Football is back. The Hall of Fame Game on Sunday night in Canton started the 2014 season with a 17-13 win by the New York Giants over the Buffalo Bills. The game capped off a busy weekend of festivities that saw seven more players put into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Here are some thoughts from the weekend:
1. Whether it was in the hall itself or the cramped Fawcett Stadium, there were lines everywhere all weekend. No line was greater than the one for the bust room on Sunday. If visitors wanted to see the busts of the seven new inductees, the wait at one point was longer than an hour. The two other popular features inside the hall were a display of Super Bowl rings and a Lombardi Trophy where people could get their picture taken.
2. The Hall of Fame store is quite a sight, with merchandise from all 32 teams. The Cleveland Browns have the biggest section. The store features three different Johnny Manziel items, including jerseys and the “Johnny Knows” Nike shirt. There is no Brian Hoyer merchandise.
3. Practically every other person who was at Hall of Fame festivities was wearing a jersey. Many were known – there were a lot of Jim Kelly and Andre Reed jerseys from the massive Buffalo Bills contingent. Perhaps the most obscure one was a white No. 10 Alex Van Pelt jersey. Van Pelt started just 11 games in eight seasons as a backup for the Bills and had more interceptions (24) than touchdowns (16) in his career.
4. Former Browns and current New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan is a man of the people. During the induction ceremonies Saturday night, fans crowded around Ryan as he bought beers.
5. The most memorable moment from the Hall of Fame Game took place before kickoff. When the inductees were introduced, the Giants team surrounded Michael Strahan. As the Giants greeted Strahan, the Bills followed suit and crowded around Reed. The two teams then charged the 50-yard line and stared each other down before the coin toss.
6. The coin toss was administered by former Bills quarterback Jim Kelly and former Giants linebacker Harry Carson. Forget the players inducted into the HOF. Kelly was the star of the weekend. Every time Kelly was seen in public, chants broke out. Kelly has been battling cancer, and Bills fans are rallying around him.
Kelly received a double standing ovation during Reed’s induction on Sunday night. He stole the show that night throwing a pass to Reed at the end of the wide receiver’s induction. When Kelly walked out for the coin toss, the crowd broke into a “Kelly, Kelly, Kelly” chant. When Kelly walked past the stands, the crowd went wild.
7. What happened on the field is mostly without meaning. Most starters didn’t make it out of the first quarter of the game. One player who did receive a considerable amount of playing time was Bills right tackle Cyrus Kouandjio. The second-round pick was playing deep into the fourth quarter, and gave up two sacks on the night. Maybe he’ll be working on this bit of fundamentals:
8. The Browns should be encouraged by what they saw from the Bills. The Browns have Buffalo’s first-round pick in next year’s draft after the Bills moved up this year to take wide receiver Sammy Watkins. The Bills look like they’ll struggle to move the ball on offense with quarterback EJ Manuel. His showing Sunday night was lackluster, going 2-7 passing for 19 yards. A couple of his throws were batted down at the line of scrimmage. On defense, the team has issues with quality depth. If the Bills struggle this season the Browns should be in line for a high draft choice.
Watkins, by the way, went without a catch. He was targeted three times by Manuel. Two of the throws were knocked down. The other, a streak down the left sideline, was an overthrow by Manuel.
9. Conversely, Giants rookie running back Andre Williams looked good. On seven carries, Williams had 48 yards and a touchdown.
10. The Bills are for sale. During Sunday night’s broadcast on NBC, announcer Al Michaels said that Donald Trump put up a bid of $1 billion in cash. Reportedly the highest bid has come from Terry Pegula, owner of the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres. Musician Jon Bon Jovi is also involved with a bid. A vocal group of Bills fans, known as the Bills Mafia don’t want him in fear he'll move the team. Several Bills Mafia members wore these shirts during the weekend: