Bills' game in Toronto set for Dec. 7

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- It doesn't matter to Chris Kelsay where the Buffalo Bills play their home games next season. Whether it's playing their first-ever regular-season game at Toronto, or seven at Orchard Park, the defensive end doesn't think it'll be a distraction.

"I don't believe so, not with the group of guys that we have here," Kelsay said Tuesday, after the NFL announced its schedule that will include the Bills hosting AFC East rival Miami at Toronto on Dec. 7.

"We're awfully young. A lot of guys don't know any better," Kelsay said. "We're going to be prepared for this. Obviously, we knew it was coming."

Under a schedule first proposed by the Bills last fall and approved by NFL owners in February, Buffalo will play five games in Toronto through 2012. They'll become the league's first team to play an annual regular-season game outside the United States.

It's part of the team's bid to expand its market and establish a presence in Toronto, Canada's largest city and financial capital, a 90-minute drive from Buffalo. The games will be played at the downtown Rogers Centre, a domed facility with a retractable roof, and broadcast nationally across Canada.

Buffalo will also play three preseason games in Toronto -- one every other year through 2012 -- starting with a game Aug. 14 against Pittsburgh.

The Bills will open their season hosting Seattle on Sept. 7 and will host Cleveland in a Monday night game Nov. 17. Buffalo closes its season at home on Dec. 28, hosting East rival New England.

For Miami, the Toronto game will be the Dolphins' second international game in two years. Miami lost to the New York Giants at London's Wembley Stadium last October.

Although the Dolphins are coming off an NFL-worst 1-15 finish, their presence should attract plenty of interest in Toronto because of their rivalry with the Bills.

"We're excited to be a part of this game," Dolphins president Bryan Wiedmeier said. "For us, it will be a key division game that'll be very significant."

The game could also mark a homecoming for troubled Miami running back Ricky Williams, who rejoined the Dolphins last season following a 1 1/2-year suspension for his latest violation of the NFL drug policy.

Williams spent part of his suspension playing for the CFL Toronto Argonauts.

The domed setting might also be advantageous to the warm-weather Dolphins, who have lost four straight at Orchard Park, including two games played in December.

The Bills have handed over control of their games in Toronto to a sports consortium headed by Ted Rogers, who owns the Blue Jays and controls the Rogers Centre, and Larry Tanenbaum, chairman of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, which owns the Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto Raptors.

The two have formed a partnership in an attempt to permanently lure an NFL franchise to Toronto.

Interest in the Bills' series of games in Toronto is already high. Toronto organizers announced last week that they've received more than 100,000 registrations for tickets on their Web site. That's almost double the stadium's capacity.

An undetermined number of tickets will be set aside for season ticket-holders for the CFL Toronto Argonauts and, to a lesser degree, the Bills.

Bills fans are expected to be upset because the Miami game takes away what's traditionally considered a marquee matchup for Bills fans in Buffalo.

Bills chief operating officer Russ Brandon said the NFL determined the schedule without any input from the Bills.

Saying he understood fans' concerns, Brandon added: "We're excited to play up in the Toronto marketplace, and looking forward to continuing that rivalry up north."

Buffalo is coming off its second consecutive 7-9 finish and trying to end eight-year playoff drought -- the longest in franchise history.

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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