As the next in a long line of Buffalo Bills quarterbacks trying to escape the shadow of Hall of Famer Jim Kelly, Trent Edwards had his work cut out for him last night.
As he trotted on to the Rogers Centre field for the first time, he was greeted by the sight of a Jumbotron-sized banner of Kelly that covered many of the field-view windows of the Renaissance Hotel.
"It was probably the first thing I saw when I walked into the stadium," he said with a laugh. "It probably was not his best picture."
No matter. On this night, Edwards need not have worried about being outshone by anyone or anything -- including a 40-foot photo of Kelly.
Showing the poise and accuracy Bills coach Dick Jauron hopes he'll bring to their regular-season opener against the Seattle Seahawks, Edwards easily was the most impressive Bill on the faded Rogers Centre turf, completing nine of 11 passes for 104 yards and two touchdowns in Buffalo's 24-21 pre-season victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Still, in the end, Edwards admitted it did not feel like a normal home game for the Bills. At least not yet.
"We had a three-hour bus ride up here, which is a lot different from just going to Ralph Wilson Stadium," Edwards said. "You're wearing your home jersey, but you're not playing outside in the elements."
Edwards figures the Bills will be more comfortable in their new digs the next time they play in Toronto. That will come on Dec. 7 when the Bills play host to the Miami Dolphins in the first regular-season NFL game to be played on Canadian soil.
Of course, last night's clash between the Bills and Steelers was more than just a meaningless exhibition game. It was an historic event, one in which Rogers organizers must consider a moderate success.
Sure, there will be some criticism because of the empty seats. Yes, a good portion of the 48,434 fans in attendance received freebies. And those that did pay, well, some fans were buying $575 tickets on the street for just $90, minutes before kickoff.
Still, in this, the first of eight Bills games in Toronto over the next five years that Rogers shelled out $78 million to secure, the crowd witnessed a relatively exciting game.
They saw Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger launch a 40-yard bomb to Santonio Holmes for a touchdown in the second quarter.
They saw Bills first-round pick Leodis McKelvin electrify the building with a 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown late in the third quarter.
And they saw Steelers rookie quarterback Dennis Dixon, looking more like a CFL quarterback, scamper 47 yards for a four-quarter score.
"The (Toronto experience) is awesome," Roethlisberger said. "The stadium is awesome. The turf leaves a lot to be desired but to be up here with the fans has been awesome."
Jauron, meanwhile, is leaving nothing to chance. The Bills coach reportedly requested that the roof be closed in order to mirror the conditions that will be in place for the Miami game.
Bills defensive end Corey Mace, a native of Port Moody, B.C., vows to teach the words to O Canada to his teammates by the time the team returns to the Rogers Centre for its Dec. 7 regular-season tilt against the Miami Dolphins.
"At least the defensive linemen will know them," he said with a laugh. Mace said he was emotional hearing the Canadian anthem last night. "Usually, I mouth the words to O Canada while the American anthem is being played," he said. "This time the crowd was singing with me."
Kamloops native Mitch Berger, the veteran punter who was signed by the Steelers on Sunday, does not feel there should be an NFL team playing full-time in Canada.
"Being a Canadian, I hope not," Berger said. "I don't want to ruin the CFL. It's a great league with a long tradition.
"The NFL is already super strong and powerful, and I would rather see (the NFL) get a team in L.A. before they worry about getting a team in Canada."