ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — The Buffalo Bills intend to play a few games in Canada, eh?
That's the plan after the Bills on Thursday announced they are seeking approval to play a preseason and at least one regular-season game in Toronto. It's part of the franchise's attempt to expand its market base beyond western New York.
"The team hopes to capitalize on the increasing interest of fans in the Canadian market by playing a regular-season game in Toronto," the Bills announced in a release.
The Bills hope to play a preseason game at Toronto next summer, with plans to play a regular-season game as early as 2009. The games would be played at Rogers Center, a downtown stadium with a retractable roof that serves as home to baseball's Blue Jays and the Canadian Football League Argonauts.
The Bills require both county and state approval to play "home games" outside of Ralph Wilson Stadium as a condition of their lease, which runs through 2012. The lease requires the team to play half its preseason and all regular-season home games at the Orchard Park facility.
The team began the process by sending a letter of request to Erie County on Wednesday.
DILFER TO START: Former Ute Alex Smith believes he's ready to take over the San Francisco 49ers again. Coach Mike Nolan thinks his quarterback's competitive streak is healthier than his shoulder. Trent Dilfer will start again for the 49ers (2-3) on Sunday, though Smith also will be in uniform when they visit the New York Giants. Nolan made his decision Thursday after watching two days of practice with Dilfer and Smith, who separated his right shoulder on the third play of San Francisco's 23-3 loss to Seattle on Sept. 30. Dilfer, a 14th-year pro, is 24-of-52 for 254 yards with three interceptions and one touchdown pass since then. Though Smith returned to practice this week and participated in most drills while wearing pads Thursday, Nolan isn't ready to put a key game on the sore shoulders of his former No. 1 overall draft pick.
DRUG TESTINGLAWSUIT: Former San Francisco receiver Antonio Bryant filed a lawsuit Wednesday seeking to stop the NFL from requiring him to submit to drug testing, arguing the league's policy doesn't apply to him anymore. The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Denver states the 49ers terminated Bryant's contract March 1, meaning: "Antonio Bryant is not a 'player,' not an employee or not under contract to the Defendants in any form or fashion." Letters sent to Bryant by the NFL, which were part of court documents filed Wednesday, show the NFL asked him to submit to a urinalysis on Sept. 6, 13 and 18 and threatened him with discipline equivalent to a positive test if he didn't cooperate. Bryant's agent and attorney, Peter Schaffer, said his client had been randomly tested since he left the 49ers but decided he was under no obligation to take them.
HARRINGTON BENCHED: It's become a familiar tune for Joey Harrington. He's named the starting quarterback. He loses the job. This week, the Atlanta Falcons became the third NFL team in three seasons to bench the former first-round draft pick. "This isn't going to shake me," he said Thursday. "Does it hurt? Yeah, a lot, but it by no means is going to tear me down to the point where I can't do what's right for this team." Byron Leftwich will start Sunday when Atlanta (1-5) visits New Orleans (1-4), but Harrington still believes he could help turn the Falcons' season around if given another chance. For now, his only consolation is knowing he endured similar situations in Detroit and Miami.