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Kelly’s career with Bills appears over

January 25, 1997 GMT

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) _ Quarterback Jim Kelly apparently will not be offered a contract by the Buffalo Bills, likely ending an 11-year career with the team he led to four Super Bowl appearances.

Radio and television reports in the Buffalo area said Friday that the quarterback would be allowed to become a free agent after his contract expires Feb. 14, his 37th birthday.

Sources told The Associated Press earlier this week that Kelly had planned to meet with Buffalo management after the upcoming Super Bowl. Should Kelly become a free agent, he would likely retire because he does not want to play for a team other than the Bills, the sources said.

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Buffalo coach Marv Levy would not confirm or deny the reports when he was contacted Friday in his hotel room in New Orleans, site of Sunday’s Super Bowl.

``We never discuss personnel matters or coaching staff matters unless we have something to say,″ Levy said. ``It applies to everything we do, not just one individual.″

Should Kelly not return, the Bills would likely start Todd Collins, who spent two years as a backup after playing at Michigan. Collins won two of three games this season while Kelly nursed injuries.

Kelly is coming off his worst professional season in a 13-year career that started with two seasons in the USFL.

He had a career-low 14 touchdowns passes and a career-high 19 interceptions, including five that were returned for touchdowns. Kelly completed 58 percent of his passes for 2,810 yards but was sacked 37 times and was often criticized for making bad decisions and showing little mobility in the pocket.

Kelly did not return a message left on his voice mail at his hotel in New Orleans. His agent, his brother Dan Kelly, did not return telephone messages left at Jim Kelly Enterprises in Buffalo.

Bills spokesman Joe Assad would not confirm or deny the reports.

WGRZ-TV in Buffalo reported Kelly was encouraged by a meeting Friday with Bills owner Ralph Wilson in New Orleans. Reports coming out of New Orleans said Kelly told former teammates that he would not be back with the Bills.

``We’re not going to run around denying every rumor,″ Levy said. ``We’re not going to say if something has a shred of evidence or not.″

Kelly is the only quarterback in history to start four consecutive Super Bowls. The Bills lost all four to start the 1990s.

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Buffalo lost 30-27 to the Jacksonville Jaguars in the first round of the playoffs this season.

Kelly said after the season that he would like to play two more years under the right circumstances. He met with Bills management on Tuesday to discuss his future and had planned another meeting next week.

Before the 1996 season began, Kelly said he was promised by Wilson that a new contract would be worked out after the year was over. However, Wilson has never discussed details of the meeting.

Kelly joined the team in 1986 as a brash 26-year-old who was greeted by fans holding signs along the highways as he made his first entrance to Buffalo in a limousine. He was carried off the field with a concussion in the Jacksonville game amid calls from fans for his departure.

Kelly engineered the K-Gun offense, which for years was considered the most dangerous attacks in the league. The quarterback called his own plays and ran the offense without huddling, which typically wore down Buffalo’s opponents in games other than Super Bowls.

He is considered the greatest quarterback in team history after completing 60 percent of his passes for 35,467 yards, 237 touchdowns and 175 interceptions in his career.