Roethlisberger said playing in Buffalo has a “nostalgia” to it because he grew up watching Buffalo’s K-Gun offense. But he’s especially excited to see a healthy and happy Kelly in person.
Kelly was deemed cancer-free in late 2014 but eventually underwent a second round of chemo. Kelly’s fight is not completely over, so Roethlisberger will be reminded of the ‘Kelly tough’ mantra that went viral a few years ago.
“It was scary, obviously, for a long time. It still is,” Roethlisberger said. “He still deals with those things. I know he’s in a good place with the Lord and his family, which means a lot. You don’t want to lose a guy like that. We’re glad he’s still here and going strong. I’m blessed to have him as a friend.”
Kelly’s goal was not to play “papa bear” in Roethlisberger’s life, usually opting for friendly jabbing over packaged wisdom. But Roethlisberger said Kelly’s example is a light in his life, and Kelly hopes his light shines in the direction of others.
“Our quarterback coach, Dave Ragone, has helped me tremendously, staying after practice, going through pretty much every script after every day,” Barkley said. “Getting the little things down with me when I wasn’t playing. He’s helped a ton. Learning from Jay Cutler and Brian Hoyer, how they prepare, how they study has helped me grow as an NFL quarterback.”
However, Barkley faces a step up in competition on Sunday. The Lions (8-4) have won seven of eight and desperately need a victory over the Bears to maintain their lead in the NFC North. The last time Barkley played on the road, he went 6-of-15 for 81 yards and two interceptions in emergency duty after Hoyer suffered a season-ending injury at Lambeau Field on Oct. 20.
Barkley has grown considerably since his Bears’ debut, but questions remain about how he’ll fare in a hostile environment versus a playoff-caliber team.
“They have some different guys back that have definitely made their defense better,” Barkley said. “Some guys are out. But I’m confident in what we have prepared for them. It will be a challenge, no doubt about that. But I think if we’re consistent and we stick to what we do and move the ball just like we have been then we’ll have things open.”