On Wednesday morning the members of Doug Marrone's coaching staff were delivering their presentations of the game plan one by one to their respective position groups in preparation for Sunday's game against the New York Jets. The only difference was they were each speaking to an empty team meeting room.
Photos of One Bills Drive and Ralph Wilson Stadium following a record snow storm in Buffalo.
With a travel ban in the town of Orchard Park Wednesday due to a lake effect snow storm that dropped four feet of snow in 24 hours, players could not safely get to the training facility at One Bills Drive. So each of the coaches instead delivered their presentation to a video camera, which recorded their words and their review of game tape and plays that would be part of their plans to beat the Jets this weekend.
Those presentations were then sent via email to each player's work tablet for review and study so that they would be ready to put those plans into action on the practice field. Unfortunately practice was the one thing that head coach Doug Marrone had to forgo on Wednesday with no players on hand.
"It affects the normal week and we're here trying to work on getting our information out to our players," said Marrone via conference call Wednesday. "First and foremost we're focused on our players' safety. Making sure everybody stays safe and making sure they abide by the rules with the driving ban.
"Then it goes to preparing ourselves for the game and fortunately with the technology that we have we can videotape our installations and get those out to the players with the game plans and the film. All the things that we would've been able to do outside of practice, we're trying getting as much as we can to them."
The Bills are hoping to get the players to the facility Thursday for practice, but there's no way to put a percentage on the likelihood of that happening knowing the forecast is for Orchard Park to receive anywhere from two to three more feet of snow in the next day or two from the persistent lake effect snow band blowing off Lake Erie.
"Obviously it's a great challenge, but we're relying on the people that make those decisions with the driving ban and things like that," said Marrone. "We're not going to put our players, coaches and support staff in any kind of jeopardy. Obviously it's a safety issue first. We're monitoring that and waiting for the word for when we can start to operate like we normally would."
Marrone said though very difficult, his situation was effectively put into perspective on Tuesday, when in his attempt to get to the stadium he got stuck right in front of Mercy hospital about five miles from Ralph Wilson Stadium.
"You saw people trying to get to the hospital. You saw emergency employees, the nurses and doctors trying to get to the hospital," said Marrone. ":I can't say enough about the people of Buffalo. It was an unbelievable experience. People were helping each other. People were helping people to get to the hospital. People were coming out of the hospital to help. People were trying to clear the streets. I don't know if there are words to describe it. People from different areas and everything were just trying to help each other. It was an amazing sight to see. I was just doing my part, but my part was very limited to what other people were doing and how brave they were to get people to and from the hospital."
Buffalo's head coach assisted some motorists who were stuck like him before he was able to get out to the stadium a while later. He and his coaches stayed overnight at the stadium Tuesday into Wednesday as they put the finishing touches on the game plan for New York.
Marrone knows full well that their preparations for the remainder of the week will need to be fluid as they wait and see what the weather holds and the decisions made on travel restrictions by the local municipalities.
"We really don't know what's going to happen with the weather reports for (Wednesday night) and if things don't go our way obviously the information is in hand, but being able to go out and practice is not an option for us," he said. "When those things open then we'll have to change our schedule to make sure we're prepared to play a game."
The Bills have been in touch with the NFL's offices to keep them abreast of the weather conditions in Orchard Park so the league can effectively determine if and when a decision needs to be made on whether to postpone Sunday's game to a later time or even another day.
"We've had conversations with the league and will continue to have conversations as time goes on, but moving forward we're still planning to play this game on Sunday at one o'clock as we always have," said Bills Senior Vice President of Communications. "If things change with snow and all that kind of thing then we'll have to look at that and we're in conversations with the league. It's the league that will determine if anything gets changed with the game."
The snow removal process at the stadium, which typically takes three days to remove a foot of snow, has four times that amount on the ground to address. Having the stadium prepared for a game in time, especially if there is more snow as forecast, could be the biggest factor in a league decision as to whether the time of the game is changed.
Marrone said the only situation that he can personally recall that presented similar challenges to the one his staff and players face this week is when, as a member of the New Orleans Saints coaching staff, they had to move all of their operations to Veterans Memorial Stadium in Jackson, Mississippi, prior to a 2006 preseason game with Indianapolis. At that point the Saints were between their training camp headquarters and their regular season facilities, which were still not ready almost a year after Hurricane Katrina.
The Bills' staff will have to play much of the rest of the week by ear and hope their players can practice at some point this week in preparation for the Jets. Marrone and his assistants are coming off a short preparation week having last played against Miami Thursday night so a compressed week of preparation is fresh in their minds, but the challenge remains the same and it's something over which they have no control.
"It's the weather. That's the one element and it's a major element up here," Marrone said. "I've never seen anything like this. My wife was asking me what it was like. It's hard to explain. When these things happen, even with the post Katrina, and I'm not comparing it to that, but even the snowstorm in '77 it's very difficult to put into words, exactly what's going on. It's just a very, very difficult, challenging situation, not just for our organization, but for the region. We have it better than a lot of people."