ORLANDO, Fla. — The death this week of Ralph Wilson, founder and sole owner of the
Hall of Fame quarterback
Jill Kelly had written on her
His wife provided an update via Facebook: "There's been a lot that has been said so we thought it would be best to clarify," she wrote. "At this point and time surgery is not the best option for Jim. Because of complexity and aggressive nature of this cancer and after more scans and tests, the plan has changed. At this point, Jim will not be having surgery. The cancer is in areas that surgery cannot successfully eradicate. Therefore, the medical specialists here in NYC along with our Buffalo team believe that chemotherapy and radiation are the best option."
Kelly had part of his jaw and teeth removed as part of a surgery when he was first diagnosed.
The latest developments were sobering news at the NFL owners meetings this week in Orlando, Fla., where friends and admirers of Kelly struggled with the reality that he's now fighting for his life.
"This is a hard time for the Bills family," said Bill Polian, former team president, his eyes welling. "The good part about it is it's a big family. We'll mourn Ralph's loss, and we'll pray for Jim. But there's a lot of people doing that."
Making the rounds on the Internet is a heartbreaking shot of Kelly lying in a hospital bed, watching the
At the conclusion of the three-day meetings Wednesday, NFL Commissioner
"Jim's such a wonderful man, a special guy," said Goodell, standing with a reporter in an otherwise empty hallway at the
Years before he was promoted to commissioner, Goodell oversaw the
"Every single one of them was extremely respectful and professional," recalled Goodell, who is from Jamestown, N.Y., 70 miles south of Buffalo. "It was, 'Hey, this is disappointing but I'm privileged to play in the Pro Bowl.' You'd see them at some of the most difficult moments, and Jim was always top of the class. Just a super guy. Treated you the same, always respectful."
Kelly's blue-collar toughness is legendary and universally respected in a league that saw him inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2002. He was part of the famed quarterback class of 1983 — one that included
"He was one of those guys who was the toughest quarterback you could see," said Jay Gruden, a former Arena Football League quarterback and new coach of the
"The Joe Montanas, the Jim Kellys, the Dan Marinos, those are the kind of guys who were in a class by themselves. He played at Miami, too, and I played for [coach
For some at the meetings, the one-two punch of Wilson's death and Kelly's cancer was overwhelming.
"There are two iconic figures in Buffalo right now," said Joe Horrigan, vice president of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, his voice trembling. "One's gone, and now the other one's sick too."
He lowered his head, wiped his eyes and looked away. His throat was too thick to keep talking.