Bills dig out from record snowstorm, fly to Detroit

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- It took an all-hands-on-deck effort to get the Bills out of their homes and to the facility for their flight to Detroit on Saturday after a potentially record-setting snowstorm hit Orchard Park, New York.

Players received help from neighbors who provided snowblowing, shoveling and transportation.

All players and coaches arrived at the facility and the team's flight left the airport around 4 p.m. ET for Sunday's 1 p.m. game against the Cleveland Browns and arrived in Detroit later Saturday.

The site was moved to Detroit on Thursday afternoon so the game would not divert resources needed in the community. The available tickets for the game, which totaled about 56,000, sold in less than three hours.

The area surrounding the stadium in Orchard Park received over 77 inches of snow from Thursday night into Saturday. The Bills canceled Friday's practice and instead met virtually.

Many fans helped players get out of their homes. Tight end Quintin Morris got his driveway cleared. Fullback Reggie Gilliam, who is questionable for the game with illness, asked on Twitter if anyone has a monster truck and can pick him up. Fans went to right tackle Spencer Brown's house with their snowblowers. Tight ends Dawson Knox and Tommy Sweeney received help from fans coming to Knox's house with shovels. Some players carpooled to the facility.

A handful of players who live in the Orchard Park area were among those without power Friday.

"Playing a little bit of a wait-and-see game right now but anticipating having to move some things back in the morning if [the snow] does slow down," McDermott said. "Which that's the latest we're hearing, is it's supposed to slow down early tomorrow morning around the stadium here and in Orchard Park and whatnot, and then give guys time to dig out, make sure their families are good, and then we'll head into the facility, probably in a moved-back schedule, just to allow for that."

General manager Brandon Beane said if the decision to move the game had been made sooner, they might have considered the team leaving before the storm started. The team decided to stick as close to their normal away-game routine as possible.

The plan is to return after Sunday's game and spend a couple of days at the facility before heading back to Detroit on Wednesday to play the Lions on Thanksgiving.

"Sean [McDermott] does a great job of messaging and making sure our guys understand," Beane said. "It's still going to be a football game. Everything else the same. It's a short flight. We're going to try to keep it as routine as possible. Is it a little disruption? Yes. But I think our guys are pros. They understand it."

The Bills practiced indoors Wednesday because of weather but held more individual periods than a normal practice because they did not have enough players as a result of injury and illness. The team is expecting to get back players with Gilliam the only player with illness still holding an injury designation.

The team practiced outside Thursday and held an additional walk-through after the decision was made to move the game.

"The decision to move the game to Detroit has everything to do about safety," Bills executive vice president and chief operating officer Ron Raccuia said. "Safety first has been what we've been talking about here, really for the last 48 to 72 hours."