During his 95 years, Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson went from fan to "Foolish Club" member to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, enjoying every step along the way.

The NFL lost the person regarded as the league's "conscience" on Tuesday afternoon, when Wilson died at his Grosse Pointe Shores, Mich., home. Bills president Russ Brandon announced Wilson's death at the NFL owners meetings in Orlando, Fla.

In 1959, Wilson founded the Bills in helping establish the upstart American Football League, whose owners were dubbed "The Foolish Club" for having the chutzpah to challenge the NFL. Some five years later, Wilson played an influential role in setting the framework of the two leagues' merger.

"What a damn fool I was," he told the AP in 2009. "But I didn't care. I just wanted to own a team."

Wilson, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1959, had been in failing health since having hip surgery in 2011. He gave up daily oversight of the club on Jan. 1, 2013, when he relinquished the president's title to Brandon.

Wilson earned a well-established reputation for loyalty to fans and the stands he took against franchise relocation.

Though he butted heads several times with late Raiders owner Al Davis, it did not affect their friendship.

Davis said in 2009: "There were a lot of guys saying (Steelers owner Dan) Rooney was the conscience. But certainly, Mr. Wilson was more of a conscience of the league."


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The Bills have never won a Super Bowl. They came close in the early 1990s, when the Jim Kelly-quarterbacked teams won four consecutive AFC championships.

The team is expected to be placed in a trust before eventually being sold. Kelly has expressed interest in buying the franchise and has previously said he's assembled a group of investors. Kelly's health, however, has become an issue. He is expected to have surgery for a second time in a year following the recurrence of cancer that his wife described as aggressive and "starting to spread."

Replay update: Team owners passed a rule allowing referees to consult with director of officiating Dean Blandino and his staff to help determine whether a call should be upheld or overturned. Blandino and other staff will begin reviewing challenges from New York before the referee even gets to his monitor. They can make recommendations on what replays to look at, but the referee still will make the final decision.

49ers: Cornerback Perrish Cox agreed to a one-year contract, according to several reports.

Raiders: Fullback Jamize Olawale signed a one-year contract.

Staff writer Steve Corkran contributed to this report.

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