Before the Bills announcement on Wednesday morning, the last time the Buffalo Bills retired a jersey of one of their all-time greats was back in 2001, when quarterback Jim Kelly saw No. 12 become permanently his. The Bills then made it known that Bruce Smith, legendary defensive end, will have his No. 78 retired during the team's home opener on September 15 against the New York Jets.
The initial reaction from most fans consisted of simple elation and nostalgia. Once it was digested for a few minutes, many others started to ask this question: Why did it took so long to honor Smith?
After all, the defensive end is the NFL's all-time leader in career sacks, and spent 15 years of his career with the Bills. He left the Bills back in 1999, and was inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009. There has been a considerable amount of time to honor Smith in that way.
Bills team president Russ Brandon understood the reason for the popular question.
"And rightfully so," Brandon admitted. "It’s something that… it’s a tough question to answer. We have a lot of different honors here. The ultimate honor is to be on the Bills Wall of Fame, something that we take very seriously with our committee. It was really something… once the sale went down, it was on my list of things to discuss with Terry and Kim [Pegula], and also the organization. It really wasn’t about time, it was about being the right time — and the right time is now."
There haven't been any formal announcements as to the lineup of former teammates and coaches that will be on hand, but former head coach Marv Levy let it be known that he'll be in attendance.