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Bills Beat Blog

By Joe Buscaglia
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Bills training camp observations: Day 9

EJ Manuel
The Buffalo Bills took the field on Wednesday afternoon following their day off from practice, only to get their session delayed an hour due to inclement weather. Just short of an hour into practice thunder erupted in the sky above them, a loud announcement sounded that practice would be delayed and the Bills ran into the locker room for cover.

Lightning crashed a couple of times but eventually the weather lifted enough for the Bills to take the field in front of a plucky crowd of around 75 fans. Even though he threw an interception in team drills before the rain delay, the team’s young quarterback came back refreshed and ready for the rest of practice.

EJ’s best practice yet
- Once the Bills got back on the field following the rain delay Wednesday, EJ Manuel looked quite relaxed all throughout the remainder of practice. His work during team drills stood out, hitting all his receivers in stride and helping them continue to move the ball down the field. The passes were crisp and decisive just like his diagnostic skills for each passing play he participated in. Manuel only overthrew his targets a pair of times in the second half of practice — with one of them quite possibly being on purpose to a completely covered up wide receiver — making his performance a good one in the scope of what has been seen so far from the young player. It’s a definite step in the right direction as far as practice is concerned.

Richardson reps increasing
- Fans of incumbent starting right guard Kraig Urbik can’t be too pleased because for the fourth time since the end of last season, Urbik has lost some first-team repetitions to another player by the Bills. Head coach Doug Marrone has reaffirmed that it is an open competition on a few different occasions since the start of training camp, and the newest entrant into the fray is rookie fifth-round pick Cyril Richardson. After an incredibly slow start to offseason workouts and even training camp, Richardson has very quickly worked his way back to a favorable spot with the coaching staff. They entrusted him with more responsibility as the second-team left guard over the weekend, and now is getting reps with the first team at right guard. They’re giving him a shot, which is worse news for Urbik than it is good news for Richardson, at least for the time being. If the rookie continues to play well, all bets are off.

Bradham explains himself
- Since the start of the offseason workouts, the Bills have been spewing positivity out whenever it came to outside linebacker Nigel Bradham. They thought he had an outstanding spring, they believe that he has a more mature mindset coming into the year and they rewarded him with almost all the first-team reps at weakside linebacker to this point in training camp. That came to a screeching halt earlier in the afternoon when news broke that Bradham had been suspended by the NFL for violating the substance abuse policy, which led most to believe he’d gotten himself into trouble once again. The only difference is, he didn’t. It was the same charge stemming from last year, that was later dismissed, and that is also forcing Bradham to miss the team’s first game. Unlike it did last year, it didn’t appear he was on Marrone’s bad side in his first practice since the news broke. Bradham took all his reps, fully explained himself and seemed like he was ready to move on. It seems as though the Bills are ready to move on with him, too.

Gragg gets back
- A welcomed sight at St. John Fisher College, a third tight end got back on the field for the team Wednesday. Chris Gragg, who was hospitalized for two days with heat cramps, was back in full pads with the rest of his teammates. Scott Chandler (groin) and Tony Moeaki (hamstring) watched the practice from the sidelines while Gragg, Lee Smith and Dominique Jones took all the reps. Gragg lost some ground but he has a lot of time to make it up with Moeaki out, and an even larger opportunity if Chandler is out for a significant amount of time as well.

Hairston leaves early
- In the aforementioned right guard competition, another piece to the puzzle is former fourth-round pick Chris Hairston. He has been splitting first-team reps with Urbik throughout training camp to this point at right guard, but has yet to really take a stronghold of the opportunity at hand. Hairston, who was injured at the beginning of training camp in 2013, had to leave practice early on Wednesday due to an injury to the same body part that kept him from participating last July and August. After practice head coach Doug Marrone revealed Hairston suffered a back injury, but his status for upcoming practices is not yet known. Hairston can play both guard and offensive tackle, but is thought to be fighting for a roster spot in 2014.

Day 9 MVP: WR Robert Woods
- Woods took over during the 7-on-7 goal line drill to end practice on Wednesday. Woods ran his routes correctly, didn’t come back to the ball when he was near the goal line and displayed outstanding hands during his few reps. Woods first took a well-placed over the shoulder throw from EJ Manuel while a defender was draped all over the wide receiver. Woods simply reached out with his right arm, still getting his left arm dragged from behind and corralled the pass in for a touchdown. It was a gorgeous play.

Day 9 LVP: QB Thad Lewis
- Training camp has not been kind to Thad Lewis in 2014. Lewis has been erratic and is on the wrong page with his receivers way more often than he should be. He threw a bad interception to Michael Carter on the sideline during a throw that required to be closer to the boundary for the receiver. While Jeff Tuel hasn’t stood out in any way, he has made less mistakes than Lewis. So far, the nod would have to go to Tuel to be the backup, but there is still a long way to go.

Up Next: The Bills resume practice on Thursday, July 31 at 8 am. Practice is open to the general public, with no ticket being required for entry.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

**Photo courtesy of The Associated Press

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People : Chris GraggChris HairstonCyril RichardsonDominique JonesDoug MarroneJeff TuelKraig UrbikLee SmithMichael CarterNigel BradhamRobert WoodsScott ChandlerThad LewisTony Moeaki

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