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Woody Johnson's Remarks on Ralph Wilson


New York Jets owner Woody Johnson met with the media at the owners' meetings in Orlando this afternoon and spoke about the death of Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson. Here are Johnson's responses to four questions from reporters:

On Wilson's passing...

It's the end of a real important era. Ralph was so important in developing football into what it is today. He was the NFL. He was the AFL. He was always a guy that was up to the task. He had a great sense of humor. He was a great speaker. I heard his Hall of Fame speech he gave in 1991. It was better than most people could give at the age of 31. He was really just an incredible leader with great vision and so it's an end of really a major, major part of American football to lose a guy like Ralph Wilson. He was one of the first guys I met when I decided to pursue this line of work.

On how Wilson described being an NFL owner when the two of them first met...

He just described the satisfaction he got out of working with the players and the fans and building this league. It sounded like something that was very interesting. We're going to miss him. ... We're lucky to have had a guy like that because you had a guy like that in the right place at the right time to form this league. We're lucky. We've lost quite a few of them in the last few years. We've lost Lamar Hunt, we've lost Al [Davis]. It's sad to see these guys go.

On if Wilson's passing was observed or mentioned in the room during today's owners' meeting

Yes, it was. The commissioner let everyone go. He kept the owners in to tell us what tragically had just occurred. He said that it was the way that Ralph wanted to go. [Commissioner Goodell] had just seen Wilson a few days ago which was great for the commissioner. He wanted it announced this way. I don't know if Ralph said that, but that is kind of what Roger thought and so he passed it along to us that way, which I thought was pretty good. He wanted to be in the room. He was always a presence in the room. And he always spoke very fluently about the past — what football meant to him and why we were getting away from it. If we were going off course, he would let us know.

What Wilson meant to Western New York...

When he went in, Buffalo was thriving and he persevered when Buffalo started declining a little bit because most of the businesses moved out. He was very, very loyal to Buffalo and to that part of the state. He's really the only team in New York right now. Governor Cuomo did some things for the Buffalo Bills because he wants to preserve that team in New York when they renovated. [Wilson] was very loyal to Buffalo even though he didn't live in Buffalo, so I think that's pretty good.

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