A shortened practice wrapped up in the gymnasium at St. John Fisher College, as lightning forced the Buffalo Bills indoors to end Tuesday's practice.
Without a full set of team drills to chew on, there weren't a bevy of plays to substantiate the notebook on. However, there were some highlights and lowlights for a few of the players. Here are just some brief notes from Tuesday:
- Practice MVP: Jairus Byrd. The man who really stepped up his game last season to the next level was on top of things Tuesday. Byrd's anticipation was right there, blanketing receivers during 1-on-1 and team drills. His only misstep was reacting a quarter of a second too late on a comeback route thrown to the sidelines. The ball hung a bit, and if Byrd were a shade faster, he's still running with the football in his hands.
- Practice LVP: Tyler Thigpen. It didn't start off very well for Thigpen, sailing a couple of routine throws over the heads of receivers on a simple 12-to-15 yard out route. Then during team drills there just didn't seem to be any zip on the ball. A cornerback was beat clean on a fly route and Thigpen threw it at least six yards behind the receiver's projection. To his credit, he did connect on a couple of longer passes. But in such a short practice where not a lot of team drills were utilized, Thigpen stood out in a bad way.
- Wide receiver David Clowney had the catch of the day, as he used his speed to motor past corner back Isaiah Green on a fly route. Clowney had a solid two steps on Green and the ball was delivered right in his breadbasket.
- I wonder just how much of a role backup safety Da'Norris Searcy will have this season. It's been a bit eye opening to see him getting as many reps as he is with the first team. I think he could have a bigger role in the defense this season than what is presently being talked about. It's unlikely that he'll start at the beginning of the season, but I would expect to see number-25 on the field more than most backup safeties to start 2012.
- It wasn't much but a pair of rookie linebackers did some things to warrant a mention. Fourth-round pick Nigel Bradham, in one of his first team reps, fired through the hole to stop a designed run play before it ever got started. What stood out most was his quickness and recognition to get there. The linebacker can certainly run, there's no doubt there. Fifth-round pick Tank Carder has been known to excel in the coverage aspect. But his teammates razzed him a little bit during the gym session. During this "practice" time, quarterbacks primarily lob the ball to their targets. On a screen play designed for Tashard Choice, rather than allowing the runner to catch the ball, Carder stuck his hands out for an interception. The action immediately drew some comments from the offense -- most notable the offensive line. It was a funny, light-hearted moment during the practice.
- During 1-on-1 drills, reserve offensive lineman Keith Williams did a nice job blocking against Spencer Johnson. Williams was lined up at right guard going up against the defensive tackle, and thwarted a spin move attempt while keeping good balance and leverage. He may not make the team, but a solid effort nonetheless.
- Nothing like showing up your veteran counterpart, if only for one fleeting moment. Rookie kicker John Potter watched Rian Lindell boot a 59-yard field goal just a tad right and just a tad short early on in practice. Potter came in on the next rep and put it through the uprights from the same distance. No kicking controversy here, it's Lindell's job. But a good job by Potter with the heat of blockers surrounding the kick.
- Erik Pears practiced, but did not do any 1-on-1 drills or team activities. Eric Wood took two snaps in team drills, his first two at training camp this year. Johnny White, Justin Rogers, Josh Nesbitt, Kellen Heard and David Nelson did not practice. Running back Chris Douglas injured his leg after being tackled by safety Delano Howell.
The Bills next practice Wednesday evening for the team's second night session of training camp at St. John Fisher College. It is open to the public, but fans need a ticket for entry.
The tenth overall selection was here, the Buffalo Bills logo was on screen during whichever broadcast you were watching, and many fans were intently watching to see which young player would be designated as the one to help out the team almost immediately.
The pick came through and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced South Carolina cornerback Stephon Gilmore as the selection. The broadcast cued up the shot of the green room, presenting Gilmore slowly getting up and hugging his family.
Except, something was off. Normally you see an immense amount of jubilation from a player as their childhood dream has come true right before their very ears and eyes. But the poker face look on Gilmore remained throughout. It cause many fans to think that he wasn't happy about Buffalo.
Heck, it even surprised quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick a bit as he was watching the draft unfold. But since he's got a chance to work with Gilmore in person, he says he comprehends why the young cornerback reacted the way he did.
"Well I can tell you my opinion of him has changed since draft day, when I saw him get drafted and have no emotion or expression on his face. Now I understand why, knowing him," Fitzpatrick explained. "It wasn't that he was upset to be in Buffalo, he just has a quiet confidence about him. He's genuinely a great guy, and he wants to get better each and every day. I can do nothing but respect that -- the way that he works out here and how he's trying to get better in asking questions and doing all that. There's a lot that's been talked about him but he's got to go out and do it on Sunday's and he knows that. I think he's excited for the challenge and he'll be up for it."
Gilmore has been atop the cornerback depth chart since the very first session of Organized Team Activities. He's continued to impress in the four days of training camp the team has endured thus far.
By now it's a fairly public piece of information in the way that Buffalo Bills head coach Chan Gailey allows Stevie Johnson to run his routes to get to the correct spot. In some patterns, you'll see Johnson put on three-to-four moves to try and deceive the cornerback he's matched up against -- that's just part of his game and what has made him so effective.
Johnson isn't the only receiver with that kind of leeway. It's a common practice for all the Bills' receivers as they attempt to get open for quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Wideout Donald Jones shared as much on the Howard Simon Show on Tuesday morning.
"A lot of offenses in the NFL, you have to run your route a certain way each time -- a certain depth each time. In this offense we have to be at the right depth, but we can get there however we get there," Jones told Howard Simon and Jeremy White. "Chan's philosophy is to just beat the man and don't fool the quarterback. So however you get to the spot, you get there on time, you're good. That's basically a freedom. You can take whatever release you want to do. In most offenses, you can't do that."
Jones also went on to talk about what goes through his mind on a given play and much more. You can hear the full interview below:
The Buffalo Bills held their first night session at St. John Fisher College Sunday, and worked in front of a spirited group of fans. The team ended the practice with a 90-second drill starting 80-yards out from the end zone.
The results? The second-team went four-and-out, while the first-team had the pass batted at the line of scrimmage and was intercepted on their very first play. That ended the night in Pittsford, NY.
So for the second straight day, the defense did the majority of damage. There were some offensive standouts, but as a whole the defense reigned supreme. With that said, let's give out some practice awards:
- Day 4 MVP: Cornerback Stephon Gilmore. I thought the rookie had his strongest day so far. He was physical with receivers at the line, he stuck to his assignments like glue, and more importantly he stayed with the play even if the ball hit the receivers' hands and ripped it out for an incompletion on a few occasions. It's always a big learning process for a young cornerback, but Gilmore certainly showed well for himself Sunday evening.
- Day 4 LVP: Left tackle Cordy Glenn. While he had a positive day on Saturday, Glenn did not have his best practice on Sunday. Chris Kelsay routinely blew by Glenn as he was attempting to keep the pocket clean. With the type of talent on the defensive line and the offensive line being a patchwork one as it is (Eric Wood, Erik Pears both not doing team drills), they needed one of their 'starters' to make a play. Glenn just didn't have it Sunday. He's young and there's a long way to go before the season starts, but he needs better days than that one.
- A pair of wide receivers really stood out, and they aren't any of the usual suspects. Here I go writing about another rookie -- but hey, why not? T.J. Graham had a very nice practice for the Bills. He looked comfortable catching the ball over his shoulder, and burned Ron Brooks deep on a fly route for a very, very long touchdown. Graham has a big opportunity to earn some trust from the coaches while David Nelson is out nursing a strained tendon in his knee. As does Marcus Easley, who had the catch of the day against Aaron Williams. Williams got a hand on the ball and it tipped straight in the air, and Easley was able to control his body enough to secure the catch on the sidelines. He was also very smooth and fluid in his movements, having what was his best practice yet in this writer's opinion.
- Might as well keep rookie watch going with the play of Ron Brooks on Sunday evening. He got burned by Graham for a big time touchdown, but there's also a little bit of concern from me about how he plays the ball. For one reason or another, Brooks doesn't quite seem to get himself turned around in time to make a play on the ball. It always seems like he's a step behind or a tad late. He is above average at reacting to a receivers hands, but his anticipation could be way better. That's just the pangs of developing a young cornerback.
- I have been so impressed by Scott Chandler throughout the first four days and I can't believe this is the first time I'm writing about him. It just seems like there's something a little bit different about him this year. Maybe it's a bit of swagger -- I recall him being more vocal than I've ever seen him during practices at OTAs and mini-camp -- or maybe it's the fact that the Bills re-signed him. Whatever it is, it's working. Everything within his reach has been caught. It doesn't matter if it's in traffic or if he knows there is a potential big hit coming, if the ball hits his hands it's a reception. If he can continue that in to the season, that's a great security blanket to have for Ryan Fitzpatrick.
- In the daily "how did the backup quarterbacks look" portion of the notebook, I'll give you this answer: A bit better, but still not that great. Tyler Thigpen had his best pass of training camp when he hit a receiver right in the hands on a rather lengthy flag pattern. Vince Young saw a weakness in coverage (they didn't spy the QB, which is a no-no against Young) and quickly took off for a big gain twice. Other than that, there were still opportunities to complete passes that quarterbacks normally should that were instead misfired and incomplete. Ryan Fitzpatrick is far and away the best and most consistent quarterback at training camp.
- When it comes to third string left tackle James Carmon, there is no way he will make the 53-man roster. He is just too raw at this point and doesn't consistently put it together enough. However, he is a rookie, and is in only his second season as an offensive lineman. Yes, you read that correctly. He was a college defensive tackle up until his senior season when Mississippi State flipped him to left tackle. You see some flashes with Carmon. That along with his frame (6-foot-7, 320-pounds), I think he could be an ideal practice squad project-type left tackle. Everybody loves one of those, and the Bills don't have that right now.
- David Nelson, Josh Nesbitt, Erik Pears, Kellen Heard and Mike Caussin did not participate in any capacity on Sunday. Torell Troup and Shawne Merriman both did some individual drills before the Bills got in to team drills. Justin Rogers injured his hamstring during the session.
The Bills have the day off on Monday, and get back to work with practice Tuesday at 3 pm. The session is open to the public at St. John Fisher College.
After suffering an injury to his right knee on Saturday, Buffalo Bills wide receiver David Nelson was unable to take any repetitions during Sunday afternoon's walk-through. The wideout was involved in a collision and had to leave Saturday's practice prematurely.
With a day off scheduled for Monday, it would seem Nelson is unlikely to take part in the Bills' practice on Sunday evening. He left the walk-through a few minutes early with a trainer.
Erik Pears did not take any reps either, with backup Sam Young getting all the first team reps. The right tackle did not participate in practice on Saturday due to aggravating his groin injury. Despite not practicing on Saturday, defensive end Shawne Merriman took part in the walk-through. Defensive tackle Torell Troup was not on the field, however.
As Buffalo Bills center Eric Wood has been attempting to make his way back from a torn ACL, the team has been very cautious with how much they put him through. With a few days of practice in the rearview mirror, the starter is inching his way back to being a full-participant.
"I'm excited. It's not a good feeling watching all your teammates practice," Wood said. "Just going through individual then not actually getting to do the fun part of practice, the team drills. I'm absolutely excited to get back, but in the same sense I'm trying to be cautious and trying to be patient. But, yeah, definitely getting a little anxious about it."
Head coach Chan Gailey declared during the first week of practice that they would likely wait to put the center in team drills until after the first one-day break, which just so happens to be on Monday.
So is the knee getting close to the 100-percent marker? Wood confirmed that.
"Yeah, and I may be 100-percent right now," he remarked. "It feels great in the individual drills but it would have been dumb for me to come back in Day 1, and go right back in to team drills when all those coaches know what I can offer them. It wouldn't have been smart to get my feet wet, knock some of the rust off it before I head back in to team drills."
In his absence, starting right guard Kraig Urbik has been shifting over to center, and also reserve lineman Colin Brown has been taking some snaps with the first team.
The Bills practice Sunday night, then don't have another official practice until Tuesday afternoon.
As the shoulder pads went on and the Buffalo Bills took to the field, it was the first time to really see some live contact at St. John Fisher College.
And with that first day of pad popping, I focused in on the 1-on-1 drills between the offensive and defensive linemen. There were a couple that stood out, while a few left a ton to be desired. Let's take a look at notes from the third day of practice.
- Day 3 MVPs: Since I focused on the battles at the line of scrimmage, it's fitting to give out one on each side of the ball. For that, I give you Mario Williams and Andy Levitre. I know -- big shocker, right? Williams went up against Sam Young, who was with the first group because of Erik Pears aggravating his groin injury. Williams pretty much ate him for lunch all practice long. It wasn't really a fair fight, but the natural power and movement from Williams was on full display Saturday. I liked the day of Levitre in his 1-on-1 battle against Kyle Williams especially. Levitre displayed good leverage, sustained Williams' bull rush attempts and anchored down to hold him at bay. It was technical blocking at its finest.
- Day 3 LVP: Zebrie Sanders. I think Sanders has jumped early for a false start more times throughout off-season workouts and the first few days at training camp then he's gotten it right. Two straight false starts in the 1-on-1 drill clearly had him thinking about that, and then on the third attempt defensive end Kyle Moore ripped Sanders down to the ground and had an easy shot at the quarterback. Bad day for the rookie.
- I focused in on Aaron Williams on Friday so I wanted to follow up. His day on Saturday was a bit of a roller coaster. Early on he was getting beat like he had been during the first two days of training camp. Then his next rep on a 1-on-1 was against Stevie Johnson. Williams didn't bite on any of Johnson's fakes and played the route perfectly, high-pointing the ball to knock it to the ground. The talent is there, the consistency is not just yet.
- Left tackle Cordy Glenn had a very strong day as the second-team left tackle. He was matched up against Chris Kelsay for the third straight day, and got the better of one of the longest-tenured Bills on the roster throughout the day. He's got such natural talent to go alone with his size. His quicker-than-you-think feet keeps him in the right position and he can engulf the defender. He really looked the part Saturday.
- I'm not sure that Tyler Thigpen or Vince Young are trying to win the backup job. It's been an atrocious start for those two as they battle it out to be Ryan Fitzpatrick's emergency plan if he gets injured. Thigpen highlighted his day of inaccuracy with two straight interceptions thrown directly in to the arms of defenders. Rookie Ron Brooks and safety Nick Sukay were the recipients of a pair of gifts. We'll see if the night practice on Sunday can spark Vince Young in to a solid day.
- I love the way that Derek Hagan gets in and out of his breaks. The veteran wide receiver has been trying to hook on with a team and may have found a home in Buffalo. He runs hard to the spot, is in control of his body and able to break off his breakdown quite smoothly. He bobbled a couple of passes today, and immediately hit the jug machine after practice for a solid 15 minutes. He's not taking this opportunity lightly.
- I mentioned him earlier, but keep an eye out for Kyle Moore. He displays some nice moves to get to the passer in 1-on-1 drills. At 6-foot-6 and 263-pounds, Moore has the prototypical size Buddy Nix and Chan Gailey are always looking for at the defensive end position. With Merriman being such a big question mark, I would not put it past the Bills to keep Moore on the 53-man roster as a fifth defensive end.
- David Nelson had to leave practice early after injuring what appeared to be his right knee during a collision. He attempted to walk it off, but had to go back to the trainer's room to get it checked out. After practice, Chan Gailey said they didn't believe it had ligament damage, and it may be "like a bruise." I would assume Nelson sits out of practice on Sunday night.
- Shawne Merriman and Erik Pears both missed practice on Saturday. Merriman rolled an ankle on Friday, but wasn't completely hobbled by it according to Gailey. The head coach didn't sound overly concerned about the injury. Pears had minor surgery this off-season on his groin, and aggravated it on Friday. He sat out Saturday as a precaution.
- Defensive tackle Kellen Heard left the field mid-practice. He's been dealing with an ankle injury for some time now.
Practice resumes Sunday for the first night practice at St. John Fisher College. It's slated to start at 6:30 pm. It is open to the public, but you need a ticket to enter the facilities.
When the Buffalo Bills initially released their roster during off-season workouts, there was a definitive switch in one players title.
Long-time safety Bryan Scott went from being listed at that spot, to know having the letters 'L' and 'B' next to his name. That should be a big deal, right? Wrong, says Scott.
"The only thing that changes is my official listing. Besides that, there's no difference to what I did last year," he said. "A lot of in the box stuff, covering running backs and tight ends. Now I'm just in the linebacker meeting rooms to really gel and get that chemistry with the backers since I'm working with them more."
Scott is heading in to his tenth season in the NFL, and has been with the Bills for what could be six of them. Being a mainstay in the locker room, Scott was glad to be back when the organization came calling to give him a new contract.
"It means a lot. It really means a lot. This organization is like my family, these guys are my family. They just have a great thing going on and I'm excited and happy to be a part of it."
The linebacker has been entrusted the past couple of seasons with the unenviable task of covering some of the games' best tight ends.
He and the Bills kick off the pre-season schedule August 9 at Ralphi Wilson Stadium against Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins.
When the Buffalo Bills added wide receiver Derek Hagan late in 2011 due to some injuries at the position, little did they know they'd be getting a player that would impress enough to battle for a regular rotational job with the team in 2012.
What some Bills fans didn't know, is that they were also getting a full-fledged movie star on their hands. No, Derek Hagan isn't an action star or one that does romantic comedy. But his journey through the 2006 NFL Draft is well documented in the movie Two Days in April.
"When I really look at it, it's just like, 'Wow,' and how young I really was," said the now 27-year old Hagan. "Just being that young and going through the draft process, getting drafted and going to Miami, just to see where I'm at now in the league. A couple of guys are still playing the other guys aren't playing no more. As far as for myself it's just a blessing to be around those guys that was in the movie with me. It's something I'll cherish and a memory that I'll never forget."
Hagan was featured along with linebacker Clint Ingram, wide receiver Travis Wilson and running back DonTrell Moore as the film followed along the pre-draft process. Hagan was the third of the players to be taken off the board when the Dolphins used the 82nd selection on him. He is the only player still signed by an NFL team.
The last time Hagan watched the film? One month ago, as he randomly stumbled across it on Netflix. He had designs on watching a different movie, but said he couldn't pass it up.
Hagan has been getting first team reps in the early going of both off-season workouts and at training camp. He's battling for what could be just a pair of open roster spots at wide receiver.
Here are a few notes about who shined and who didn't from the day of practice at St. John Fisher College:
- I think I'll start doling out daily MVP and LVP awards, and the most valuable on Friday for me was defensive tackle Marcell Dareus. It's hard to get a good gauge on linemen without full pads on, but Dareus as a whole was very good today. There was one play in particular that the second-year player blew through the right guard and corralled CJ Spiller on a run play in the backfield. It looked as though Dareus hurt his ankle late in practice, but told Paul Hamilton afterwards that he's fine and just walked it off.
- So that leads us to the least valuable player of the practice. Those honors will go to second-year cornerback Aaron Williams. The young player didn't look his best on Thursday but still made some plays, meanwhile on Friday was getting caught out of position and burned deep on some fly routes. In 7-on-7's Williams couldn't keep up with rookie T.J. Graham, and even before that in 1-on-1's Williams kept waiting for Stevie Johnson to break off his route and the wideout just jetted past him. Williams will need to improve when the pads go on Saturday.
- Vince Young continued the trend of backup quarterbacks not having a great day throwing the ball. While there were a few nice passes Young connected on -- particularly downfield -- as a whole he was erratic and wildly inaccurate. Of course the newest Bills quarterback is in a battle with Tyler Thigpen to be the backup quarterback to Ryan Fitzpatrick, and got the second-team snaps on Friday. Those will once again be Thigpen's on Saturday as the two continue to switch daily.
- In his first day of 2012 training camp getting first team reps, Chris Kelsay provided a nice boost off the right side of the defensive line. He beat rookie left tackle Cordy Glenn for a sack, and consistently stayed within himself against the run. He may not be the flashiest player that will get a ton of sacks, but he can come in and help get stops from time to time.
- I've continued to be impressed by the way Nigel Bradham closes on the ball carriers. He flashed some quickness and speed during off-season workouts, and did it once again on Friday. If he can continue picking things up quickly on the defense, I can see him being a contributor this season. Maybe not a starter, but a player that can be brought in on certain plays without having to worry about him as a liability.
- One of my sleeper picks to make the team, Dorin Dickerson had trouble catching the football on Friday. A pair of passes hit him square in the numbers and dropped to the ground. If he wants to defy the odds and make this roster, he can't have too many more days like that one.
- A reserve linebacker that not many are talking about is 2011 sixth-round pick Chris White. Attempting to come back from a knee injury, White was unable to do much during off-season workouts. At training camp however, he's participating in team drills and has looked good particularly in coverage. White picked off one pass, and did well on another play to watch the quarterback's eyes and break up the pass as it was about to sail over his area. He may be a long-shot to make the team, but he had a good day.
Practice continues on Saturday at 3 pm. The session is open to the public.
By now we all know it's been 12 years since the Buffalo Bills made it to the post-season, and every building year serves as another to yearn for a spot in the playoffs once again.
Quietly, Kyle Williams has been around for the last half of that drought, six seasons in total. With a lot of new pieces in place and old faces being re-signed, the defensive tackle knows this could be the Bills' best shot as any in recent memory to get back to the playoffs.
Perhaps that's a bit of the reason why he responded to a question about playoffs being the expectation with such force and finality. It's been a long time for Bills fans, and he's never seen the post-season. Williams is certainly ready for them.
"Those should always be expectations. Those should always be what you're striving and working for," he said Thursday. "Because if you're not, you don't need to be here. We don't want you on the team. If you're here just to hang around and collect a check, go away. We want to go to the playoffs, that's what we're here for."
Thursday also served as the first practice of training camp, and another step in the right direction for Williams as he attempts to come back from foot surgery. The seventh-year pro from LSU talked about how it felt after the first session.
"It felt good today. We went out on the grass and I've kind of made some changes in my footwear that took a little stress off of it. It felt pretty good today, hopefully it will just continue to get better and better."
Practice continues through mid-August at St. John Fisher College.
When you're a player in the NFL in your first, second or third training camp, there are still some obvious things to learn about yourself as a player. For many of those players, they are still working on coming in to their own as a professional football player and camp can help in that capacity.
But when you're a veteran in the league, much like Buffalo Bills linebacker Nick Barnett, you approach it in your own unique way to maximize it's usefulness.
Barnett, now in his 10th training camp in the NFL, knows exactly what he needs to do when he checks in for training camp.
"I think the thing I do in camp is to learn things. Being blessed to be able to play this game a long time and knowing that you're counted on to be on the field, you don't stress yourself out about just making the team, you stress yourself out about beating your first opponent in the regular season game. So I think I work on things that I may see against the Jets and those teams like that.
"I'm trying to get focused and honed in on the fundamentals of the game -- the man techniques, making the calls, being a leader and being able to communicate to guys and leading by example. When you build yourself as a leader is through camp, because guys are there the most. That's when you come together as a family."
Barnett will be heavily depended on this season as an outside linebacker in Dave Wannstedt's 4-3 defense, reprising a role he once had in Green Bay before the team switched to a 3-4.
Friday's practice gets underway at 3 pm at St. John Fisher College.
At the very core of football is a game that matches 22 men split evenly, most of which growing up playing the game for the rudimentary reasoning of it being fun.
Fast forward through college football and to the National Football League, it's amazing to see just how much some that are talented enough, will go through to play that very game. This thought is brought on after speaking with Buffalo Bills defensive tackle Torell Troup following the first practice.
After having a positive day during conditioning on Wednesday, Troup tightened up a bit during the team's first practice on Thursday and was extremely limited. That's just part of the painful process that comes with being only seven months removed from serious back surgery.
Rewind the clock to this time last year and you would have seen Troup making significant steps forward in his game during training camp. Then the injury bug hit the defensive tackle, and hit him hard.
"I was so well prepared for the season last year, then two freak injuries sidelined me," Troup said. "There was nothing I could really do about it, so now I feel like I have something to prove but the coaches tell me, 'Just be ready for the first game.' So it's kind of like I'm fighting my own demon here. I want to be full go, I want to do all this stuff but my body's telling me I can't right now, so it's kind of hard."
Going through that line of thinking is a mental game, and there isn't anything more humbling to a player than having to go through rehabbing an injury for a significant amount of time. That's where their mettle truly gets tested.
"I'm not gonna lie: [it's] very, very difficult. Some days waking up and not being able to get out of bed and you know, needing help to take showers, walk down stairs... it's crazy because I'm only 24-25 years old. I'm 25 now. You don't expect anything like that when you're 25 years old.
"Just to be able to fight through that and just to be where I'm at now -- to even be on the field is really a blessing because a lot of guys probably wouldn't have done what I did. I get praise from the trainers and praise from the weight coaches because of how much pain I go through and how much pain I'm willing to tolerate to play football. Because I love football, I love the Bills, I want to play, I want to help the team in any way possible. It's been hard."
And there it is, the very core of any professional football player exuded by Troup: competitiveness, passion and a love for the game.
Heading in to his third year, Troup says he's putting a lot of pressure on himself to get back and contribute to the team. But it's not up to him, the former UCF standout is at the mercy of his back and how far it will let him go.
As the Buffalo Bills finished up their very first official practice of the 2012 NFL season, a few unexpected players got some first team reps while some attempting to come back from injury had to be limited. Here are a few short highlights about the day that was:
- The lasting impression for me was the play of Stevie Johnson in the first practice. He looked like he was in mid-season form. Smooth in his routes, met the ball at it's highest point, catching the ball in traffic -- Johnson looked the part. Adding to it all was that the years that Ryan Fitzpatrick and Johnson have been linking up in the passing game are really paying off. On comeback routes Fitzpatrick timed them perfectly to his receiver. Johnson really was the star of the show for me.
- For his first day on the job, rookie cornerback Stephon Gilmore had some positive and negative plays both. The starter let a would-be interception hit him right in the numbers and fall to the ground, but then got right back in to it and broke up a pass to Derek Hagan during 7-on-7's. It will be a learning process for him just because of the volatility of the position. A solid first day overall, however.
- T.J. Graham made the nicest catch of the day. Graham ran down the sideline on a fly route against cornerback Justin Rogers. The pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick was underthrown, allowing both Graham and Rogers to fight for it. Rogers tipped it in to the air as both players started falling to the ground. The ball went in the direction of Graham who tipped it once while falling, and then corralled it in to his hands as he was laying on the ground. An adventurous way to make the play, but the rookie made it.
- On Wednesday, Chan Gailey said they wouldn't force Eric Wood in to doing too much, too fast. Gailey held true to his word on Thursday, holding Wood out of team drills during the first practice. Without him, Kraig Urbik shifted over to center and Chad Rinehart entered as the right guard. Right tackle Erik Pears did most the work at right tackle during team drills, but Sam Young replaced him for one series. Pears is recovering from minor off-season surgery.
- Separately speaking with the offensive line, Chris Hairston was the opening day left tackle. That trend will likely not continue tomorrow, though. Gailey said the two will switch it up every day as they continue to evaluate who will be the opening day left tackle. Rookie Cordy Glenn will likely get the first team reps on Friday.
- A lot like with the wide receivers, there are a lot of moving parts to the linebacking group as a whole. Kelvin Sheppard and Nick Barnett are the two main starting linebackers. However, also getting reps with the first team were Kirk Morrison, Bryan Scott, Arthur Moats and rookie Nigel Bradham. That seems to be the contingent of linebackers the Bills have the most faith in. What that potentially means for third-year player Danny Batten has yet to be seen.
- Along the same lines of left tackle, the Bills will alternate between Tyler Thigpen and Vince Young on who gets the second team repetitions during a practice. Today was Thigpen's day, and it was one to forget. Thigpen constantly had a noticeable wobble on most of his passes and was missing very easy throws.
Friday's practice gets started at St. John Fisher College at 3 pm. Be sure to keep checking back with WGR Sports Radio 550 and WGR550.com as camp continues.
To say that the Buffalo Bills had a good off-season in bringing back players they consider key to their efforts, it would be a bit of an understatement. Now with training camp here and the team in attendance at St. John Fisher College, the conversations about which impending free agents the Bills will be looking to re-sign is starting to pop up.
Speaking with The Howard Simon Show on Thursday morning, GM Buddy Nix was asked about two players in particular: left guard Andy Levitre and safety Jairus Byrd. Both players are heading in to their fourth season and will be an unrestricted free agent in 2013 if they aren't inked to an extension.
Nix said all's quiet:
"Nothing's going on, except I've told them we want 'em, and we do. We'll get in to that after we get in to the season or in to camp good, we will broach that subject. Hopefully we can keep them."
Levitre and Byrd both have really come in to their own as starters for the Bills, and have become staples of the starting lineup. In the case of Levitre, he told WGR on June 12 that the Bills have reached out in a very preliminary fashion.
"There have been some small talks, but I don't know how far along anything is," he remarked after an OTA session last month. "I don't know if they're just getting started or what not. There hasn't been any numbers thrown around or anything like that, so maybe just getting started."
In the same breath as saying that the Bills would like to keep both players, Nix also warned that eventually the team won't be able to keep everybody around.
"For the most part, guys that we really wanted to keep, we have. Even though it is a business decision and there is business limitations even though you want to keep 'em… look at Mario Williams. Houston, they made one last-ditch effort. The night before he came here, he flew to Houston I think and met with the GM. They wanted to keep him, they just couldn't. Money-wise they couldn't. If we keep going, we're going to get in that situation where we're going to lose some good players."
Nine games in to the 2011 NFL season, there's little doubt that running back Fred Jackson was the most valuable player for the Buffalo Bills.
Heading in to the tenth game of the year, Jackson had 917 rushing yards, six touchdowns and more importantly was the go-to player throughout that stretch of the season. Then in that fateful contest in Miami, Jackson took a helmet to the leg and fans didn't see him take another snap that year.
The Bills' top rusher was placed on injured reserve which some called a 'fractured leg,' but was actually a fractured bone in his leg. The difference between the two is rather large. On Wednesday, Jackson said himself that it really wasn't as big of a deal as some were making it out to be, and that he's fully healthy now.
"I don't really consider my injury last year as serious as a lot of people say. It was just a dumb bone that I fractured. I was walking around on it two weeks later without a problem. It's a non-big weight-bearing bone, so I'm fine. One-hundred percent ready to go. I'm excited to be back out here. Yeah, it took me off the field last year, but it's not a catastrophic injury that I suffered last year."
Jackson, 31, was signed to a contract extension this off-season.
It's a long-standing cliché in the National Football League, but for the most part it's usually accurate.
In the third year of a player's career, you can usually start to determine -- if you haven't already -- what type of impact a player may be able to have at the professional level.
With a pair of seasons mostly riddled with inactivity for different reasons, 2010 picks Torell Troup and Alex Carrington have a tall order heading in to their third training camp.
With the Buffalo Bills switching back to a 4-3 defensive scheme, both players are in the glut of depth at defensive tackle. Already with Kyle Williams, Marcell Dareus, Spencer Johnson and Dwan Edwards at the position, the two third-year players will be battling it out with other youngsters to make the team.
Troup, a second-round pick, has went through setback after setback with injuries since he's entered the league. Early on in last year's training camp, it looked as though Troup was really making some waves. That was only to be thwarted by yet another injury which held him at bay for another season.
Carrington has largely been healthy, but just hasn't been able to crack the defensive line rotation consistently enough. The team's third-round pick in 2010 out of Arkansas State, Carrington has taken to the off-season the past two years to bulk up in a big way. He's now listed at 301-pounds on the team's official website.
The two will be in a fight not only for playing time, but one would have to think for a roster spot entirely. Chan Gailey touched on that after Wedendsay's conditioning workout.
"Anybody that's going in to their third year, it's time for them to step up -- and I think they will. I think they'll give their very best effort," he started. "There's a lot of great competition there. That's going to be a very difficult decision when it comes down to it because I think we've got some good players in that area and whoever produces and plays the best are the guys we're going to keep."
In a move that isn't all that shocking or alarming, Buffalo Bills head coach Chan Gailey confirmed what was expected as the team gets ready for their first practice of training camp on Thursday.
Even though the job is still up for grabs, incumbent starter Donald Jones will open up camp as the number-two wide receiver.
"Donald will start there. But still, we're looking at everybody. We've not ruled anybody out at this point at that spot. You've got to have somebody that walks out there the first day and you all will write about it and talk about it, but we're going to move people around at different times at camp," Gailey remarked.
Jones will be in a battle with fellow wideouts Derek Hagan, T.J. Graham, Marcus Easley and others for the "starting" position.
Being the number-two in the Bills system is just a labeling mechanism anyway. Most times the Bills will be in three-to-four wide receiver sets, meaning plenty of players will get plenty of repetitions.
Regardless, the battle for that spot is one of the positions that will be looked at the most over the course of the next three weeks.
It will be quite a different season for Buffalo Bills defensive end Chris Kelsay.
For the majority of his career, Kelsay has been pegged as one of the two starting pass rushers for the Bills as they approach the season. Now with the additions of Mario Williams and Mark Anderson, Kelsay's role could be significantly scaled back.
To Kelsay, a team-oriented player through and through, he's just focused on one thing -- and it's not playing time.
"I'm here to win. I think everybody in this organization knows that. I've played a lot of snaps in my career, and to be honest with you, I'm looking forward to having a rotation. You can play fresher, I think we'll be more productive in doing so.
"When you've got guys like Mario [Williams] and Mark [Anderson] and Shawne [Merriman] and the younger guys -- I mean it's going to be a competitive training camp. Whoever we go with, it's nice to be able to look on the sideline and know that if you need a blow, somebody that's coming in is just as good and can provide great depth and production on your side of the ball, and specifically at our position.
"I'm excited. If it means that you're playing 30 snaps instead of 60, or 65-70 some games closer to 80, I'm all for it. It's something I'm actually looking forward to, and I think everyone in our room is."