MINNEAPOLIS D DHC B — MINNEAPOLIS -- The Buffalo Bills are running scared. History is chasing them, and for an athlete it's the worst kind of history.
"We don't want to be put in the mold of the Minnesota Vikings or the Denver Broncos, where we get to the Super Bowl so many times and not win anything," Bills running back Thurman Thomas said.
It is ironic, then, that the Bills have brought their race for respect to the Metrodome, home of the Vikings, for tomorrow's Super Bowl XXVI against the Washington Redskins. The Vikings and Broncos are both 0-4 in the Super Bowl.
A year ago in Tampa, Fla., the Bills lost to the underdog New York Giants, 20-19, in Super Bowl XXV. That game fueled the Bills' motivational tank all season.
"We've got so much talent on the team, losing in the first or second round would be a wasted season," Thomas said. "Now we have to win it to make our season successful."
"That's basically our feeling," said linebacker Carlton Bailey, a Baltimore native. "We worked so hard last year and climbed to the top of the mountain, but weren't able to plant the flag."
Quarterback Jim Kelly says he still hasn't watched the tape of last year's Super Bowl.
"It's something you work so hard for and to watch it over again, it just eats away at your heart," Kelly said. "I know it ate out my heart for four, five months. . . . In the Super Bowl, you've got four or five months to either gloat in victory or lay back there and worry about what you should have done.
"We're not going to be considered a great team until we have the Lombardi Trophy on our side."
Bills coach Marv Levy said that it will take more than one Super Bowl victory before the Bills can begin to think about greatness.
"Consistency has to be the mark of a great team, consistent excellence," Levy said. "I think great teams stand the measure of more seasons than just one."
Free safety Mark Kelso said he doesn't think in terms of a "wasted" season, but he knows that anything short of a victory tomorrow ultimately means failure for the Bills.
"We set goals and if we don't accomplish those goals, we're not successful," Kelso said.
Mike Brennan, a reserve offensive lineman who lives in Baltimore, has been with the Bills for only two months, but he has grasped the mind-set of the two-time AFC champions.
"The guys truly believe it -- just going back to the Super Bowl is not enough," Brennan said. "They thought they were the best team in football last year. Just to keep going to 'The Show' is not enough."
* The Bills announced they're placing safety Leonard Smith on the injured reserve list with a staph infection in his knee. He'll likely be replaced on the 47-man roster by Chris Hale.
Dwight Drane will replace Smith in the starting lineup. "Leonard has a reputation as a hard hitter and it's deserved, but Dwight Drane might give us a little more in the coverage area than Leonard. We have a lot of confidence in Dwight Drane. He will step in there in the big game and play well," Levy said.
Levy also announced that he expects guard Glenn Parker to start despite a sprained knee.
Defensive end Bruce Smith was held out of practice yesterday with a sore knee, but will start.