Monster Snowstorm In Buffalo Area Could Imperil Sunday's Game

Deshaun Watson's first practice with the Browns during his NFL suspension brought out the camera crews but did not interfere with Jacoby Brissett's preparation for the Bills game, said coach Kevin Stefanski. (Cleveland Browns)

Deshaun Watson's first practice with the Browns during his NFL suspension brought out the camera crews but did not interfere with Jacoby Brissett's preparation for the Bills game, said coach Kevin Stefanski. (Cleveland Browns)

Monster snowstorm in Buffalo area could imperil Sunday's game

You must have an active subscription to read this story.

Click Here to subscribe Now!

Editor's note: Tony Grossi is a Cleveland Browns analyst for and 850 ESPN Cleveland. He has covered the Browns since 1984.

Takeaways from Browns practice and interviews …

A giant Lake Erie-effect snowstorm is forecast for Western New York, which could dump upwards of six feet of snow on the area surrounding Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park, NY, throughout the weekend. 

NFL officials are monitoring the situation and could move Sunday’s Browns-Bills game in the interest of public safety.

But everybody loves playing football in the snow, right?

“I like playing in it. I like the weather,” said Cleveland-native Denzel Ward.

“Never [played in snow]. This will be the first one. It will be fun,” said linebacker Deion Jones, native of New Orleans.

“I’ve never had a snow game in Cleveland in five years,” said running back Nick Chubb of Cedartown, GA.  “It always looks like fun, that’s for sure. I guess I’ll find out.”

Well, the newbies might want to talk to Jacoby Brissett.

The Browns quarterback led the Indianapolis Colts into Orchard Park for a game on Dec. 10, 2017. Unsuspectingly, a mammoth snowstorm took place right before kickoff, creating a memorable game in absolute white-out conditions.

“I don’t want to talk about the results of the game,” Brissett said with his usual smile.

The Bills won the game, 13-7, with a 21-yard touchdown run by LeSean McCoy with just 1:33 left in overtime. The teams combined for 97 rushing attempts. Brissett completed 11 of 22 passes for 69 yards and a TD pass of three yards. He was the game’s leading passer.

“I wouldn’t consider it fun. Everybody was freezing,” Bills linebacker Matt Milano said in a 2019 story recounting the game in The Athletic.

The only time the NFL moved a Buffalo game because of weather was in November of 2014. A three-day snowstorm dumped six feet of snow on the area. On Thursday, the league decided to reschedule the Sunday game for Monday in Ford Field in Detroit in the interest of public safety.

So there is precedent for a change of venue. Interestingly, the Bills play the Lions in Detroit on Thanksgiving Day four days after Sunday’s scheduled game against the Browns.

“I am sure it could [be moved],” coach Kevin Stefanski said. “I am sure some people are having some conversations about that. I am not in that circle right now. They will fill me in on a need to know. For us, we just have to focus on our preparation. If something changes, we will tell the players and we will tell you guys.”

Circus commences

Deshaun Watson’s first practice with the Browns since he was suspended for 11 games brought reporters and camera crews from NFL Network and ESPN to Berea. They only witnessed about 15 minutes of Watson doing light throwing in a drill with receivers, running backs and tight ends, along with the other three quarterbacks.

But the return of Watson on the practice field gave the news organizations the opportunity to rehash the details of the sexual assault incidents that resulted in the 11-game suspension by the NFL. Thus, the story has been rekindled and will be exhausted again right through the time Watson is reinstated and plays his first game in two years on Dec. 4 in Houston.

Stefanski reiterated Watson’s re-integration to the team would not interfere with Brissett’s preparations for the Bills game Sunday and Buccaneers game in Cleveland next Sunday. 

The coach disputed that handing over the reins to Watson would be awkward, given the team’s fondness for Brissett during his temp role.

“I think you guys know the two parties at hand here. These are professionals. These are good people. They are friends. I think that is probably the most important thing,” Stefanski said.

Jakeem Grant update

The return specialist whose season ended on Aug. 10 when his left Achilles tendon ruptured on the practice field running a pass route has had a lonely rehabilitation, but he is determined to come back stronger in 2023.

“It sucks,” Grant said to TheLandOnDemand in his first interview since the injury. “All the hard work I put in and the accomplishments I achieved, it’s a hard pill to swallow. But it also keeps me motivated, keeps me grounded, and makes me just want to come back stronger and let everyone know in the league I’m still the best in the league.”

Grant signed with the Browns in free agency after compiling six return touchdowns in seven seasons with Miami and Chicago. Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer predicted in training camp that Grant would “transform” the Browns’ beleaguered return game. Alas, Grant’s season-ending injury left the return game as pedestrian as ever.

“It’s very hard [to watch],” Grant said. “Just around the league, just watching returners not being as aggressive as I am, it just kills me. I know with a guy being five yards off, I’m not calling a fair catch.”

The only previous injury Grant suffered in his career was to the same Achilles tendon in 2018. He did have surgery, but it wasn’t a major tear like the one he suffered this summer. 

He said he didn’t return to full-speed running and cutting for six months after the first injury. It has been three months since his latest injury. Grant said he has been working diligently with trainers to strengthen the repaired Achilles and they are taking it slow and easy to assure a full recovery for the 2023 season.

“I feel 10 times better than I did [after the 2018 injury],” Grant said.

He credited trainer Pat Rock with overseeing his rehab and keeping him grounded mentally and emotionally.

“It’s been really tough. I’m not gonna lie,” Grant said. “My first time being out a whole season. It sucks. It sucks. But the thing is, you just got to continue to look forward and worry about getting better. I couldn’t dwell on it. Pat Rock kept me grounded. He was there any time I got down. It’s great to have him around. He’s been working with me this whole time.”

Grant suffered the injury one day after giving his first interview as a Brown during training camp. At the time, he spoke freely about how he avoided major injury in his career despite his diminutive size (5-7 and 172 pounds). 

He said the injury won’t stop him from being his usual outgoing self with media in the future.

Brownie bits

Guard Wyatt Teller (calf) and linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (knee) returned to practice. But tight end David Njoku (high ankle) remained out and receiver David Bell (concussion) did not practice. Stefanski said he’s hopeful Teller, JOK and Njoku could play against Buffalo …

Chubb has slipped to third in the NFL rushing race. He’d give up any chance of a rushing title in exchange for a winning season. “It’s always frustrating when you’re not winning,” he said. “Going to camp, working hard, doing all the things right and then coming out to the games and the ball’s not bouncing your way. That’s very frustrating. But we are who we are. We’re a 3-6 team with eight games to go. This team [Buffalo] is fired up and we have work to do.”