ORLANDO, Fla. - Mike Brown thought about the football Tuesday afternoon.
NFL ownership had just been informed that Ralph Wilson, the only owner the Buffalo Bills have ever had, just passed away at age 95, and Brown was walking out of a meeting thinking about how much he enjoyed Wilson's company.
"He was a fun guy. Every Christmas he'd send you a great big chocolate football," Brown recalled. "You'd put it somewhere else and it was so damn impressive, no one would eat it."
Brown and Wilson will always go down in a bit of history and not the U.S. Mail. They were the only two owners that voted against the collective bargaining agreement that was passed in March of 2006. But with other owners saying that Brown and Wilson had it right and that it wasn't a good enough deal to keep going, the owners opted out of it two years later to set the stage for the new CBA that came out of the 2011 lockout.
Back at the 2011 annual meeting, Panthers owner Jerry Richardson said, "I was for labor peace at any price and I always have been. In hindsight, Mike was right. I wasn’t."
Wilson was right, too.
"His voice carried weight in our meetings here," Brown said Tuesday at another meeting. "He was an important voice in the National Football League. He had strong opinions and he wasn't afraid to voice them. He was his own and a very successful man beyond football and a man I admired."