For the first time in about two decades, the Buffalo Bills will not train in Pittsford, and both sides wish it wasn’t so. For the first time in team history, training camp will be held at One Bills Drive in Orchard Park.
The NFL has decided that all training camps must happen at team facilities this year. That’s a break from tradition for the Bills, who’ve held their camp at St. John Fisher College for two decades. They typically arrive in mid-July.
A statement from the college said they appreciate the league’s regard for player safety: “We look forward to welcoming the team back to campus when it is safe for the team and Bills fans, and wish them the best of luck this season.”
During a news conference Wednesday, Bills Head Coach Sean McDermott said it's the right decision for the league.
“I support it,” McDermott said. “I respect that the NFL has a vision and has the foresight to get out in front of things so we can plan accordingly.”
McDermott also said, however, that he’s a fan of going away for camp and not doing so hurts his team-building process.
“Getting away, I think, builds fellowship and camaraderie,” said McDermott. “And you share an experience, and anytime you can share an experience, I think that bodes well for building community, chemistry and the like, which are so important, I think, for building a good team.”
Pittsford Town Supervisor Bill Smith said he understands the decision but said losing the thousands of Bills fans who visit each summer hurts Pittsford’s bars and restaurants that were expecting that annual bump in business. Smith said that many of them are already hurting from months of closures because of the pandemic.
“Given all the uncertainties in life on so many fronts raised by the COVID-19 situation, I can’t say I was surprised. I can say that I was disappointed,” Smith said. “We will not have quite the same level of economic vitality in our village and our town as we’ve had in past years, when people come in to see the Bills.”
Smith said having the team in Pittsford brings a sense of pride.
“And there’s just kind of a buzz that people enjoy, and we will be deprived of that this year, which is a shame,” said Smith.