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Bills Beat Blog






By Joe Buscaglia


Bills camp: Day 1 practice notes


The highly anticipated first practice of the year has come and gone as the Buffalo Bills kicked off training camp at St. John Fisher College on Sunday night.

In front of a charged up crowd inside Growney Stadium, the Bills went through their first of two mandatory padless practices to ramp up for the remainder of camp. Just because there were no pads worn, the tempo of the practice certainly didn't dip from where it was during spring workouts.

After going through individual drills and stretching, the Bills opened up the second hour of practice by going after the defensive backs. One by one, each wide receiver ran a fly route down the sideline with either Kevin Kolb, EJ Manuel or Jeff Tuel tossing them the ball. It got the fans in attendance vocally involved and the players were showing some emotion during the drills as well.

Starting from that point, there were some players that stood out for both good and bad reasons. Here are some quick hits from the first night of practice:

QB EJ Manuel
- When the quarterbacks and wide receivers were going with an all-out assault on the defensive backs to start the second hour of practice, EJ Manuel was the main writer of the burn book. You could tell the rookie was feeling it during that portion of the practice, hitting most of his targets in stride on whatever route was called. T.J. Graham even revealed Manuel called him off a shorter route in favor of a fly, and the two converted for a touchdown. The rest of the practice did not provide as much positivity as that drill did. On one play in particular during 11-on-11's, Manuel stared down his receiver coming open over the middle of the field when matched up with a safety. The only problem, the free safety dropping back on the play read Manuel's eyes the entire way and easily cut in front of the ball for an interception. That player, Mana Silva, then returned it for a touchdown. An up and down day for the rookie, but the type of evening fans should come to expect from a young quarterback. However, you can see the natural arm talent when the ball is released -- it's something the Bills haven't seen in quite some time. Whether or not it translates to the regular season though is the lingering concern.

QB Kevin Kolb
- Getting all the first team reps during the first practice, Kolb was merely average. He correctly diagnosed some plays for short gains, was able to escape the pocket and throw the ball away when other plays broke down, but also threw two interceptions throughout the practice. He also had T.J. Graham on a perfect 15-yard slant over the middle and waited too long to pull the trigger. It ended up behind Graham and falling to the ground for an incompletion. Kolb is clearly the less talented of the two, but can still win this job as long as he doesn't make as many errors as he did on Sunday.

OLB Mario Williams
- Coming out in his helmet, jersey and shorts, Mario Williams didn't do much past the individual and stretching portion of the practice. Head Coach Doug Marrone revealed after that Williams had come to them and said he had a sore foot. The Bills chose to hold him out of practice on Sunday. Williams declined to comment after the practice, instead just deferring to the head coach. It doesn't sound very serious from the start, but something clearly to monitor in the coming days.

WR T.J. Graham
- It was quite the day for T.J. Graham. Outside of a couple of drops which he admitted to when speaking with reporters, Graham had an impressive practice. He burned down the right sideline twice catching a fly route for a touchdown on each repetition. Graham is also being trusted by the coaching staff, getting time with the first team opposite Stevie Johnson.

CB Justin Rogers
- In fact, Graham's biggest victim of the day was Justin Rogers. Rogers was burned down the sideline for both of the touchdowns where it wasn't even really that close. He saved the day for himself later on by forcing a fumble following a Marcus Easley catch on a slant route. If it wasn't for that, he would have been in strong consideration for LVP honors.

LG Colin Brown
- In the much less publicized battle at left guard, Colin Brown took all the first-team repetitions on Sunday night and flourished. Both in the 1-on-1's and team drills, Brown was consistently thwarting his opponent's efforts. In 1-on-1's especially, Brown had two showdowns where he completely dominated. The first was against Jay Ross and then later on versus Corbin Bryant. With his size and arm length in comparison to Doug Legursky, more days like that could wrap up the job pretty easily.

Offensive Line's three units
- Speaking of the offensive line, with the additions and subtractions over the past couple of days, here are how the top first, second and third-team units shook out on Sunday:

*From left tackle to right tackle
1st Team: Cordy Glenn, Colin Brown, Eric Wood, Kraig Urbik, Erik Pears
2nd Team: Thomas Welch, Doug Legursky, David Snow, Keith Williams, Sam Young
3rd Team: Zebrie Sanders, Zack Chibane, Ryan Turnley, Antoine Caldwell, Tony Hills/Hutch Eckerson

Marcell Dareus / D-Line
- On the defensive side of the trenches, one notable name was only taking every third set of plays during team drills. Perhaps former third overall pick Marcell Dareus was limited, but he only took part in that many 11-on-11's, and only did took a single 1-on-1 rep. Doug Marrone was not asked about Dareus and did not address it on his own, so we'll have to see what the story is on Monday.

Day 1 MVP: LB Marcus Dowtin
- The opening day Most Valuable Player honors goes to Marcus Dowtin, who fans will get very acclimated with this season. With the way he's been used throughout the spring and through the first day, the Bills have a very versatile role for him lined up. Dowtin lined up at both outside and inside linebacker during different 11-on-11 drills Sunday, constantly finding himself around the play. He tore Hutch Eckerson to shreds in 1-on-1's and had the play of the day during team drills as well. A deflected Kevin Kolb pass looked like it was out of reach for everyone, but Dowtin tracked it down and made a diving grab along the sidelines for an interception. He may not start and he might not be the first defender you think of with this group, but fans will see plenty of Marcus Dowtin if the past few months have been any indication.

Day 1 LVP: OT Zebrie Sanders
- The second-year offensive tackle did not have the type of first training camp practice he would have liked to. Considering he basically redshirted during his rookie season, Sanders struggled out of the gates to start camp in 2013. Going against Manny Lawson twice during 1-on-1's Sanders was blown out of the water on his first attempt, and then had to grab a good portion of Lawson's jersey just to minimally slow him down on the second. For someone people had hopes for this season, it was a rough start.

The Bills hit the practice field for their second day of workouts on Monday at 2 pm. The session is open to the public.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia
 




 

Bills hopeful Hairston can get back quickly

Entering training camp in 2013, the Buffalo Bills have only one player that will miss practice time to start off the festivities in Pittsford, NY.

Offensive tackle Chris Hairston, who some consider to be the favorite to win the right tackle job, will start camp at St. John Fisher College on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list. It's said to be a lower-body injury (no, this isn't hockey), but the Bills are hoping for the best with the third-year player.

Unlike the regular season PUP list, being on the preseason list means that a player can come off at any time once he is medically cleared. Whereas for the regular season counterpart, a player would have to wait until six weeks of the season had passed before getting off that designation.

"I'm hoping that he comes back soon," said Head Coach Doug Marrone. "I'm not a doctor, but I'm sitting there thinking to myself that, that was the first question I asked also. Can we pull that tag off at any time? So I think as soon as the doctors feel comfortable with it, we'll get him out there and then start working him in."

Hairston will be in a battle with Erik Pears for the starting right tackle job when he does get back on the field.

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Bills' Spiller has a magic number

In an ambitious world, most people have goals for the upcoming year.

Some want to achieve personal milestones like getting married or having children, others look for work-related goals with either getting a promotion or a raise. In the case of Buffalo Bills running back C.J. Spiller, his goal for 2013 on the football thing revolves around one thing:

A magic number of rushing yards.

"I do. I do have a number. I'll share it after the season," Spiller started off. " I think you should write down your goals. In order to be great and achieve things, you have to write them down and challenge yourself. I think it's a challenge for me to see where I'm at. I've got different categories that I want to achieve, I'll keep it at that."

Just wondering what type of goal-setter Spiller is, whether it be of the realistic or the 'get out of here you're dreaming' realm, the question laid before him was if he attained his goal in 2012.

"Did I meet it? No, I was a little shy," he replied.

Well, what was the goal?

"13," Spiller stated succinctly.

The running back was referring to his total number of rushing yards, where he was just 66 yards shy of reaching his personal goal of 1,300.

Whatever his mission is for 2013, he's likely adjusted it for the predicted jump in carries for the season. And if he has the type of impact that he had last year, a rather lofty goal could be quite doable.

We'll find out in January.

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Bills will hold live scrimmage, tackling and all

Going against the grain of the past seven years of training camps with the Buffalo Bills, St. John Fisher College will see a live scrimmage in 2013.

While there have been some live drills along the goaline over the past few years, a full-scale scrimmage with live tackling hasn't been a part of the training camp process in Pittsford for quite some time.

It's a new era under Head Coach Doug Marrone, and he's excited for that very day.

"For us right now, we'll work on tackling every day, work on those drills every day that you have to be able to do from a contact standpoint, but we'll avoid that with the players early on until we drill it and get a foundation," Marrone started. "So my philosophy is, we'll have a big scrimmage Tuesday night. That'll be a big scrimmage down the road. That will be a live scrimmage."

As for when this will happen, there was a little confusion when Marrone brought up that it would be happening on Tuesday night. The way the schedule is laid out, the Bills have a morning practice this coming Tuesday, July 30 and have next Tuesday, August 6 as one of their off days.

Marrone also said it would be ahead of the preseason games, which rules out the Tuesday night practice on August 20.

As it turns out, the live scrimmage will be on Monday, August 5 a member of the Bills public relations staff clarified, one of five night practices scheduled for this year's training camp. Marrone did confirm that there would be live hitting and tackling on that night.

The practice will start off with some warmups, individual work and 7-on-7's, but then ultimately break out into a full-scale scrimmage. As it goes with any of the night practices, fans will need a ticket for entrance to that session which starts at 6 pm.

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Bills ax a lineman from roster

Before the first practice has even taken place at St. John Fisher College, the Buffalo Bills have had a flurry of activity with their roster. Well, if you call releasing two players a flurry.

Earlier the Bills announced they had parted ways with tight end Mickey Shuler, and upon addressing the media Head Coach Doug Marrone made the media aware of another player they've released.

"We did wind up releasing a player not too long ago, Chris Scott, and it's just unfortunate in this profession that we have expectations of coaches coming in," he said. "We didn't feel that Chris fulfilled his expectations to us, his teammates or the coaches, so we let him go."

Listed at 360 pounds on the team's official media guide, that could be some of the expectations the teams had for a player of his stature. The Bills roster now stands at 85.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

**Photo courtsey of BuffaloBills.com

 
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Bills part ways with TE Shuler

While the Buffalo Bills are getting ready to start training camp practices at St. John Fisher College on Sunday night, the team excavated yet another roster spot with the release of tight end Mickey Shuler.

Signed by the team in mid-May, the blocking-centric tight end struggled to assert himself in the off-season workouts and even sat out some practice time due to an injury. With Shuler's release, the Bills roster now resides at 86, with four open spots. That gives the Bills the flexibility to make a signing if they so choose.

Shuler faced an uphill battle at the tight end position as it was. With Scott Chandler nearing full health, it could be a simple case of not having enough repetitions to go around.

Since Dorin Dickerson switched to tight end during spring workouts, the Bills had six players at that position before the release of Shuler. Chandler, Dickerson, Lee Smith, Mike Caussin and rookie Chris Gragg all have legitimate hopes of making the roster this season. The same could not have been said for Shuler, hence the release on Saturday morning.

The Bills' first training camp practice is Sunday night at St. John Fisher College at 6 pm.

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What are Brad Smith's chances with Bills now?

With the news that Buffalo Bills wide receiver Brad Smith has renegotiated his contract, that obviously increases his odds of making the 53-man roster in 2013. Just because he renegotiated his contract however, it doesn't mean safety is guaranteed just yet.

Looking at the wide receiver position, there seem to be four locks for the roster. Stevie Johnson, Robert Woods, Marquise Goodwin and T.J. Graham all are most likely going to take up the first four spots on the wideout depth chart.

Past the initial four names though, there are four names likely fighting for two spots. With as many young, enigmatic receivers as the Bills have, it's probably a safe bet that the team keeps six spots for the position.

Along with Smith, Da'Rick Rogers, Chris Hogan and Marcus Easley will be in competition for those two spots.

However, Rogers is the clear cut favorite to land one of the spots. With all off-the-field concerns considered, he has clear physical talent that the other three listed simply do not have. As long as he keeps his head on straight during training camp, he should be a good bet to make it on to the roster.

The sixth spot then comes down to Smith, Hogan and Easley. With due respect to the fans that are still holding out hope on Easley's potential, he's the hidden man of the competition at this point. Unless he really comes out and performs at a high level, he's got an uphill climb to make the roster outright.

That means it comes down to the recently renegotiated Smith, and the former Hard Knocks star Hogan. During spring practices, Hogan seemed to outperform Smith -- but that was without the physicality that a normal training camp practice would present.

Smith has a clear advantage over Hogan in part because the latter still has practice squad eligibility. As long as they can sneak him past waivers, he could become the 7th man of the receiver group but just not on the active roster.

Combine that with the renegotiated deal, it could be too much for Hogan to overcome. It certainly looks now like Smith is a favorite to make the roster, but don't book it just yet.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia
 




 

Bills' Stevie Johnson says he's full-go

Since he's been in the National Football League, nagging injuries have plagued Buffalo Bills wide reciever Stevie Johnson. Whatever ailment it may be, usually an injury forces him to miss some practice time at some point during a season.

During the spring practices in 2013, a back ailment kept Johnson away from being a full participant early on. He slowly but surely continued to rehab the injury, and then finally got on the field for some repetitions during mandatory mini-camp.

Now with six weeks of rest, Johnson feels like a new man and is ready to go for training camp without restrictions.

"Everything's full-go," Johnson said as he checked in to his dorm room at St. John Fisher College. "Gotta get it rolling, man, be smart and take care of our bodies. It's going to be an important training camp for all of us, every position. As long as we get things meshing and going on the right track, we'll be all right."

In the team's final off-season workout before they broke for camp, Johnson revealed to Tim Graham of The Buffalo News that he actually had a fractured L-5 vertebra. That apparently is no longer an issue to the wide receiver.

Johnson understands little bumps and bruises are a part of the game, but has one little request for whatever ailment comes his way.

"If I get hurt, as long as it stays in training camp, you know what I mean? If I do get injured, oh, well," he said. "Let's get them out of the way early and get ready for the season."

Johnson is the Bills' top wide receiver and has posted three straight 1,000-yard seasons.

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Bills pre-draft visitor retires as rookie

The career of Arizona Cardinals wide reciever Ryan Swope is over before it even got started. The rookie sixth-round pick out of Texas A&M was forced to retire from the NFL because of concussions suffered in his time at college.

Swope was one of 30 pre-draft visits the Bills conducted in Orchard Park, but fell to the sixth round of the 2013 NFL Draft because of those same concussion concerns. Swope is the second player to end his playing career prematurely due to concussions this year, joining former Detroit running back Jahvid Best.

The Cardinals also released a player that might interest the likes of the Buffalo front office. To make room for the recently signed John Abraham, Arizona released outside linebacker O'Brien Schofield. He started nine games last season and had 4 sacks on the season. He's 6-foot-3, 242 pounds and seen mostly as a 3-4 outside linebacker that rushes the passer.

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ICYMI: #AskJoeB 7/25


With only a few hours to go before the Buffalo Bills make the 90 minute trek over to St. John Fisher College for the start of training camp, I wanted to start a new feature I'll be doing throughout training camp, preseason and the regular season.

You'll be able to find it on Twitter, so make sure to follow me (@JoeBuscaglia) to participate. However, if you don't? I'll compile all of them in a blog entry to see what was and wasn't said. Or, if you hate Twitter altogether (how dare you), you can always just come to the blog and see what you missed.

The questions can be about the Bills or anything random, really. Be sure to hook on Twitter and get in on it the next time around of #AskJoeB.


 
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Bills rank 27th in young talent

While the Buffalo Bills haven't been doing well in pre-training camp power rankings on various publications, there has been a significant movement within the organization to try and get younger at key positions.

With the most recent set of rankings, the Bills and their fans aren't likely to be too happy. Rivers McCown, a writer for Football Outsiders which contributes to ESPN.com, went through every NFL team and ranked their young talent.

What qualifies as young talent, you ask? Players that are ages 25 and under. Much to the chagrin of many in western New York, the Bills come in to this ranked 27th out of 32. Buffalo tops only Chicago, New Orleans, San Diego, Jacksonville and Oakland on that list.

McCown writes:

"Buffalo had a lot of young starters last season, but most of them probably should not have been on the field: Aaron Williams had so many problems at cornerback that Buffalo is converting him to safety this offseason; T.J. Graham was so promising that the Bills selected two more young receivers in the first three rounds of the draft; and linebacker Kelvin Sheppard was practically given away to the Colts for first-round bust Jerry Hughes after the season."

To read the rest of his explanation for the Bills and the full rankings, be sure to click here. It is ESPN Insider content, so you will need a subscription to read the whole thing.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia
 




 

The 5 Bills beneficiaries from Tuesday's moves

When the Buffalo Bills announced on Tuesday that they had cut ties with defensive end Mark Anderson and placed offensive tackle Chris Hairston on the Physically Unable to Perform list, it took away two players from the start of training camp that could have played significant minutes for the team.

Due to both of their absences now, valuable time can go to other players who are healthy and hoping to crack the roster.

Who benefits the most? Take a look:

1) OT Erik Pears
- No matter how much time Chris Hairston takes to get fully healthy, not even having the threat of him practicing heading in to training camp is a breath of life in to Pears' chances of making the roster. Back in May, Pears was listed as the second-most likely to be a cap casualty on the Bills roster because of his contract versus his production. He has a cap hit of $2.8 million in 2013 and $3.45 million in 2014. It's doubtful that he ever comes close to seeing the final year of his contract, but with Hairston sidelined, Pears now has at least a chance to not only make this roster, but maybe even start.

2) OLB Jerry Hughes
- The most impressive defensive player from the spring practices, Hughes will likely get a big bump in playing time. Now that the Bills' coaches don't have to worry about getting Anderson looks just because of the deal he signed in 2012, defensive coordinator Mike Pettine can use Hughes however and whenever he sees fit. The former first-round pick had his most productive season of his career in 2012, and could potentially build off that in Pettine's defense. Keep in mind, Hughes turns only 25 in August.

3) OLB Jamie Blatnick
- Maybe not the household name, but Blatnick was also impressive during spring practices. Coming off the edge and getting a lot of repetitions, his count will only go up in training camp. More importantly now, Blatnick has a significantly higher chance of making the roster without Anderson there. While no player in the NFL wants to see his teammate released, he had to be quite excited upon hearing the news.

4) OT Zebrie Sanders
- The fifth-round pick in 2012, Sanders essentially redshirted in his rookie season. So the team didn't have to risk losing him, they placed the offensive tackle on injured reserve before the final cuts. That started a year's worth of surgery and rehab to which Sanders looks ready to put behind him. Without Hairston taking reps, that means the second team reps are now his for the taking on the right side. If he's impressive enough and Hairston is out for a long period of time, he could even push Pears. With it essentially being his rookie year however, it's not a great bet for Sanders to make that big of a splash that quickly.

5) GM Doug Whaley
- Perception is everything. Last off-season, the Bills made Mark Anderson the Robin to their Batman signing of Mario Williams. One year and roughly $8.1 million in Anderson's pocket later, the Bills were ready to move on. It's a new defense that needs different skill-sets, and the acquisition of both Manny Lawson and Jerry Hughes helped push Anderson out the door. It's a positive step for the franchise to cut their ties with a free agent signing that clearly wasn't working out after one season and move on to free up both playing time and cap space for players better suited for the roster.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia
 




 

Bills place Hairston on PUP list

As the Buffalo Bills announced the release of defensive end Mark Anderson, the team also included another move that opens a roster spot. The Bills have placed offensive tackle Chris Hairston the Physically Unable to Perform list.

Termed a lower body injury by the team, Hairston will not be able to participate in practices for the start of training camp. He was expected to compete with Erik Pears for the starting right tackle job.

With it still being ahead of the season, Hairston will remain on the PUP list until he can pass the team's physical. If that designation is not removed by the time the season starts, the earliest Hairston would be able to play for the Bills is six weeks in to the regular season.

With the transactions, the Bills have three open roster spots to fill if they so choose.

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Bills release DE Mark Anderson

Less than a week to go before the start of training camp for the Buffalo Bills, the team has released one of their big signings from the 2012 off-season. Taking only one sentence to explain in the press release, the Bills announced they have released defensive end Mark Anderson after just one year of his four-year contract.

When the agreement first happened, Anderson inked the contract which would have paid him $19.5 million over the four seasons if he saw the end of the deal. Only $7.9 million, however, was qualified as guaranteed money.

Now with Anderson's release, he made a total of $8,104,850 from Buffalo in his 16 months as a member of the roster. The Bills parting ways with Anderson now means they'll be on the hook for a cap hit of $4.5 million at some point. They could choose to take it all on the 2013 salary cap, or they could instead elect to prorate it.

In real cash however, Anderson will not see a dime of the remaining $11.4 million (his remaining three base salaries and final two years of workout bonuses) that he would have had he been with the Bills all four seasons.

In one injury-plagued season, the 30-year old played in just five games. Anderson amassed only 12 tackles and one sack in 2012.

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So no Byrd deal. What's next for Bills?

The deadline has come and gone for the Buffalo Bills to strike a long-term deal with franchised safety Jairus Byrd, and the two sides have failed to come to an agreement within the given amount of time.

Where did it all go wrong? What's next for the two sides? You really have to look at it from both the team and player's perspectives to try and understand why nothing was accomplished Monday.

Rarely is a simple narrative the only story behind contract negotiations that have gone awry. In this case, there weren't many contract negotiations to speak of. What was the big difference between the sides? Using logic from the point of view of each side, you can start to glean what may have happened.

What went wrong?

When you look at it from the angle of the team, you can make a lot of sense out of why a long-term deal was not reached with their franchised safety.

First and foremost, the expectations of the franchise aren't necessarily high right now for 2013. They have a lot of new faces: a new head coach, offensive coordinator, defensive coordinator, quarterback and much more. With all of that turnover from one year to the next, it's safe to say the Bills aren't really sure what will come of the 2013 season. They're hopeful, but not expecting a big jump in the win category.

Due to that ambiguity and lack of expectation, the Bills are likely quite hesitant to re-sign a player like Byrd to the safety of long-term, guaranteed contract. Byrd excelled in Dave Wannstedt's vanilla 4-3 defense last year. Will he do the same in Mike Pettine's brand new, aggressive scheme?

While you can argue that Byrd likely would be able to succeed due to him having played in three different defenses over his first four seasons, it's not a given. That may also have made the Bills back off the idea on making him the top paid free safety in the NFL.

There's also the argument, which some may disagree with (including yours truly), that safety just isn't a position worth investing a lot of guaranteed money in to.

In contrast, the incentives for Byrd to do a long-term deal were lacking and that's why the two sides remain apart.

While it's an incredibly scary proposition to go in to a year of the injury-plagued NFL without the security of a long-term contract, it's a step Byrd was willing to take without the Bills sending an offer he and his agent Eugene Parker deemed worthy.

The July 15 deadline really was the only leverage play Byrd's camp had. In most franchise tag cases the team really does have the upper-hand in the leverage game, and that's only enhanced once the long-term deal deadline passes.

There's also another angle to consider. What if Byrd simply doesn't want to re-sign long-term in Buffalo? Perhaps that's why he's asking for top-of-the-line money, knowing the Bills likely wouldn't cave to those demands.

All Byrd has known since being in the NFL is losing and constant turnover of coaching staffs. Knowing the window for most players in the league isn't that big, perhaps Byrd looked at this as his one big shot to sign with a contender.

Regardless if he does or does not want to be with the Bills long-term, fans will likely see Byrd in a Buffalo uniform in 2013. The biggest question is when that will be.

What's next?

Starting with Byrd first, it's rather simple. It's very likely Byrd will not want to go through the same song and dance next off-season.

Rather than sitting out the majority of the season, the safety and his agent could try to use that leverage to attempt to facilitate a one-year agreement that benefits them in a certain way. Byrd and Parker will likely push to sign a deal with language to prevent the Bills from assigning either the franchise or transition tag on the player after the 2013 season.

The two sides, if they so choose, could even work it in to the initial franchise tag tender that has yet to be signed. At this point in time because Byrd hasn't signed his tender, he is not subject to any fines for missing training camp or games.

Byrd's camp knows what the Bills have at free safety without him. It's either they use Aaron Williams, who is playing safety for the first time in his life, or they go with fourth-round rookie Duke Williams. No matter which they side with, the drop-off will likely be humongous. They may attempt to play up that fear angle with the Bills.

If Byrd is really dedicated to making the Bills know he means business, he could always sit out until after Week 10 of the regular season and then sign his franchise tag at the last minute. This would give him an accrued season in the NFL, and allow him to hit the free agent market in 2014 as long as the Bills don't use the franchise tag on him once more.

From the Bills' perspective, it's also quite simple.

They can sit back and wait for Byrd and Parker to come to them to either negotiate a one-year deal or to sign his original franchise tag tender. At this point, the Bills have all the leverage in a nothing-to-lose type of season under a first-year head coach.

Without Byrd at camp, they lose an elite player on their defense. However, it also gives them ample opportunity to see exactly what they have behind him by giving first-team repetitions to Williams and Williams.

At this point, the player has more to lose by not signing the one-year agreement. They miss out on a portion of their guaranteed money, they lose the battle of public perception by holding out and they keep themselves off the field in what could be one of the most important years of their career.

The Bills can once again use the franchise tag on Byrd in 2014 before they must officially let him hit unrestricted free agency in the 2015 off-season if they so choose. On the surface, it doesn't appear the team has any real incentive to put in language to prevent a second franchise tag within the framework of their one-year agreement in 2013.

They know Byrd will be in a Bills uniform at some point during the season. All the pressure is on Byrd and what he and his agent elect to do next. Until that time, it's more of the wait-and-see game for the fans hoping for good news about one of the team's best players.

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Byrd, Bills unable to sign long-term deal

Even though the writing has been on the wall for some time, it's now official for the Buffalo Bills and franchised safety Jairus Byrd. No deal was reached by the 4 pm deadline Monday, meaning the two sides can no longer negotiate a long-term agreement until after the 2013 season.

In early March the Bills designated Byrd as their franchise player, agreeing to pay him a guaranteed salary of $6.916 million if he were to sign his tender. To this point, Byrd is the only player of eight in the NFL this year to receive the franchise tag and not sign the one-year tender.

Now the two sides may only agree on a one-year contract, whether it be Byrd signing his one-year tender or the parties working out a separate one-year deal. Since Byrd has yet to sign his tender, he and his agent, Eugene Parker, could push to put language in to the contract to keep the Bills from placing the franchise tag on the safety again in 2014.

Bills' GM Doug Whaley issued this statement just past the 4 pm deadline:

“We worked very hard to come to a long-term agreement with Jairus, but unfortunately were unable to reach one before today’s deadline. Our attention will now be focused on a one-year agreement with him and on training camp with our continued efforts to prepare our team for the upcoming season.”

A second-round pick in 2009, Byrd has spent each of the first four seasons of his career as the starting free safety in the Bills' secondary. In his time there, he earned two separate trips to the Pro Bowl. Byrd has 18 interceptions and 10 forced fumbles over his first four seasons.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia
 
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Mum's the word on Bills' Byrd

Just hours ahead of the Monday deadline at 4 pm, the lingering contract dispute between the Buffalo Bills and safety Jairus Byrd looks to be in the same standing as it was when the team initially placed the franchise tag on him in March.

Taking a look back at even just the past week, the recent news items are not all that encouraging. The two sides aren't talking, the two sides have no plans to talk and the situation could stand to get even shakier.

Here have been the latest reports from various outlets. It's safe to say you might recognize a trend between them all.

Monday, July 8: Tim Graham of The Buffalo News posted a story that there have been no contract talks scheduled between that day and Monday, July 15, and that "there's no understanding between the sides they'll speak any time soon."

Friday, July 12: WGR Sports Radio 550 reported that Byrd was looking for money much like San Diego's Eric Weddle and Tampa Bay's Dashon Goldson, that there have been no talks once again, and that one source indicated they would be "completely and utterly shocked if there was a deal done by Monday." Sources also indicated hesitation from the Bills' perspective because of the position Byrd plays.

Saturday, July 13: Albert Breer of NFL.com tweeted that Byrd is very unlikely to get a deal done with the Bills by Monday at 4 pm. Breer added that Byrd hasn't yet decided if he'll report to training camp without a long-term contract.

Sunday, July 14: Adam Schefter of ESPN.com then reported that there are once again no talks scheduled between the Bills and Byrd, this time with Monday specifically in view. A source to Schefter indicated that the ordeal could extend in to the preseason, "if not longer."

Monday, July 15 (11:44 am): Adam Benigni of WGRZ in Buffalo reports the Byrd camp is now demanding to be paid as the top free safety in the NFL. Benigni also says the Bills were willing to offer a contract that would have put him within the top four or five.

Monday, July 15 (11:53 am): Tim Graham of The Buffalo News reports that there are no plans to have contract negotiations between Byrd's agent Eugene Parker and the Bills before the 4 pm deadline.

The next step in all of this will likely be 4 pm passes, the Bills and Byrd don't have a deal and fans are left wondering what's next for one of the best players on the team. There is the possibility that if the two sides were willing, they could get together within the final hours leading up to the deadline and work to get a deal done.

However, four different reports all indicating the same, sticky conclusion makes it look fairly certain the contract dispute between the Bills and Byrd will continue on in the month of July.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia
 




 

Bills claim LB Dowtin off waivers


The Buffalo Bills have added another player to their roster. The team announced on Friday evening that they have claimed linebacker Marcus Dowtin off of waivers. He was just released by Philadelphia on Thursday.

Dowtin initially signed on with the New York Jets as an undrafted free agent and made it on to their practice squad to start the year. On October 17th, the linebacker was brought up to the 53-man roster and appeared in three games.

Dowtin signed a reserve/future contract with Philadelphia in December, before being released this Thursday.
 

 
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Bills' Gailey playing OL cards close to the vest

With the absence of Eric Wood in the lineup for the Buffalo Bills this week, who starts at center in place of him has been a mystery all week long.

Will it be starting right guard Kraig Urbik shifting over to center, or might it be undrafted rookie David Snow? Even on Friday, head coach Chan Gailey wasn't about to reveal the answer.

When asked if he would shed any light on the offensive line situation for Sunday, Gailey provided a bit of wit to the normally cut-and-paste Friday interview.

"We’ll have five [offensive linemen]," Gailey said. "Every play we’ll have five and some we’ll have six. That’s about as far as I’m ready to go on that. We know what we’re going to do but to be honest with you I don’t want to talk about it right now where everybody’s going to play."

They have to decide whether it's best to start an undrafted rookie at the incredibly important center position, or to affect three starting positions rather than just two by putting Urbik at center.
 
Whatever the decision will be, odds are it won't be revealed until Sunday.
 
 
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Bills' Anderson suffered torn lateral meniscus

Since Mark Anderson suffered his injury against San Francisco in Week 5, there has been an onset of ambiguity as to what kind of knee ailment has kept him off the field for seven games.

To this point, all we knew was that Anderson had to have an initial surgical procedure, had a setback, and needed an additional surgery. On Thursday, Anderson cleared up a bit of the confusion.

"It was just a torn lateral meniscus," said the Bills defensive end. "So, they had to go in and scope it out. Then it had a little catch in it, and then we had to re-scope it. That's all it was, just a torn lateral meniscus."

He also updated his progress after head coach Chan Gailey told reporters Wednesday that he was doing much better this week.

"Ever since the second surgery everything has been rolling along," Anderson remarked. "Each day it's getting a little bit better. That's why I'm just taking it one day at a time. Eventually it's going to be where it needs to be and then you'll see me on the field."

Might he be able to get on the field before the end of the season?

"That's the goal," Anderson replied. "At this point, all I can do is take it one day at a time. I'm working hard every day just trying to get back. It's looking good right now, but like I said, I'm just staying focused on the task and that's just to get back on the field."
 
Anderson has already been ruled out for the Bills' next contest against the St. Louis Rams. He has 12 tackles and one sack in five games this season. This has been the first time Anderson has spoken since his second surgery.

 
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Bills' Sam Young: backup tackle, life coach

It's been a long and arduous road for Buffalo Bills third-string offensive tackle Sam Young.

During college, Young was trusted enough by a major college program to start as a freshman and continue to do so through his senior season. Leading Notre Dame all-time in career starts, playing time was never an issue for the offensive lineman.

Once the microscope started to focus in on his weaknesses more than his strengths, as any NFL Draft process will do, Young quickly found that it wouldn't be quite as easy as a professional. Taken in the sixth round by Dallas in 2010, Young hooked on for one season before being waived in September of 2011.

The Bills claimed his services shortly after his release, and he's hung around since. Due to multiple injuries to the offensive line, Young is on the precipice of his first career start in the NFL.

Not having a ginormous chance to see the field like this before, Young got a bit philosophical when speaking about what lies ahead for him.

"I think kind of what I've learned in my time, it's important to get your foot in the door," said Sunday's starting right tackle. "Once you get your foot in the door it's all up to you and as far as what you're going to make of your situation. If you say, 'Hey, look, I'm a late round guy,' and you don't take advantage of your opportunity, that's your fault. So, I'm just looking forward to take advantage of it."

I don't know about you, but that sounds more like a life lesson than any football cliché you hear or read time and time again. The same thing was brought up to Young.

"It's a fable," the third-year player said after a laugh. "Yeah, but you've got to look at it with the right attitude."

Young will face a stiff test against a St. Louis defensive line that is fourth in the NFL with 34 sacks. To read about Young and undrafted rookie David Snow, who each will be getting their first career start Sunday for the Bills, click here.

 
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Bills' Stevie Johnson on bad weather games: "It sucks"

No matter the medium, whether it's a caller to a sports radio program, a commenter on a social media platform or during an in-person conversation, one thing always holds true around Buffalo in December:

Someone is bound to lecture about the early 90s and how home games in December were an advantage for the Bills, using the weather to get in the minds of their opponents.

The difference between 1991 and 2012? It's not only the opponents that dislike the weather conditions. 

Take Bills wide receiver Stevie Johnson, for instance. Knowing that another cold and rainy game is on the horizon Sunday, much like the conditions last weekend against Jacksonville, Johnson was not as keen on the forecast as some would probably care for.

"It's gonna be raining, we know that. It sucks, in my own opinion," he said. "Personally, I don't like it at all. But it's beneficial towards our running backs, because come to find out when the weather's bad Freddy [Jackson], he's having those big games. C.J. [Spiller] is hard to stop. Whatever it is for the win, if we're running it a lot then it's cool if our running backs are getting off. But, if you ask me personally how I feel about it, I don't like it all."

Knowing that the inclement weather is at times a gasconading source for Buffalonians, it was quickly pointed out to Johnson that his comments may not go over so well.

"Right. And they take pride in this bad weather. But I'm still a California kid," he said, with a wide smile on his face. "I adapt to it. I try to do what I can, be in position to make the plays and try my best to do it. I know everybody else feels the same way, my receivers. But at the end of the day, we still have to get a win. We may think it's bad, but, think about the dome team coming in. So, we should be able to take advantage of it."

The ever-changing forecast now calls for a high of 41-degrees, 11 mile-per-hour winds and a 50-percent chance of rain. Johnson, the rest of the Bills and the St. Louis Rams will all have to hunker down and attempt to stay warm on Sunday.
 
 
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Rams' Jackson, Amendola sit out Wednesday

During the first of three practices leading up to their game against the Buffalo Bills, the St. Louis Rams were without two key pieces of their offense at practice.

Starting running back Steven Jackson and wide receiver Danny Amendola are among five players that did not participate on Wednesday for the Rams. According to Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post Dispatch, Jackson has sat out each of the past three Wednesdays with a foot injury and eventually played in the game on Sunday. Meanwhile Amendola's foot injury is on the mend after having to sit out of the team's last game against San Francisco.

Rounding out the Rams' injury report are linebacker Mario Haggan (elbow), tight end Mike McNeill (thigh) and center Scott Wells (knee). All three did not participate in the session.

The Bills take on the Rams on Sunday.

 




 

Bills update DE Mark Anderson's status

With the emergence of Buffalo Bills defensive end Kyle Moore as a starter in recent weeks, there hasn't been much talk of free agent acquisition Mark Anderson and fans hoping that he gets back in a timely manner.

Anderson sat out of his seventh straight game on Sunday, and will not play once again when the Bills take on the St. Louis Rams at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Head coach Chan Gailey gave a brief update on his defensive end.

"It'll be tough for him this week, but things are looking a lot better than they were this time last week."

A pair of procedures on his knee were deemed necessary since initially injuring it against San Francisco in October. Whether he can return in time for the contest against the Seattle Seahawks in Toronto has yet to be determined.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia
 
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Rainy, cold Sunday may play in to Rams' offensive game

When the Buffalo Bills take on the St. Louis Rams at Ralph Wilson Stadium on Sunday, the weather conditions are looking as though they'll be worse than they were last week against Jacksonville.

Varying somewhere between 48 and 53 degrees, a steady rain and an early lead helped the Bills key in on their run game. When they play against the Rams, the weather is projected to boast only a high of 40 degrees, 11 mile-per-hour winds and a 50-percent chance of rain.

With the Rams being a dome team for at least half their season each year, on paper the inclement weather should be a leg-up for the Bills. But like Buffalo, St. Louis is at their best on offense when the team's running game is going.

"[The weather is] only as big an advantage as you make it," said Bills' defensive tackle Kyle Williams. "Teams around the league, even dome teams, they will get out and play in this kind of stuff. But, when we have bad weather games up here, obviously we should be  more accustomed to it."

"Obviously I think they want to run the ball. Everything they do, they run the ball to set up everything else, their play action games and things like that. It goes back on what we've talked about the past couple of weeks. We have to have success on first and second down to be able to do anything to disrupt [Sam Bradford]."

Last week, Bills running backs rushed for 186 yards and a touchdown on a whopping 39 carries. In 2012, Steven Jackson and Daryl Richardson have helped the Rams average 115.1 yards per game on the ground.

The Bills and Rams square off in Orchard Park on Sunday.
 
 
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