ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — The Buffalo Bills' practice routine was abruptly altered Monday when owner Ralph C. Wilson Jr. fired coach Hank Bullough and hired Marv Levy.
In preparation for today's game with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Levy cut team practices short, allowing the players to get out of Rich Stadium before darkness.
"It's good to change the routine in the middle of the season," said linebacker Eugene Marve, who, like many other Bills, was pleased with a break in what had become a monotonous routine.
Whether the 2-7 Bills can put aside the distractions surrounding a mid-season coaching change will be a determining factor in the game against the 3-6 Steelers.
"I'd like to be an expert for you but I can't," said Pittsburgh Coach Chuck Noll when asked how the change might affect the Bills.
History favors the Steelers, though. When Bullough took over for Kay Stephenson four games into last season, the Indianapolis Colts pummeled the Bills 49-17, in their next game.
Nose tackle Fred Smerlas said he didn't think the coaching change was an explanation for the Bills poor performance against the Colts.
"At that point, things had been deteriorating and it just hit a head in that particular game," said Smerlas. "We've played a lot of good games, and didn't win a lot."
Another blowout could be in the offing if the Bills don't curtail a running attack that has been the prime cause of the Steeler resurgence following a dreadful 1-6 start.