, so if the Bills don’t have 5-3 record going into their bye week you can expect some.

The reason is that Bills President Russ Brandon and General Manager Doug Whaley have both stated that they feel that the current roster is capable of making the playoffs.  That statement can be argued to be true as the defense is currently 11th overall in the NFL and the team last year was second in the NFL in rushing.

So, what is the problem?

That is simple which is the offensive line. Marrone for some reason hates guard Kraig Urbik who was last year’s starting right guard. Instead they moved Eric Pears from right tackle to right guard and made Sentrel Henderson the starting right tackle which hasn’t worked out very well.

The evidence is the fact that the Bills last year average 144.2 yards rushing a game. This year they are averaging 101.0 yards per a game.

Don’t think the front office hasn’t noticed this. There were reports that Marrone and front office personnel got into a heated exchange over player use. Now, just this week Bills wide receiver Mike Williams’ agent asked to seek a trade for his player due to the way they are using him.

So, Marrone definitely knows that if he doesn’t win the next two weeks he will be fired on Monday October 20th.

Pegula may have no choice

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With Terry and Kim Pegula officially taking over the team, the whole organization from top to bottom is going to be evaluated. However, with the way the season is going the Pegulas may have no choice but to clean house.

Word is that the Pegulas have come to form a close relationship with Buffalo Bills President Russ Brandon and will keep him on. Many fans won’t care how much he likes Brandon they will want him gone for one reason. The reason is that Brandon and General Manager Doug Whaley stated that they believe they are going to be a playoff team.

“They should. We haven’t done anything. We’ve got a lot to prove,” Whaley said back in July. “It is what it is. Like Russ said, ‘We won’t hide from it.’ We haven’t been in the playoffs in a long time and we owe it to the fans, our late Hall of Fame owner and everybody in this business to show that we’re not the Bills anymore. We want to be a playoff team. We’re planning to be a playoff team and that’s our goal.”

Buffalo isn’t a town that will tolerate people in power not delivering on promises. We heard former Buffalo Sabres owner John Rigas state that he was going to give the team the tools to finish the job after they lost in the Stanley Cup Finals to the Dallas Stars. Rigas never delivered on that promise and fans haven’t forgotten it.

There are two other reasons that will make it hard to keep people on which is the team’s inability to find a franchise quarterback and the terrible drafting in the first round of the NFL Draft.

Brandon has been with the Bills since 1997 and every year since then the team hasn’t had a franchise quarterback. Of the 19 first round draft picks taken by the Bills since 1997, only four players have made the Pro Bowl as a Bill. More than half of those have been while he has been the main person in charge since 2006 which is 11.

Now, of those 11 only two have made the Pro Bowl in running back C.J. Spiller and defensive tackle Marcell Dareus. Spiller’s play since making the Pro Bowl has gone downhill to the point where the Bills will unlikely resign him.

So, if the Bills don’t win both of the next two games you can expect some drastic measures to be taken by the front office in order to save their jobs.

An inside look into a major injury

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For many years I wondered why athletes that suffered major injuries weren’t always on the sideline. Well the past week I got a firsthand taste of what life is like with someone that suffered a major injury.

It was a little over a week ago when my wife and son were outside running around in the rain. My wife stopped, but my 10-year-old son didn’t see that she did and ran into her. That little bump caused my wife’s left Achilles tendon to rupture.

Now, live in a garden level apartment so there three steps going to the front door and there are around a dozen stairs to manage on the inside from the front entrance. After a week it’s clear that even one stair with someone on crutches is hard.

To get up the stairs from our house my wife has to sit and scoot up the stairs. From there she can lift herself up onto a wheelchair, but it’s very hard to do so. From there I can do the rest to get her to the car.

Going into the house is a much different story.

When we go inside I wheel her up to the first step from there I put the brakes on the wheelchair.  Then she gets up, leans on one foot. Then she puts her left arm around me and hops up the stairs, which is repeated several times to get inside.

Now you may think that this story is done, but you would be wrong.

When we went to the doctors I fully expected to hear the doctor say that she will need surgery. That was far from the case, but not for good reasons.

The reason the doctor advised against surgery was the fact that the rupture was where the tendon and the calf muscle meet. That is a point on the Achilles where it narrows, so there isn’t much there to work with. If my wife were an athlete the doctor would have advised surgery, but the risk of rerputure would have been higher.

In the end, where a rupture occurred on the Achilles tendon is the upmost importance.

Bills Training Camp will be intense

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With Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Nate Hackett installing all of the playbook prior to training camp and quarterback E.J. Manuel going into his second year Bills fans can expect one thing.  That is an intense training camp that has been seen since the 1990s.

In an article one WGR 550, something stuck me in this quote.

“We were a little frustrated, I know I was, a little bit throughout OTA’s, but I like the fact that he’s putting more on us, especially because we’ve got young guys in skill positions,” Manuel said.  “It’s really put more of the onus on us to put the time in and study. This week’s easier because we pretty much know all the plays, we’ve done it a bunch of times, so there’s not going to be any new surprises as far as play calling goes.”

Being a person who has actually played the game I can tell you there is a learning curve when it comes to learning new plays. Some remember them quicker than others. With the majority of Bills being veterans, training camp will be about perfection.

Manuel knows it’s his offense and success starts and ends with him. So, it isn’t surprising that he is taking control of his own destiny, which includes plays in the playbook.

“I think it’s having the rapport with your coach.” Manuel said about talking about plays with Hackett, “Sometimes there may be plays I don’t like and I’ll tell him. Honestly there were a few plays we came into this week of minicamp and I just wanted to be clean, I wanted to have sharp reads and I told him, ‘I don’t like that play, I don’t like that play and he took it out.”

For a second year player to be able to say that to his head coach tells you one thing about Manuel. Manuel knows his football and it will be only a matter of time before he perfects his craft.

So, don’t be surprised if you see an animated Bills Training Camp this year. One filled with the whole ball of wax when it comes to emotions.