CLEVELAND -- The Buffalo Bills are essentially locked into Ralph Wilson Stadium through 2019, but their future beyond that is uncertain.
Hall of Fame offensive lineman Joe DeLamielleure played eight seasons for the Bills and five seasons for the Cleveland Browns in the 1970s and early 1980s. Speaking Saturday at the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Fan Fest in Cleveland, the burly ex-lineman drew comparisons between the two cities.
"Just like Cleveland, I always felt like if Buffalo loses a team, there would be another team back in a couple years," DeLamielleure said. "These are football people [in] Cleveland, Buffalo, Green Bay.
"They're going to be there to watch their team. You go down to Jacksonville, how's the crowd? How about Tampa? How about Carolina when they lose? Those aren't football cities. These are football cities."
While the Bills have struggled to sell out Ralph Wilson Stadium in recent years, forcing ownership to step in twice last season to prevent a television blackout and allowing another game to be blacked out in December, Hall of Fame coach Marv Levy recalled Saturday a time when the venue was routinely a packed house.
"This is a team that from 1988 to 1994 every year led the league in attendance," said Levy, who coached the Bills to four consecutive Super Bowls beginning in 1990. "That can't be done now because there are bigger stadiums, but the fan base is strong."
Former Bills receiver Andre Reed, who will be inducted into Canton this August, has tried to be a public figure in support of the Bills staying in the city.
"That team has been a part of my life for more than 25 years," Reed said. "For somebody to come in and buy the team and just move it, to me it's just not right.
"I know things can happen, but we're going to do whatever we can to keep the team there. Whatever I can bring to the table, I'm bringing the whole nine yards."
Reed recently joined the advisory board of the "Buffalo Fan Alliance," a third-party group that aims to raise funds for an interest-free loan to any new owner looking to keep the team in Buffalo.
"Right now, a lot of [fans] don't know what's going to happen," Reed said. "I can just be a voice. They can just see my passion for the city and what the city means to me, what the franchise means to me. That's just kind of a relief for the fans."
Hall of Fame running back Thurman Thomas, who was a teammate of Reed's, said he's also been working behind the scenes to keep the Bills in Buffalo.
"I will tell you this: I have done something that will help the team stay in Buffalo," Thomas said. "I just can't tell exactly what I've been doing or who I've been talking to."
Thomas also took to Twitter to stress his involvement in trying to keep the Bills from moving.
- Thurman Thomas (@thurmanthomas) May 4, 2014