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NFL to relocate Bills home game against Jets

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Snow covers Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, N.Y., on Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014. Snow covers Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, N.Y., on Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014.
An abandoned car sits infront of a snow covered Ralph Wilson Stadium home of the Buffalo Bills in Orchard Park, N.Y. on Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014. An abandoned car sits infront of a snow covered Ralph Wilson Stadium home of the Buffalo Bills in Orchard Park, N.Y. on Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014.

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — The Buffalo Bills have been snowed out by Mother Nature.

The NFL has chosen to relocate the Bills' home game against the New York Jets on Sunday because of a severe lake-effect snowstorm that has paralyzed much of the region over the past week, league spokesman Michael Signora said in an email on Thursday.

The only questions remaining are where the game will be played, and on what day.

"Due to public safety concerns in light of the ongoing weather emergency in Western New York, Sunday's Jets-Bills game will not be played in Buffalo," Signora said. He added more information would be provided as soon as possible.

"We have been in contact with the public authorities and we realize the importance of all available public safety resources being available for the community at this difficult time," Signora said.

The decision comes as communities south and east of Buffalo — including the Bills home in Orchard Park — have been blanketed by more than 5 feet of snow since Monday. Snow continued to fall on Thursday, with projected accumulations ranging between 1 and 3 feet.

Earlier in the day, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said it would be difficult for the game to be played on schedule.

"If you ask me today, right now, my sense is it's impractical to do the game because it would jeopardize public safety," Cuomo said. "Everybody would love to see a Bills game go forward, but I think even more, everybody wants to make sure public safety comes first."

Cuomo spoke after spending the past day touring the affected region.

The Bills can't even hold practices because their players are snowed in. And those who can get out can't get to the team's facility because of a driving ban in place in Orchard Park and many of its neighboring communities.

As a result, the Bills canceled practice for a second straight day on Thursday.

There's a possibility the game would be played on Monday or as late as Tuesday to allow the Bills time to practice.

On Wednesday, Bills Vice President of Operations Andy Major wasn't sure whether there was enough time to clear Ralph Wilson Stadium and its surrounding parking lots of the estimated 220,000 tons of snow covering the team's 200-acre grounds by Sunday.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz also cast doubt on whether the game can be played on time. Poloncarz said the county's emergency services are already stretched thin in dealing with the storm that he can't commit to them staffing the game Sunday.

The county is responsible for providing sheriff deputies for security at Bills home games.

Signora said the NFL is in discussions with the Bills and the Red Cross to provide support.

The Bills (5-5), who last practiced on Monday, are already coming off an extended break. They had last weekend off following a 22-9 loss at Miami on Nov. 13. The Jets (2-8) are coming out of their bye week, and haven't played since a 20-13 win against Pittsburgh on Nov. 9.

Jets coach Rex Ryan said his team wouldn't be hampered by a change of venue.

"It wouldn't affect us," Ryan said Thursday. "We'd just aim our plane in a different direction, I guess."

The temperatures are expected to warm into the 40s by Saturday, with a high of 47 projected for Sunday. But a sudden thaw presents another problem by raising flooding concerns.

Starting guard Kraig Urbik is among the Bills players who are snowed in.

"Any chance my street gets plowed today," Urbik posted on his Twitter account Thursday. "Or are we stuck here till Saturday?"

Though rare, changing the date or location of a game has happened before in the NFL.

The most notable switch occurred in 2005, when the New Orleans Saints were forced to split their season playing in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and San Antonio, Texas, after Hurricane Katrina damaged the Louisiana Superdome. In 2010, the Minnesota Vikings were forced to play their home game against the New York Giants a day later in Detroit after the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome's roof tore open.

The last schedule change occurred at Philadelphia in late December of 2010. That's when the Eagles' home game against Minnesota on Dec. 26 was pushed back two days as a safety precaution because a storm was expected to drop a more than a foot of snow in Philadelphia.


Associated Press writer Chris Carola contributed from Albany.


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Copyright 2014 The Associated Press.

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