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Snowmobiles pick up Buffalo Bills players on way to airport

Bills president Russ Brandon was careful in talking about the game his team will play against the Jets -- moved to Monday and Detroit's Ford Field due to the blizzard that drilled Western New York -- as he drove to the airport on Friday afternoon.

And for obvious reasons.

"If we can take everyone's mind off the plight of what's in front of us for a few hours and represent Buffalo as the fans would want us to, that would mean a lot to all of us who are involved with the Bills," Brandon said. "It's an incredible community, a passionate community, and we take pride in where we're from. It's a city of neighbors who take care of each other, and we know we all have a tough dig out ahead.

"So our thoughts and prayers and with our region and community, above all else."

As Brandon was speaking, many of the players and coaches were seeing each other for the first time since the storm hit earlier in this week.

This one has been a challenge for the Bills, to say the least.

The Bills landed in Detroit and arrived at their hotel. From there, they'll have a snack, and then bus to the Lions' facility, where they'll have their first set of in-person meetings of the week ahead of a 7:15 p.m. ET practice.

The Bills were able to get every player and coach out and on to the plane, but it didn't come without a Herculean effort. Players living in the Southtowns, near Ralph Wilson Stadium, were picked up by snowmobile and taken to main roads, where cars were waiting to take them to the team facility in midday on Friday. From there, the players bused to the airport. Those in less affected areas drove themselves to the airport.

One player said, via text, "You literally couldn't leave your house -- couldn't go one foot outside your door. We still have three days until the game, so there's time." And the Bills coaches have tried to make the most of the last three days by pushing out game plans and installation meetings via team-issued iPads, and setting up conference calls for players with their position coaches.

"But this is far different from the norm," said Brandon. "Players are creatures of habit, and as far as getting the proper nutrition, strength and conditioning, all the performance stuff, that's been compromised. They can't really work out. So there are significant challenges ahead."

And one has been getting the operation to Detroit for practices on Friday night and Saturday, and the day-before walkthrough on Sunday.

"The hardest thing is mobilizing the entire operation in a matter of not even 24 hours. We found out at 7:30 or 8 (p.m.) last night," said Brandon. "So trying to get everyone to the airport, get your equipment operation there, your video operation, your medical and training operation -- getting everything mobilized, it's been an overnight exercise. We're having deployment meetings on an every-other-hour basis."

The hope is that some normalcy will set in Friday night, when the players get back in helmets. Since playing two Thursday ago, they had meetings the Friday after, Saturday and Sunday off, workouts on Monday, and Tuesday off before the storm wiped Wednesday and Thursday out. So anything to restore their routine would be welcomed.

The team is cognizant too, Brandon said, that next week's forecast could mean tougher challenges are ahead for the region, and he pledged the Bills would play their part. "One thing about Buffalonians -- they rally," he said.

For everyone, this won't be a circumstance they'll soon forget. As a second player texted as he was snowmobiled in -- "It's been a pretty crazy week."

Follow Albert Breer on Twitter @AlbertBreer.

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