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Bills Beat Blog



By Joe Buscaglia
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Bills' Spiller announces selection of agent

As if the Buffalo Bills weren't busy enough on Saturday, the deadline for rosters to be brought down to 53 players, one of the men firmly on their roster announced some news of his very own. Former first-round pick and running back C.J. Spiller tweeted that he has finally joined forces with an agent to represent him.
Spiller has signed with Chad Speck of Allegiant Athletic Agency, ending a period of over three years in which he did not have an agent. The person he had originally signed with, Gary Wichard, passed away in March of 2011.

The team's top running back is entering the final year of his contract, and previously expressed that he aimed to have an agent in place ahead of the start of the regular season. Spiller, 27, has rushed for 3,021 yards and 12 touchdowns in his first four seasons in the NFL.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

**Photo courtesy of The Associated Press
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Bills unveil initial 53-man roster

At 4 pm on Saturday, August 30, the deadline for teams in the National Football League to pare their rosters down to 53 players had passed. The Buffalo Bills got all of their moves in just under the wire, releasing 20 players and placing three others on Injured Reserve.

So who made the cut? Here is the updated depth chart:

Quarterback (2)
EJ Manuel, Kyle Orton

Running Back (4)
C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson, Bryce Brown, Anthony Dixon

Fullback (1)
Frank Summers

Wide Receiver (6)
Sammy Watkins, Mike Williams, Robert Woods, Marquise Goodwin, Marcus Easley, Chris Hogan

Tight End (3)
Scott Chandler, Lee Smith, Chris Gragg

Offensive Tackle (4)
Cordy Glenn, Seantrel Henderson, Cyrus Kouandjio, Chris Hairston

Offensive Guard (4)
Chris Williams, Erik Pears, Cyril Richardson, Kraig Urbik

Center (1)
Eric Wood

Defensive End (5)
Mario Williams, Jerry Hughes, Manny Lawson, Jarius Wynn, Jacquies Smith

Defensive Tackle (4)
Marcell Dareus, Kyle Williams, Corbin Bryant, Stefan Charles

**Linebacker (5)
Brandon Spikes, Keith Rivers, Preston Brown, Ty Powell, Randell Johnson
**Nigel Bradham does not count against the active roster in Week 1 due to his suspension

Cornerback (6)
Stephon Gilmore, Leodis McKelvin, Nickell Robey, Corey Graham, Ross Cockrell, Ron Brooks

Safety (4)
Aaron Williams, Da'Norris Searcy, Duke Williams, Jonathan Meeks

Kicker (1)
Dan Carpenter

Punter (1)
Colton Schmidt

Kickoff Specialist (1)
Jordan Gay

Long Snapper (1)
Garrison Sanborn

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

**Photo courtesy of The Associated Press
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Bills sign new punter

The Buffalo Bills moved on from longtime punter Brian Moorman on Friday and on Saturday, they signed his first replacement.

The Bills have officially signed  punter Colton Schmidt to an undisclosed contract. Schmidt originally signed with the San Francisco 49ers as an undrafted rookie out of UC Davis. He was then released by the 49ers and had a brief (less than a week) stint with the Cleveland Browns before his release. The 49ers re-signed Schmidt in January of 2014 before releasing him this summer as part of one of their cuts.

Schmidt, 23, participated in the first three preseason games with the 49ers before his eventual release. He had seven opportunities in those three games and posted a net average of 46.1 yards per punt.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

**Photo courtesy of The Associated Press
 
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Bills sign QB Kyle Orton

The Buffalo Bills have found themselves a new backup quarterback, and this one is likely going to stick.

The Bills have officially signed former Chicago, Denver, Kansas City and Dallas quarterback Kyle Orton to serve as the backup to starter EJ Manuel. Orton has 70 career starts to his name and has won exactly half of them. Over his eight years of experience, the quarterback has thrown for 15,019 yards, 83 touchdowns and 59 interceptions with a 58.5 completion percentage.

Orton was thought to be the top backup in Dallas when the offseason began in 2014, but chose not to report to offseason workouts and instead mulled retirement from the NFL. In the final year of his three-year contract with the Cowboys, Orton was officially released by the team in mid-July.

His contract with the Bills will have a choice for the quarterback. According to Tim Graham of The Buffalo News, the one-year deal also includes a player option for a second season with the team.

Financial terms of the contract have yet to be disclosed, but a league source tells WGR Sports Radio 550 that it's for "top backup money." Orton will take over for Jeff Tuel as the main backup quarterback to Manuel. The Bills’ efforts with both Thad Lewis and Jordan Palmer as a potential second-string quarterback failed this summer, leading to the release of both players over the past four days. The team later released Tuel on Saturday.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

**Photo courtesy of The Associated Press
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Urbik, Graham on the trade block?

Time is running out for the Buffalo Bills to make a decision on their 53-man roster. Just because it's under 24 hours to go until their decision needs to be in though, doesn't mean they're in a rush to finalize things just yet.

Two starters from the Bills in 2013 have been rumored to be on the bubble throughout training camp. That speculation has gathered a bit more steam in the past two days.

According to two separate reports, guard Kraig Urbik and wide receiver T.J. Graham are being shopped by the Bills: The Bills have until 4 pm on Saturday to either trade, cut or keep both Urbik and Graham.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

**Photo courtesy of The Associated Press
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Bills' Watkins "good to go," per report

The Buffalo Bills can breathe a sigh of relief... again.

Their budding rookie wide receiver Sammy Watkins suffered his second rib injury of the preseason, and had to leave the game prematurely yet again. The Bills survived a scare once more with the fourth overall pick according to NFL.com's Ian Rapoport:
 
Watkins suffered the injury on a slant pattern over the middle of the field. An inaccurate throw led the wideout a bit too far and Detroit linebacker Ashlee Palmer ran over and landed a forearm right into the rookie's bruised ribs.

Surrounded by six members of the medical and training staff, Watkins slowly walked off the field and into the locker room at Ralph Wilson Stadium on Thursday. There haven't been any indications on his status for the team's regular season opener in Chicago as of yet.

The Bills start practice for their contest with the Bears on Monday.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

**Photo courtesy of The Associated Press
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Bills sign Sanborn to three-year, $3.3m extension

While one long-tenured member of the Buffalo Bills' special teams unit was waived on Friday, the team extended another one's stay. The Bills announced that they have signed long snapper Garrison Sanborn to a contract extension.

According to a league source, Sanborn's new contract is a three-year extension that will pay a total of $3.3 million over the lifetime of the deal. The three years are tacked on to the final year of his current contract, so he's not set to hit free agency again until March of 2018.

His new contract makes him one of the top five highest paid players at his position in the National Football League. In 2013, he was tied for the league lead in special teams tackles by a long snapper with Zak DeOssie of the New York Giants.

Sanborn first came to the Bills in 2009 after auditioning at a rookie tryout and quickly won the job. He's been a mainstay in Buffalo ever since, playing in every single game over the past five seasons.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

**Photo courtesy of The Associated Press
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Upon release, Moorman sends letter to Bills fans

For 12 of the past 13 years, whenever the Buffalo Bills failed to convert on a third down and needed to flip the field on the opposition, the man they turned to was punter Brian Moorman. Following a brief second stint with the team, Moorman was released by the Bills on Friday afternoon.

Amongst fan favorites over the past decade, Moorman shared his appreciation for both the city of Buffalo and Bills fans after his release was announced. The punter issued a letter to fans everywhere on his personal Twitter account: Moorman, 38, had a averaged 43.8 yards per punt over the course of the past 13 seasons. He was with the Bills from 2001 through the start of the 2012 season before being initially released. He was brought back in 2013 after the team's first five games and served as Buffalo's punter for the rest of the season.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

**Photo courtesy of The Associated Press
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Tracking the Bills' march to 53

The Buffalo Bills, like all other teams around the National Football League, have to get their active rosters down to just 53 players by 4 pm on Saturday, August 30. As the reports of releases come through, we'll compile them all right here and give instant analysis along with it.

The Bills are at 75 players, and with the Nigel Bradham suspension (who doesn't count against the roster for the first week), they only have to release 21 players to get down to 53. Who will go?

Here is what has happened so far:

UPDATE: The Bills have announced the release of 10 players

QB Jeff Tuel
Analysis: Although not completely surprising considering the string of bad performances Jeff Tuel had throughout practices and the preseason games, the Bills felt like the time was right to let Tuel walk. The Bills always had high hopes for Tuel as a longterm potential backup, but he just didn't make the necessary strides in his second year to warrant a spot on the active roster. In 2013, the Bills were scared to cut Tuel because of how well he showed in the preseason games. Perhaps this move is to try to sneak him on to the practice squad and keep him in house. Either way, Tuel will not be a part of the initial 53.

WR T.J. Graham
Analysis: After two disappointing seasons with the Bills, the team has finally decided to move on from former third-round selection and wide receiver T.J. Graham. The wideout struggled with confidence and with his hands at the beginning of training camp, and could never overcome the positive play exhibited by both Marcus Easley and Chris Hogan for the majority of the summer. The final stats on Graham: 31 games, 16 starts, 54 catches, 683 yards and three touchdowns.

OL Doug Legursky
Analysis: The Bills signed Doug Legursky in 2013 to compete for the starting left guard job and underwhelmed in his time on the field. Upon entering the offseason, the team made it a priority to upgrade the offensive line in any way possible, and did so by adding three rookies and signing a free agent. In a battle with Kraig Urbik near the end of training camp to be thebackup center, Legursky's small stature and poor performance lost the battle.

DE/DT Ike Igbinosun
Analysis: The Bills remove their swing defensive lineman off the roster in one of the mandatory nine cuts they need to make on Saturday. Igbinosun filled in at both defensive end and defensive tackle throughout training camp and held his own. His release means the Bills are only keeping four defensive tackles from their training camp roster on the regular season set of 53.

S Kenny Ladler
Analysis: Armed with many accolades from his days at Vanderbilt, an early injury at training camp took a lot of momentum away from Ladler in his attempt to make the 53-man roster. It was going to be a hard position to crack as it was. The two main backups (Duke Williams & Jonathan Meeks) were both draft picks by this regime in 2013.

S Deon Broomfield
Analysis: Along with Ladler, Broomfield couldn't seem to crack into the top four safeties on the roster despite making some solid plays throughout offseason workouts and during training camp. The undrafted free agent rookie showed an eye for the ball at times, but it wasn't enough to unseat either Duke Williams or Meeks.

LB Jimmy Gaines
Analysis: The team's other native of Buffalo, Jimmy Gaines made a valiant effort to stick to the roster. The Canisius High School graduate and undrafted free agent made positive plays in coverage during camp, but faced stiff competition at linebacker from the start. The Bills are very intrigued by the trio of Preston Brown, Ty Powell and Randell Johnson, which made Gaines' quest for a roster spot a tough one as that trio progressed through the preseason.

WR Caleb Holley
Analysis: Holley followed up a successful tryout at rookie minicamp by impressing the coaching staff of the Bills throughout training camp. The undrafted rookie wideout made tough catches in some difficult areas -- especially in the red zone -- to catch the eye of many. Holley will likely be in consideration for the practice squad if he clears waivers.

DE Bryan Johnson
Analysis: He'll be best remembered for the training camp fight with center Eric Wood and tight end Scott Chandler, but Bryan Johnson had a solid training camp as an undrafted free agent rookie. There were times where he made some of the previously cut offensive linemen look a bit foolish, but he also had reps that resulted in him getting engulfed by the blocker. Johnson had some good speed off the edge, but it wasn't enough to get past Jacquies Smith and get a spot on the active roster.

OL Antonie McClain
Analysis: The Bills gave McClain a few opportunities throughout training camp to prove that he belonged on the Bills active roster but failed to deliver on all of them. The team tried McClain at both tackle and guard to see if he could provide the versatility, only to find that he was suited much better as an interior offensive lineman. McClain loses out to both fifth-round pick Cyril Richardson and Kraig Urbik as the top interior reserves.

The Bills announced the release of 10 players and the placement of three players on to Injured Reserve. The roster is currently at 62, and subtracting one spot for Bradham, they'll need to cut eight more players by Saturday afternoon.

P Brian Moorman
Analysis: It's the end of an era once again for the longtime Bills punter. First arriving to the team in 2001, Moorman had only a brief hiatus following his first release from the franchise before returning last season as the team's top punter. It wasn't a stretch to see that Moorman struggling during the preseason games, which was the ultimate reason for his reason from the team. The Bills will either see if Jordan Gay can handle both punting and kickoff duties, or look elsewhere to fill that role. Either way, this might be Moorman's last stand in Buffalo.

QB Jordan Palmer
Analysis: It wasn't an especially great debut and audition for Jordan Palmer. While no one doubts his smarts and coaching-like qualities that have kept him in the league for a long time, Palmer just didn't have the desired zip on passes and tipped his hand to defenders one too many times on Thursday. This leaves the Bills with two quarterbacks on the roster. The expectation is that they would look to fill in with a third through trade or free agency.

DT Landon Cohen
Analysis: The first surprise cut of the day belongs to the Bills letting training camp standout and defensive tackle Landon Cohen go. Cohen was one of the most disruptive linemen for Buffalo against the backups in practice and opponents in preseason games, often reacting quickly to the snap to get some pressure in the backfield. His release means the Bills will likely only keep four defensive tackles, but a name to keep an eye on now is defensive lineman Ike Igbinosun. He has played both end and tackle this summer, and his versatility might have earned him a spot. Stay tuned.

TE Tony Moeaki (IR)
Analysis: It's quite simple with Tony Moeaki. The Bills loved him. They thought he could be an X-factor at the tight end position if he could stay healthy. As they learned, like the Kansas City Chiefs before them, the 'if' never came to fruition. Moeaki suffered a hamstring injury early into training camp that kept him out of 80-percent of the team's preseason games in 2014. Even the one he dressed for, Moeaki barely played in the second half. It was a shot worth taking for the Bills, but they'll once again have to go with Scott Chandler and Lee Smith as their primary tight ends.

FB Evan Rodriguez
Analysis: It was an open competition between Rodriguez and Frank Summers to be the team's one and only fullback on the roster. They had two differing styles: Rodriguez was the pass catcher and Summers was the more established blocker out of the backfield. Due to the profile of their quarterback and what the Bills are shaping their offense to be in 2014, Buffalo opted for the player that fit the running mold the best.

WR Naaman Roosevelt
- It was a nice story for Roosevelt to return to the Bills for training camp, but the odds were stacked against him upon his arrival. With already at least seven receivers ahead of him, Roosevelt never was able to stand out from the crowd. The St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute and University at Buffalo graduate will be on the lookout for another job in the league once again.

TE Dominique Jones
Analysis: Jones was a late addition to the roster, but got a lot of playing time through training camp due to all the injuries early on. Scott Chandler, Lee Smith, Tony Moeaki and Chris Gragg all missed some time, while Jones soaked up the snaps. It wasn't enough for him, unfortunately. He's a shorter, stocky player that can move a lot better than he looks. He just failed to provide the Bills with something they didn't already have at the position.

LB Xavius Boyd
Analysis: Boyd was added late into camp and had a lot of young linebacker types ahead of him on the depth chart. With Preston Brown, Ty Powell, Randell Johnson and Jimmy Gaines all making plays throughout camp, Boyd was the lowest man on the totem pole once the first cuts were announced.

CB Kamaal McIlwain
Analysis: The Bills got their first look at McIlwain during mandatory minicamp as a tryout player. He stood out and made a few plays even without being with the team for that long, and once they found a crack on the roster they added him immediately. McIlwain played both tough and physical at the beginning of the camp, but as practices racked up he wore down.

CB Sam Miller
Analysis: Added once the Bills decided to part ways with the often beaten cornerback Michael Carter, Miller kept with receivers much more capably then his jersey's predecessor. Unfortunately for him, there wasn't much room for upward mobility on the cornerback depth chart: it was all pretty much decided once Ron Brooks started having a solid training camp.

OL Jared Wheeler
Analysis: A late addition, Wheeler didn't get many reps even during practice as the odd man out along the third-team offensive line. Once a few transactions and injuries occurred, Wheeler got in and held his own. The swing center/guard didn't have the preferred experience to be the team's interior backup and failed to unseat either Kraig Urbik or Doug Legursky.

CB Mario Butler (IR)
Analysis: After getting some solid time on the field during training camp while Stephon Gilmore and Leodis McKelvin each returned slowly from their offseason surgeries, Butler suffered an injury (ankle) of his own. His chances were slim to start, but the injury took away any ambiguity from the Bills' impending decision at cornerback.

CB Bobby Felder (IR)
Analysis: Felder was another late addition for the Bills during training camp and didn't stand out nearly as much as McIlwain or Butler. An injury to his groin sealed his fate and landed him on the injured reserve.

The list will be updated as more moves have been reported or announced.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

**Photo courtesy of The Associated Press
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Bills 53-man roster projection: 8/29

The preseason has been completed, and the only thing separating the NFL from the start of the regular season is to make final decisions on their 53-man rosters. In Buffalo, there are some tough decisions to be made specifically on the offensive side of the ball, but who will survive?

Keep in mind that it's likely the 53-man roster won't be made up completely of players that Buffalo currently has the rights to. Before the cuts come down, here is a projection of who the Bills might keep:

Quarterback (2)
EJ Manuel, Jeff Tuel
Cuts: Jordan Palmer
- The Bills' quarterback position is nearly one of the worst in the league in terms of depth. Thad Lewis was a disappointment in the summer, Jeff Tuel hasn't taken the next step the Bills were hoping for and Jordan Palmer didn't show the necessary arm strength against backups to prove he was worthy of a roster spot. Even though the Bills might only keep two quarterbacks initially, don't expect only Manuel and Tuel to make up this roster. There has to be an additional move coming, they can't go into the season with their current trio, or in this case, duo.

Running Back (4)
C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson, Bryce Brown, Anthony Dixon
Cuts: None
- As straight forward as it gets. A talented room that will see a 100-percent rate of return.

Fullback (1)
Frank Summers
Cuts: Evan Rodriguez
- Rodriguez brings much more in the passing game to the Bills, but they are a run-first offense. The better blocker of the two, by far, is Frank Summers. He also has more experience carrying the ball than Rodriguez who is a transformed tight end. While the athleticism of Rodriguez is intriguing, they need a skull-crushing blocker ahead of their running backs and he isn't that. Summers might not be either, but he's more in the mold than Rodriguez.

(UPDATE: Evan Rodriguez has tweeted that he has been released.)

Wide Receiver (7)
Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods, Mike Williams, Marquise Goodwin, Marcus Easley, Chris Hogan, T.J. Graham
Cuts: Naaman Roosevelt, Caleb Holley
- The subtraction of both Thad Lewis and Jordan Palmer on the roster helps make keeping seven receivers on the roster possible. The five locks of the team, at this point, are Watkins, Woods, Williams, Goodwin and Easley. Hogan has had lapses in concentration, and Graham has stepped it up recently. Hogan is still important to the Bills on special teams and they might not want to give up on Graham yet. Will it stay at seven receivers through next week? That's debateable. Keeping anyone else on the cut list over Graham just doesn't make sense at this point.

Tight End (3)
Scott Chandler, Lee Smith, Chris Gragg
Cuts: Tony Moeaki, Dominique Jones
- The Tony Moeaki experiment ends with a result that was predicted by many. The tight end has struggled with injuries ever since college and the 2014 preseason was no exception. He missed four out of five games with a hamstring injury, and barely even played in the one he appeared in. Even though Gragg hasn't done much to garner a roster spot, his athleticism in year two of his career is more intriguing than a perpetually injured player with past history. It may be time to cut their minimal losses with Moeaki and move on.

(UPDATE: Dominique Jones has tweeted that he has been released.)

Offensive Tackle (3)
Cordy Glenn, Seantrel Henderson, Cyrus Kouandjio
Cuts: Chris Hairston

The end is likely near for Chris Hairston. Throughout the summer he has shown to have movement issues against edge defenders and the team's early attempt to move him inside to guard failed as well. The Bills won't cut second-round pick Cyrus Kouandjio despite having a poor training camp, and the emergence of Erik Pears as a swing guard/tackle combination removes their need to keep Hairston around.

Offensive Guard (4)
Erik Pears, Chris Williams, Cyril Richardson, Kraig Urbik
Cuts: Antoine McClain, Jared Wheeler

- This really comes down to Kraig Urbik versus Doug Legursky. While Legursky has more in-game experience at center, Urbik is the bigger and superior player along the entire interior of the offensive line. He has a bigger cap hit, but the Bills can't worry about that now. If Eric Wood goes down with an injury they need someone to step in to help sustain the offensive line. Urbik has the most experience and is the better player.

Center (1)
Eric Wood
Cuts: Doug Legursky

- Legursky is too small and short-limbed for what Doug Marrone wants in an offensive lineman. He was a suitable stop-gap solution, but the Bills have addressed their offensive line in a big way this offseason which has left someone like Urbik on the outside looking in on the top five.

Defensive End (4)
Mario Williams, Jerry Hughes, Manny Lawson, Jarius Wynn
Cuts: Jacquies Smith, Bryan Johnson

- Although Jacquies Smith put up a good fight during training camp and in spots during the preseason, the Bills might opt to only keep four defensive ends on the roster. Since his return to the team at mandatory minicamp, Lawson has shown he still has some ability at defensive end even though he doesn't fit the new defense all that well. But, the Bills could surprise some and keep Smith around.

Defensive Tackle (5)
Marcell Dareus, Kyle Williams, Corbin Bryant, Stefan Charles, Landon Cohen
Cuts: Ike Igbinosun

- The five best defensive tackles on the roster have been identified and there isn't much mystery around it. Bryant, Charles and Cohen have all had a terrific summer of work and made the Bills' decision to cut Alan Branch an easy one.

**Linebacker (5)
Brandon Spikes, Keith Rivers, Preston Brown, Ty Powell, Randell Johnson
Cuts: Jimmy Gaines, Xavius Boyd

- Of course, Nigel Bradham does not count against the opening week roster due to his one-game suspension. However, the Bills have liked what they've seen from Preston Brown and Ty Powell which has helped them be the main backups. The only player in question here is Randell Johnson, who has extremely athletic skills, but is raw at this point in his career. They could opt to try and sneak him on the practice squad and use the spot elsewhere.

Cornerback (6)
Stephon Gilmore, Leodis McKelvin, Corey Graham, Nickell Robey, Ross Cockrell, Ron Brooks
Cuts: Mario Butler, Bobby Felder, Kamal McIlwain, Sam Miller

- Just as straight forward as the running back position, the top six have clearly been identified and there likely won't be any surprises. Ron Brooks had the most to prove in the offseason, and he did.

Safety (4)
Aaron Williams, Da’Norris Searcy, Duke Williams, Jonathan Meeks
Cuts: Kenny Ladler, Deon Broomfield

- This could get at least a little tricky due to the injury status of Jonathan Meeks. The severity of his neck injury has not been disclosed at this point in time, and if the Bills so choose, they could opt to put him on an injury list. If that is the case, the Bills could save a roster spot by keeping only three safeties and have Corey Graham serve as a hybrid defensive back.

Kicker (1)
Dan Carpenter
Cuts: None

Punter (2)
Brian Moorman, Jordan Gay
Cuts: None
- This might be the biggest surprise of the roster, but it really shouldn't be. The Nigel Bradham suspension allows the Bills to have flexibility at one position for one week. And like it or not, head coach Doug Marrone wants a kickoff specialist on the roster.
 
"The last two years we’ve lead the league in kickoff returns against us and I just think you’re playing with fire when you keep doing that. I think you can have a big advantage for a couple of reasons. One, you can take that phase out of the game. Meaning that you’ve got thirty-something spots that you need for special teams, the two coverage teams with kickoff return and punt and a lot of times we have starters on that. If you’re a team that makes a decision to kick it out of the end zone 90 percent of the time, you’re saving a lot of shots, you’re saving a lot of reps. And then you take away the opportunities for the other team."

So with the Bradham suspension, the Bills give Gay a one-week tryout to nail down the job. If it doesn't go well, then they move on. If it does, they have a different decision to make.

Long Snapper (1)
Garrison Sanborn
Cuts: None

**Nigel Bradham does not count against the roster for Week 1 due to his suspension

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

**Photo courtesy of The Associated Press
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