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'It's great recognition' | What playing in the NFL Kickoff Game in LA means to the Bills

Sean McDermott practices during the first day of Rookie Mini Camp at One Bills Drive on May 13, 2022. Photo by Ben Green
Sean McDermott practices during the first day of Rookie Mini Camp at One Bills Drive on May 13, 2022. Photo by Ben Green

The Bills' 2022 regular season schedule was unveiled Thursday night. We learned that the team is scheduled to play the kickoff game in Los Angeles, four other primetime games, another thanksgiving game, and two other divisional matchups that could be flexed to nationally televised games late in the season.

Things certainly have changed for the Bills whereas just three seasons ago, Buffalo had zero primetime games when the schedule came out – the only nationally televised game was Thanksgiving at Dallas. The Josh Allen effect, the success of the team, and the thrilling, yet heartbreaking, divisional playoff game against the Chiefs have propelled the Bills to must-see TV. With more and more primetime games being added to the schedule since 2020, this veteran team is ready to play when the lights are the brightest and that starts with the quarterback.

"Josh has been in those games and as a leader of the team, the face of the franchise, he's been through that before and the prep leading into those games," McDermott shared before Friday's rookie minicamp. "He's come out on the other end of those games and a lot of those games in a winning manner.

"At the end of the day, there's no substitute for experience and then as coaches, we've been through those. But, at the end of the day, you've got to go back to your process. And each team is different, each game is different to some extent. So, we're just going to take one game at a time."

This is the first time in franchise history that the Bills will play in the NFL's Kickoff Game on Thursday, Sept. 8 at 8:20 PM. It marks only the fourth time in NFL history that the first regular season game of the season is an interconference matchup.

One of the newest Buffalo Bills, rookie wide receiver Khalil Shakir grew up just 84 miles south of SoFi Stadium. He anticipates some of his family being there to see his first regular season NFL game but told the media that he doesn't have the money yet to pay for all their tickets. Even though it will be a homecoming of sorts, the Bills' fifth-round pick won't let the moment get too big for him and will just focus on doing his job.

"It was crazy," Shakir said. "My phone was blowing up when the schedule got released. All the people back home and everything. Everybody's excited and of course, I'm excited to go back home and play my first NFL regular season game there. But at the end of the day, it's just about going out there, playing, having fun, and doing whatever they need me to do."

Being a part of the kickoff game means a lot to this organization and says a lot about how far the team has come in a short amount of time. It also means a lot to the dedicated Bills fans, in the city, and around the world that have been loyal to the team through thick and thin. McDermott is excited about the opportunity to play in the kickoff game, but he knows that the preparation starts now to get the team ready for the highly anticipated matchup in LA.

"I think it's great recognition, I really do," McDermott said. "I mentioned before, it's great for selling T-shirts and hats and for our fan base, which has stuck with this organization for a long time. I think there's great excitement around Western New York, and around the city.

"I go get gas and people are excited, right? I'm out there pumping gas and people are excited about the team, which is great. But we know inside that we've got a lot of work to do. And if you don't prepare, you don't come together, you don't have the right amount of focus, you'll get your tails kicked."

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