Orchard Park, NY (WGR 550) -- Back in December of 2012, the Buffalo Bills went up to Toronto for their annual game in the Rogers Centre and sunk like a lead balloon. They played with no energy in front of a generally lifeless crowd and were blown out by Seattle 50-17.
The next day some players on the Bills roster reacted to the series, and one in particular made some very stark and damning comments about playing up north.
“I think that Toronto series has turned into pretty much a joke,” Wood told a radio station. “I think they started it hoping that we’d have a lot of fan support in Toronto. We have none."
He went on:
“And it’s a bad atmosphere for football. I mean, nobody wants to play there. I guess for opposing teams it beats the hell out of going in somebody else’s stadium and dealing with a bunch of crowd noise."
In the final year of it's initial five-year agreement to bring one regular season game to Toronto. Wood was staunch in his views.
“I don’t think it’s turned out they way we wanted, and I hope we don’t renew it," the center said. "That sucked.”
Eleven months later and now ahead of the game, Wood is attempting to be upbeat when it comes to the prospects of playing in Toronto for another season. The big difference this time around is he'll actually play in this week's game as opposed to last year when he just had to watch from home with an injury.
"Im just gonna take it year to year," Wood said. "I'm not going to go up there with any ill feeling or any less excited than I am for every game. Hopefully the Bills fans will be out there supporting us this year and looking forward to a good atmosphere if we can get it."
For Wood and other veterans like Kyle Williams, they know exactly what to expect out of the atmosphere from the franchise's sixth straight year with a game at the Rogers Centre. Williams has even gone as far as trying to tell some of the younger players who will be experiencing the series for the first time.
"Yeah, we talk about it a little bit," he remarked. "It’s going to be a little bit different, but hopefully we’re going to go up there and continue to play well and go win a football game. Maybe things change if we go up there and play a really solid, complete football game."
Williams was also among the ones that supported Wood's viewpoints from 2012, except he was a little more cautious in what he chose to say.
"I don't think you'll find a guy in here that wouldn't agree that they would much rather be in Ralph Wilson Stadium," the defensive tackle said after the team's loss to Seattle last year.
Through the first five years of the agreement, the Bills have accrued a record of only 1-4 in their games up in Toronto. Their lone win came in the 2011 season when they crushed the Washington Redskins 23-0, but haven't found the ways to victory in Canada outside of that game.
One notable member of the Bills franchise will be making his Toronto debut, however, and will be going in with a clean slate -- a 0-0 record.
"I think it’s a great opportunity, I really do," said head coach Doug Marrone. "I haven’t been up there yet to play a game; obviously I’ve been up there to look around. I think it’s a great venue and again I look at it as a great opportunity for us to go up there and people see the style of football that we play. I think you have to play well, I think that’s important. If you go up there and don’t play well, I don’t think you can ever make that turn to where it’s truly a home field advantage."
The head coach will take some steps ahead of the game to prepare his team for a different type of venue. The Bills will travel up to Toronto on Saturday and then practice on the field at the Rogers Centre to get used to the lighting, the field and whatever other elements there are that differ from Ralph Wilson Stadium.
The Bills have a huge opportunity to stay within striking distance of the final playoff spot in the AFC with a win on Sunday. They'll welcome in the Atlanta Falcons for their Sunday tilt in Toronto, which starts at 4:05 pm.