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Training Camp Gets Underway
The Bills reached agreement with second round pick Travares Tillman on Thursday just in time to get him in camp for the first meeting. He signed a 4-year deal worth over $2 Million. First round pick Erik Flowers was GM John Butler's first ever rookie holdout. He reached a deal with the team on Sunday evening. Guard Joe Panos restructured his contract for the second time in five months to free up some dollars to get Flowers under the cap. He converted some of his $1 Million salary into a signing bonus. Our Take: Flowers holdout isn't the end of the world since he missed only five practices, but it does leave him a little bit behind the rest of the team. He will need to do some extra studying to catch up.
The training camp facilities at St. Johns Fisher have lived up to all expectations. There was a record crowd there on Sunday as there was beautiful weather all weekend. Coach Phillips showed the fans his appreciation on Saturday by stopping practice for 15 minutes and having the entire team go over to the fences to sign autographs. The crowd was estimated at 6,000 for the two sessions on Sat. and a camp record 8,000 for the single practice on Sunday. Our Take: A classy move by Phillips on Saturday, as the fans spirit and the beautiful new facilities have added to the intensity of the play on the field. Some people worried a "circus-type" atmosphere would hurt the practices, the opposite has apparently happened.
On the field, the receivers have showed off their skills for the big crowds early in camp. Eric Moulds has been the star so far, catching long passes and showing off for the fans a bit. The other wide receivers haven't been far behind. Peerless Price, Jeremy McDaniel and Kwame Cavil have all made some nice grabs, as Rob Johnson has been hitting the deep balls in practice. Our Take: McDaniel is looking like he has the early lead in the battle for the third wideout spot.
The off season conditioning program has seemed to work as the Bills threatened fines for players that came in above their assigned weight goals. Ruben Brown has lost nearly 30 pounds and now weighs at a trim 286 pounds. He said the weight loss will make him quicker, and help avoid injury. He did admit to losing some strength, but plans to add 10 pounds of muscle before the season starts. Antowain Smith appears to be in the best shape of his career. Phillips feels he has lost some of his bulk and is faster, he is healthy for the first time in almost a year and his weight is down to what it was in college. He is also making an impression in camp by catching passes, as he has worked on that part of his game in the off season. It is also well documented that Ted Washington has slimmed down. Our Take: The better conditioned athletes can only mean good things as the season progresses. Smith may finally be ready for his breakthrough season.
There have been many other veterans that have stood out on the first three days of camp. Antoine Winfield has shown he is ready to become a fulltime starter by making some good plays early in camp. John Holecek has been a force the first weekend as well, playing the pass very well along with his usual run stuffing abilities. Daryl Porter is showing the leadership ability needed to start at free safety for the Bills. He has also seen time as the backup to Henry Jones at strong safety. The offensive line has gelled pretty well already and should be a strong point of the team as previously thought. Our Take: It's nice to see the veterans taking charge on the field this early in camp, the new spirited attitude will be needed to replace the leadership lost in the off season purge.
The undrafted free agents haven't really had a chance to distance themselves from the competition too much. Looking good however is LB Dustin Cohen and DB Askari Adams. There has been mix reviews on DB Reggie Durden and corner Jay Hill has struggled so far. Our Take: Nobody will win or lose a job on the first few days of camp, but the early impressions will leave a mark in the coaches' minds.
The club has fiddled around with various position changes. It looks like the outside linebacker experiment from mini-camp will take hold. Keith Newman and Sam Rogers have switched positions. Newman will play strong side linebacker since he is a good run stuffer and Sam Rogers will return to weakside linebacker, so he can rush the passer more. Newman did back up Rogers on the strong side last year. With Flowers holding out, the club had to do some patchwork work at right defensive end. Shawn Price and Ted Washington each saw some time there. With Flowers now signed Washington will return to his normal position. Phillips has experimented with having Washington and Pat Williams on the field at the same time. It will be interesting to see if this will continue now that Flowers is in camp. Our Take: Position experiments are always a good thing early in camp to see if there are any new wrinkles that can be offered.
Speaking of new wrinkles one interesting position experiment was on special teams. The club is experimenting with Doug Flutie as the holder. This would open up the possibility of fake field goals. The club has no plans of making this move permanent. Chris Mohr is still the holder but he practiced trick plays throwing an option pass to Center Jerry Ostroski and a shovel pass to Jay Riemersma. Our Take: It is about time the club is at least preparing for a possible trick play or two on special teams. They haven't faked a field goal as long as we can remember.
On the injury front, the club has come out pretty much unscathed on the first few days of camp. Marcellus Wiley has not started working out yet as he recovers from back surgery. He told The Buffalo Range that he is ahead of schedule and hopes to play in the final preseason game. Rookie CB Courtney Jackson will go on IR with a torn ACL suffered in mini camp. Ken Irvin suffered a slightly sprained left foot. It is the same foot he injured last season and it occurred when he was stepped on. He is fine and was on the practice field on Monday. Bobby Collins missed a practice with dehydration. Henry Jones took some time off and John Fina banged in elbow. Rookie David Byrd was an unexcused absence from Sunday's practice and has left camp. Our Take: Knock on wood. No serious injuries yet. The main thing about these practices is to keep everyone healthy.
Some ex-Bills found new teams this week. Andre Reed signed an incentive-laden two year deal with Denver. Kevin Williams found a home with San Francisco and Richard Harvey signed with Oakland. Another former player, Gabe Northern was placed on the physically unable to perform list by his new team, the Steelers. He has a hamstring injury. Our Take: It's funny how Reed wouldn't workout for the Broncos a couple of months ago, but did so as training camp approached.
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