Orchard Park, NY (WGR 550) -- With the final session of Organized Team Activities coming to an end on Friday, the Buffalo Bills shift in to the next phase of their preparations for the season by subtracting a key word: voluntary. When the team meets next in June, all players signed to a contract are obligated to be in attendance.
Over the course of the past three weeks, the Bills have held 10 workouts and started to gain insight on what kind of players they have on the roster.
"I'm excited. We did a lot of things, we put a lot of people out in different areas," head coach Doug Marrone said after the final practice. "The players now have a chance to get away for a week. We have a chance to go back through the tapes again, looking at the reps, the performances and the results in doing that and seeing where we are from that standpoint, coming in to the next phase which is the mandatory mini-camp."
One of the big keys for the Bills in establishing an identity with the players on their roster is trying to teach them how they want to practice throughout the build-up towards the regular season. Marrone thinks there has been progress in that area.
"I think we've gotten close," he said. "It's not where it is but it's close to it."
Throughout the final practice of the voluntary workouts, ten players did not take part due to injury. That list includes defensive tackle Kyle Williams, tight end Scott Chandler, offensive tackle Chris Hairston, cornerback Justin Rogers, tight end Lee Smith, wide receiver Marcus Easley, offensive tackle Thomas Welch, guard Keith Williams, tight end Mickey Shuler and cornerback T.J. Heath.
Another four players missed the workout entirely, and it's the same list as it's been throughout the three weeks. Safety Jairus Byrd, outside linebacker Manny Lawson, defensive lineman Alan Branch and wide receiver Brandon Kaufman (for graduation reasons) all were not in attendance.
The story changes on Tuesday, June 11 when the Bills start up the first of many mandatory workouts in 2013.
"We're probably going to change a little bit of a normal mandatory mini-camp," Marrone remarked. "What we're going to be looking for is more game-planning, more precise plays against certain defenses and coverage, and do a little bit game-planning against each other which will be a little bit more competitive. That's exciting for us."
While it's expected that 89 players will be in attendance for the three-day workout in June, unless Jairus Byrd were to sign his franchise tag tender, the term mandatory doesn't apply to him. And even though he's still listed on the roster and is the Bills property, he technically doesn't have to be at the mini-camp.
Marrone spoke along those same lines.
"Well, he doesn't have to [be here] and that's the thing," he started. "So as long as the rules say you don't have to be here, I respect him as a professional athlete and a football player, so I have really no issues or no problems with that."
The three-day practice session will be the last bit of on-the-field training for the Bills until they reconvene for the start of training camp at St. John Fisher College in late July.