"A born-again rookie. Hopefully I’m on the Blake Griffin plan and I can bounce back like he did."
That's the goal in place for the on paper second-year Buffalo Bills wide receiver Marcus Easley, who had his rookie campaign come to a screeching halt way before it ever got close to starting. A knee injury derailed his hopes for playing in 2010 when the Bills placed him on season-ending injured reserve.
It's been an especially long break for Easley. His lost year just happened to coincide with the 132-day NFL Lockout.
"I know the lockout’s been about four months for everybody else, but I’ve been locked out close to a year now," remarked Easley. "It’s been a long time coming."
That time off came with a price. When asked by reporters which players the lockout hurt the most, Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick mentioned the second-year receiver by name.
"I think also one of the guys it hurts is a Marcus Easley, a guy that was around last year, but was hurt and didn’t really get to play and work with us and run routes," Fitzpatrick stated. "Hopefully he can get up to speed quick.”
But to Easley, his optimism remains. He gets a fresh start this season and another chance at a rookie year.
"I’ve come a long way, said Easley. "I tried to take this time that I had off as kind of like a redshirt year. It’s like one of those times you’re around, you’re able to participate but you’re just not active on the field."
Easley has been taking all this time to do just that. In the final weeks of the season, you could find him inside the fieldhouse while the rest of the team practiced outside. He worked with a trainer on his sprinting and explosion, trying to build his knee back up. Then this past off-season, he flew down to Arizona to partake in 'Camp Fitzpatrick,' joining many of his receiving brethren from the Bills for the informal workouts.
The man running those workouts was of course the Bills starting QB, and he sung the praises of Easley.
“I’ve got real high hopes for him," Fitzpatrick said. "The combination of his size and speed is a rarity. He’s a guy that didn’t play a lot of receiver up until college really, but he’s a special talent and you hope that he’s going to be able to learn from some of the other guys and really have an impact for us this year.”
Appearing on WGR in June, Fitzpatrick described Easley as "a beast." The size? 6-foot-2. The Bills official website list him at 207-pounds, but Easley said he's up to 220 and feeling comfortable at the new weight. Don't forget, he ran a 4.39 40-yard dash leading up to the 2010 NFL Draft. Fitzpatrick and company are hoping that combination makes a difference for them this season.
"I was on IR all last year so I was kind of like an outcast compared to everybody else with not being able to participate," said Easley. He continued on about the Arizona workouts, "It was kind of like the first chance I was able to kind of not only run routes, but hang out. We got to learn more about each other. It made our relationship stronger. Hopefully that will carry over to on the field."
It all starts on Friday for Easley as he tries to make an impact for Buffalo this season. Training camp starts, and you can be sure the opening day jitters will be there just like last year.
"At this point in time, I think I’m as ready as I’ll ever be. I’m just looking forward to getting out to St. John Fisher and showing what I got."