Orchard Park, NY (WGR 550) -- You knew it almost the instant it happened. In their late-season game against Miami in December, tight end Scott Chandler planted on his left leg to make a cut inside after catching a pass, except it didn't go as planned. Chandler crumbled to the turf immediately, signaled to the training staff on the sideline and gripped on to his knee in riving pain.
(Pictured above, Chandler just as he was about to make the cut that changed his very near future)
Chandler, one of the team's most productive tight ends in recent memory, tore his ACL on December 23 setting a timetable for a potential return way later than the Bills would have liked for their top player at the position.
It even scared Buddy Nix enough to make a comment about it at the 2013 NFL Combine, when the 73-year old was still serving as the team's General Manager. Did he think Chandler would be ready for the 2013 regular season?
"See, I worry about that," he said. "It's normally seven to nine to 10 months recovery.
"You figure it up, and we start camp at seven months for Scott. Even if the doctor said, 'You're strong enough to do it,' you don't know confidence-wise how long it'll take him to get back to 100 percent."
Just four-and-a-half months removed from his surgery on January 9, Chandler was pushing it after practice working with a trainer on Thursday. The tight end ran many of the routes he'll be resuming once he gets back to full speed, and had rookie quarterback Jeff Tuel throwing him passes.
"The knee feels really good," Chandler said, still breathing heavily just 45 seconds removed from his work after practice. "I feel great. Running routes, you guys saw, I don't know that it's 100-percent but it's better than most so I'm feeling good."
Having the tight end back would be a humongous boost to an offense that is depending on a lot of young parts to produce. C.J. Spiller, Stevie Johnson and Fred Jackson are back, but having Chandler would give the Bills some clarity at one position and not have to rely on another inexperienced player to produce.
He had his best season to date in 2012, catching 43 passes for 571 yards and six touchdowns. In two years of starting, Chandler now has 81 total catches, 960 yards and 12 touchdowns. More importantly, he provided stability to a position that has been a weak spot on the Bills roster for years before him.
If he can't play to start the season, it's up to either Lee Smith, Mike Caussin, Mickey Shuler or seventh-round pick and rookie Chris Gragg to fill the void.
Chandler had his January surgery performed by Dr. Leslie Bisson in western New York, and raved about the job he did. Running and cutting the way he was on Thursday, it's rather remarkable how well he was moving just four-and-a-half months removed.
Chandler also credited the job his personal training staff in Iowa has done, as well as the staff with the Bills. He joked that he's attempting to channel his inner Adrian Peterson, who came back from ACL and MCL surgery in less than nine months.
"Yeah, I've been practicing my handoffs. You guys haven't seen it. I've been taking them. Feeling good."
Chandler is entering the final year of his two-year contract he signed back in March 2011. He has yet to take part in any of the Organized Team Activities because of the injury.
The Bills wrapped up their second week of OTAs on Thursday. They'll take a four-day break and get back on the field at One Bills Drive on Tuesday, May 28.