I don't envy Doug Marrone. The Bills head coach is being put in a very difficult spot by Marcell Dareus and one wonders when Marrone's patience will run out.
Dareus begins his fourth training camp as a Buffalo Bill on the sideline as a spectator. The former first round pick was placed on the active/non-football injury list after he was unable to pass the necessary tests prior to the team's first workout.
When asked about the starting defensive tackle before the first practice of camp Sunday night, Marrone gave no time table as to when Dareus would be on the field at St. John Fisher.
I'm not worried about Dareus missing some practices. After all, this is a longer camp than normal since the Bills are playing in the Hall of Fame game, which also means there's an extra pre-season game for the team. There will be plenty of time for Dareus to be ready for the season opener. That is, if the NFL doesn't hand down any kind of suspension as a result of the legal problems two months ago.
But I am worried about Dareus' attitude and whether or not he takes his job seriously enough since he wasn't prepared to start work on time. It wouldn't seem to be too much to ask a player to stay in shape in the off season and come to training camp ready to go.
If Dareus had an off season medical procedure I would understand how he might not be able to practice on day one since his off season regimen would have been disrupted but there were no surgeries for Dareus which means there are no excuses for being out of shape.
In addition, if there was ever a training camp where Dareus needed to show up without any issues, its this one. A series of off field problems began last December when habitual tardiness to team meetings led to his benching by the no nonsense head coach.
Dareus' off season then included a May 5th incident where he was charged with possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia. A little over three weeks after that, Dareus was charged with a number of traffic violations after his alleged involvement in a street race with teammate Jerry Hughes.
Thats three strikes in a span of six months but Dareus isn't out nor should he be, at this point. We all know there is a double standard in sports. Marcell Dareus, one of the most talented players on the Bills roster, will be given quite a long leash as opposed to the 90th player on the roster. The defense is better and, by extension, the team is better when the mammoth tackle is on the field disrupting opposing offenses. The guy is a tremendous football player which brings us to Marrone's conundrum.
How does a guy go about being a no nonsense coach and get rid of players that might be a problem for his team's chemistry(Stevie Johnson) while giving Dareus chance after chance after chance?
At last May's minicamp, Kyle Williams was asked about the issues his neighbor at defensive tackle had earlier in the month.
"I'm hoping that this is kind of a watershed moment for him because he's at a pivotal point in his career" Williams said. "He can do a lot of great things in this league, and hopefully for this team and this town. Hopefully it's at a point where it's an epiphany and he comes alive and turns a corner and does his best."
Despite talks from teammates, coaches and the front office, apparently the message isn't getting through to Marcell Dareus. Yes, he's 24 and still might be dealing with some immaturity and perhaps the challenges that come with having so much money at such a young age. And we all know about the terrible tragedies and heartbreak Dareus has had to deal with in his personal life. But this gets down to a basic issue with any and all of us when it comes to holding down a job where co-workers rely on you. Responsibility. Dareus needs to exhibit that trait and fast.
As I said, I don't envy Doug Marrone. I know I would not cut Marcell Dareus right now or attempt to trade him. You don't give up on talent like that without exhausting every single effort to straighten him out. I just don't know how much longer the Bills will put up with this.
My guess is Dareus will get the season to prove himself. The Bills picked up the option for the 2015 portion of Dareus' contract which pays just over $8 million. But the money is only guaranteed for injury so the team can walk away any time prior to the start of the 2015 league year in March without owing Dareus a cent. After the first day of the league year, the money is fully guaranteed. The clock is ticking on Marcell Dareus and his career with the Bills.