The book on third-year Buffalo Bills wide receiver Marcus Easley has yet to be written. In fact, it'd be fair to say that the book hasn't even been opened.
Back-to-back years have bred false starts to the beginning of his NFL career thanks to untimely injuries early on. During his rookie season, Easley saw that opportunity get curtailed due to a knee injury in training camp. He was put on injured reserve in late August of 2010, effectively ending his season before it began.
The following year, it was revealed the wide receiver had a heart condition that required him to miss all of 2011. That piece of bad news followed a training camp that saw Easley make the most progress seen to date. His work even led some to believe he had the inside track to unseat Donald Jones for the number-two receiver role. But yet again, Easley was placed on injured reserve early on, this time landing there just one week in to the season.
"It's never really been easy for me my whole football career. To be able to come out here on the professional level, everyone wants to have a good jump start to their career," Easley said following Tuesday's Organized Team Activities. "It was just so unexpected. Injuries, no one plans on that happening, but it was just unfortunate."
Through all of it, some players wouldn't be able to handle mentally being set back two straight years to open up their careers -- especially not after they've been chasing the NFL dream for most of their lives.
But somehow, Easley has been able to cope with it two straight seasons and remains positive in his battle to finally jump start his professional career. Bills head coach Chan Gailey has noticed that trait about his wide receiver.
"You know, I donʼt think I need to talk to Marcus because his attitude has been so good," the coach said. "His work ethic, the things heʼs done in the offseason to get ready to participate, he has been so strong and so good. I havenʼt had to say a word to him."
How exactly has Easley been able to get through so much time to think to himself of what could have been? He cites a strong support system of family, friends and teammates that really played a part in keeping him level-headed.
"They help keep my spirits up. Just having them kind of made everything a little easier," Easley remarked. "You just have to take some time away. I went home for a little while just to get away from here. When it was time to get back and come back to work, I did just that."
"I just took the time that I needed to get away from football to correct what needed to be corrected. The brighter side is I'm healthy now and all the focus is on this year, you know just coming out here and competing."
Drafted in the fourth round by the Bills in 2010, Easley was a dark horse pick by fans to make a big impact for the team before it was said and done. Despite not having too much of a football resumé from his time at Connecticut, Easley's combination of size (6-foot-2, 217-pounds) and speed (4.46 40-yard dash) appeal to many on paper.
That's a big reason why some wonder still where the third-year receiver fits in for the Bills in 2012. Mystery surrounds Easley, but an opportunity in his third season has led him to take some steps to better himself for the upcoming year.
"I took a real big emphasis on training in all phases. From nutrition, to weight training, to speed work -- anything that's going to make me a better athlete and better my position and hopefully better for this team," he said.
Gailey told reporters Tuesday that Easley hasn't shown any signs of limping or a shortness of breath. That would indicate that he's fully healthy for the first time in quite some time. Where does that leave Easley in terms of the depth chart, though?
While that much has yet to be determined, Gailey did say the third-year wideout would have to work to get in to the rotation.
"He is an upbeat guy," Gailey started. "He knows he’s got to fight an uphill battle to get into the fray but I think he can."
As far as personal goals are concerned, Easley quickly replied that the obvious goal is to stay healthy for a full season. Other than that, he hopes to stay at the top of his game to better his position on the team.
"It's been a long journey but it's a new year, a new team, and that's just all my focus right now."
Easley and the Bills resume their second week of OTAs on Thursday at One Bills Drive.