All-Time Team LB preview

It might be one of the more difficult lists of nominees for the Bills 50th Season All-Time Team as the franchise has had a good number of quality linebackers over the years.

Eight of the 12 candidatese earned AFL-All Star or Pro Bowl designations, three appeared on the Bills 25th Anniversary Team and two have their names on the Bills Wall of Fame.

Remember you can register to vote for the 50th Season All-Time Team online at Buffalobills.com. Voting opened for defensive and head coaching candidates on Wednesday.

Four linebackers can be chosen as the Wall of Fame Committee chose to go with Buffalo's 3-4 defensive front that was popular in the 80's and 90's.

Keep in mind that your linebacker choices are not mandated to include two inside and two outside backers, but you must choose four total.

Here's a preview of some of the better big hitters in Bills history.

Cornelius Bennett (1987-1995)
Acquired in a blockbuster three team trade on Halloween in 1987, 'Biscuit' was an instant defensive terror lined up on the opposite side of Bruce Smith. Bennett had 8.5 sacks and five forced fumbles in eight games that season.

By 1988 he was also named first team All-Pro and named to his first Pro Bowl when he logged a career-high 9.5 sacks and over 100 tackles.

The team's all-time sack leader among linebackers (52.5) Bennett was selected to five Pro Bowls in all including four straight during Buffalo's Super Bowl years of the early 90's.

His most memorable play was his 80-yard blocked field goal return for a touchdown as he was part of Buffalo's 20-point outburst in 77 seconds on Sept. 30, 1990 to lead one of the team's best regular season comebacks in a 29-28 win over Denver.

Shane Conlan (1987-1992)
The Western New York native (Frewsburg, NY) was a tackling machine for the Bills with better than 100 tackles in his rookie season for Buffalo earning AP Rookie of the Year honors in 1987.

The hard-hitting inside linebacker was also named to three consecutive Pro Bowls from 1988 to 1990.

The former first-round pick was also part of three of the team's four straight AFC title teams (1990-1992).

Sam Cowart (1998-2001)
The former second-round pick was a playmaker in the middle of Buffalo's 3-4 defensive front.
Stepping into the starting lineup as a rookie by Week 4, Cowart led the Bills in tackles his final two seasons with the club including the 2000 campaign when he was named to the Pro Bowl.

A game that may have best demonstrated his all-around ability was his seven tackle, one sack, one interception, one forced fumble performance in a 27-24 win over San Diego on Oct. 15, 2000.

London Fletcher (2002-2006)
Acquired by the Bills as a free agent in 2002, Fletcher quickly became a leader for a rebuilding Buffalo defense.

The middle linebacker led the team in tackles all five seasons he played in a Bills uniform including a career-high 209 in 2002.

Fletcher never missed a start in his Bills career and was the quarterback for Buffalo's number two-ranked defense in 2004.

His most memorable play was arguably his 17-yard interception return for a touchdown in a 24-10 win over Green Bay on Nov. 5, 2006.

Jim Haslett (1979-1985)
A former second-round pick Haslett burst onto the scene in Buffalo earning AP Defensive Rookie of the Year honors in 1979.

A gritty blue-collar performer, Haslett's best game came in his rookie season when he picked off New England's Steve Grogan twice, with the second interception coming in overtime to set up the game-winning field goal in a 16-13 win over the Patriots on Nov. 25, 1979.

Harry Jacobs (1963-1969)
The quarterback of the Bills vaunted AFL Championship defenses of the mid-1960's Jacobs was the brains of defensive coordinator Joe Collier's operation.

Calling all the defensive plays for the defense, Jacobs was a two-time AFL All-Star in 1965 and 1969 and ran the AFL title unit that surrendered a franchise low 226 points in '65.

A rugged tackler, Jacobs was considered one of the best linebackers at sniffing out run plays. Jacobs is one of just 20 players to play during the entire 10-year existence of the American Football League.

Shane Nelson (1977-1982)
Discovered at an open tryout by the Dallas Cowboys, Nelson chose to sign with the Buffalo Bills feeling he'd get more of a chance to play.

The linebacker was right as he went on to start for the next five seasons with the Bills, and was part of Buffalo's division title team in 1980.

In 73 career games for the Bills, Nelson had five interceptions and six fumble recoveries.

Lucius Sanford (1978-1987)
The former fourth-round pick was a starter for eight seasons for the Bills with 100 tackles seasons in his first five campaigns as a starter on the outside.

Known as a vicious hitter, Sanford led the team in forced fumbles in 1980 and 1981. A valuable special teamer, Sanford also holds the team record for most blocked field goals in a game with two as a rookie against the Chiefs in 1978 (Dec. 3).

His most memorable performance came on Sept. 9, 1979 when he blocked a Pat McInally punt and returned it three yards for a touchdown in a 51-24 rout of Cincinnati.

Takeo Spikes (2003-2006)
Signed away from Cincinnati despite being designated their transition player in 2003, Spikes was an instant playmaker for Buffalo as he helped the Bills defense achieve a number two ranking in 2004.

Earning a pair of Pro Bowl nods in 2003 and 2004, Spikes also earned 1st team All-Pro honors for his 2004 season in which he had 111 tackles, three sacks, four forced fumbles and five interceptions including two which he returned for touchdowns.

His most memorable performance came in the Dec. 4, 2004 game against his former teammates in Cincinnati. Spikes had a career long 62-yard interception return for a touchdown in a 33-17 victory.

Mike Stratton (1962-1972)
A six-time AFL All-Star and named 1st team All-Pro three consecutive years (1964-1966) Stratton was a linebacker ahead of his time.

Blessed with exceptional athletic ability Stratton turned in big plays on a weekly basis.

The franchise's all-time interception leader for linebackers with 18, Stratton is a member of the AFL Hall of Fame, the Bills Wall of Fame and was voted to the Bills 25th Anniversary Team.

His most memorable play is the 'Hit heard 'round the world' when his blistering tackle of Keith Lincoln in the 1964 AFL title game changed the complexion of the game. Lincoln was taken off the field with broken ribs and the Chargers, who had a 7-0 lead, were shut out for the remainder of the game in 20-7 championship triumph by Buffalo.

"He was just a quality, capable guy," said former teammate Harry Jacobs. "I believe he's one of the few players from the 1960's that could have played today. His size, speed and his capabilities would have allowed him to play in today's marketplace."

Darryl Talley (1983-1994)
Third all-time in games played in a Bills uniform, Darryl Talley was the personification of the resilience Buffalo's AFC title teams had in the early 1990's.

Talley earned a pair of Pro Bowl designations in 1990 and 1991.

A defensive leader during his time with Buffalo Talley ranks first in club history among linebackers in forced fumbles with 11. He stands second on the Bills all-time list for sacks by a linebacker, and is tied for second among linebackers in interceptions.

Talley is also a member of the Bills Wall of Fame.

John Tracey (1962-1967)
Joining the Bills from the NFL ranks in 1962, Tracey was a defensive captain by the following season and put up a career year with five interceptions, which led the team.

A two-time AFL All-Star, Tracey was a fixture in Buffalo's linebacking corps for six seasons.

Tracey was named a member of the Bills 25th Anniversary Team.

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