It seems like an eternity ago, but there was once an era when the Buffalo Bills were among the best teams in league history. Buffalo won four consecutive AFC titles from 1990-93 and though they’d fall in each Super Bowl appearance, no Bills fan will forget the memories this cast of characters created.
While everyone remembers that nucleus of core players and what they accomplished in their prime years in Buffalo, many won’t recall what happened once their time ended and were forced to move on. Nearly every key veteran from this era saw their career end with another team.
We’re running a series of articles, recalling where 10 former Bills’ stars would go on to finish their careers. Today we kick things off with wide receiver James Lofton.
It appeared the long, successful career of Lofton was toast following the 1988 season. After enjoying his first nine years with the Green Bay Packers– a run that included five seasons of at least 1,000 yards receiving and a mind blowing 18.2 yards per catch, Lofton moved on to the Los Angeles Raiders in 1987.
His two seasons there didn’t produce much. Though he averaged over 20 yards per reception, Lofton caught just 69 passes and scored an unspectacular five touchdowns in two seasons. He was released following the 1988 season and at 33-years old, no one would’ve blamed him had he hung up the spikes for good.
Clearly, the Bills saw use for him. Bill Polian and Marv Levy opened a roster spot at wide receiver after cutting former second-round draft pick Chris Burkett, and almost immediately inked Lofton to a multi-year deal.
Lofton was a non-factor his first season in Buffalo; catching just eight passes in 12 games in 1989. But at the age of 34 in his second year, Lofton suddenly started performing like he was 24 again. He had 712 receiving yards in 1990 and went over 1,000 yards (1,072) with eight touchdowns in ’91; the first time Lofton went over 1,000 yards in six years.
In 1992, his last season with the club, Lofton caught 51 passes for 786 yards and six touchdowns.
Lofton made countless clutch plays in the regular season as a Bill and had plenty of big moments in the playoffs as well. He had seven catches for 149 yards and a touchdown in a 44-34 playoff win over Miami in 1990 and in the first play of the Super Bowl against the New York Giants that year, caught a 61-yard pass from Jim Kelly.
He also caught seven passes for 92 yards when the Bills lost their second Super Bowl to Washington.
Father time… and management finally decided Lofton’s age had caught up to him. Buffalo didn’t renew his contract after the ’92 season and the 36-year old attempted to catch on with the Los Angeles Rams. He was cut after just one game and signed with the Philadelphia Eagles the following week.
He finished his final season with 14 catches for 183 yards in seven games before retiring for good.
Lofton was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2003 in his third year of eligibility. Although the bulk of his staggering career numbers came with Green Bay, he was a very productive and important member of the Bills’ Super Bowl run.
Coming Next: Shane Conlan.
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