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Bills Daily Week in Review - June 5th - June 11th, 2000Previous Week

First Week Of Mini Camp Shows New Looks

The Bills wrapped up a successful first week of mini camp. They had only one injury and showed some new looks, formations, and players in new positions. Mini-camp highlights our week in review complete with our take on the issues:

They tried out some new offensive formations in an attempt to be versatile. They showed an I formation with former TE Sheldon Jackson playing fullback in front of Antowain Smith and Shawn Bryson. Jonathan Linton is working out in the single back offense and may see some time at fullback this year. Our Take: Jackson will play H-back and FB, how he handles this versatile role will dictate how flexible the Bills offense will be. It looks like he may not even be listed with the tight ends anymore. Some people are speculating that Bryson has moved ahead of Linton on the depth chart because he's getting more time in practice. I think it is a case of seeing how far Bryson has come along with his injury.

On the field, the offense struggled early in the week as the quarterbacks got used to the new batch of receivers and struggled with the wind when the practices were moved outside the fieldhouse. By Friday, Rob Johnson had his rhythm down and was firing perfect passes to the young receivers. Kwame Cavil continues to impress, as he has been the star offensively so far in mini-camp. Bobby Collins made many catches downfield. Avion Black also made some nice catches. Black, Drew Haddad, Peerless Price and rookie cornerback Reggie Durden took turns trying to return punts in the windy conditions outdoors. Our Take: Cavil may now be Jeremy McDaniel's main challenger for the third receiver spot with Black being used for returns exclusively. Either way, the Bills may use two tight ends more than three wide receivers as Collins is proving to be a solid downfield threat. The club may also use Bryson or Linton as a receiver before the third wideout.

The defense had the edge early in the week with the offense getting the advantage when they practiced specialized situations including third down. 1st round pick Erik Flowers showed off his speed on Wednesday by bursting pass rookie offensive lineman John Carman two plays in a row. Flowers will backup Marcellus Wiley at right end in the base defense, and play at left end in the dime defense. Many eyes were on the secondary and the young players fared well in week one. Backup strong safety Raion Hill had a good week along with starting free safety candidate Keion Carpenter. Durden turned heads with solid play at corner picking off two passes. Rookie LB Kenyatta Wright impressed coaches on day one of camp. Our Take: Durden may find his way on to the team if he can stick as a punt returner and impress in training camp. He returned punts at Florida St. Carpenter may have a slight edge for the coveted free safety position. It is way too early to tell but don't expect rookie Travares Tillman to win the job as he is behind Carpenter and Darryl Porter because of the learning curve.

On the injury front, the only player lost to injury was rookie free agent cornerback Courtney Jackson. Jackson tore his ACL on Thursday morning's workout. He was having a good camp at the time of his injury and now will be lost for the season. 5th round pick Sammy Morris suffered a sore hamstring but should be back on the field this week and John Holecek took some time. All of the players recovering from last season's injuries practiced on a limited basis. Jay Riemersma recovering from groin surgery practiced on a very limited basis since he was cleared to run just two weeks ago. He spent some time remembering his QB days at Michigan by throwing passes to the other tight ends. Ken Irvin was cleared to practice on the first morning of camp and shook off the rust quickly. He looks faster than he did before his injury and is showing no ill effects from it. Antowain Smith practiced sparingly as they are being very cautious with his healing turf toe injury. He banged his knee on Wednesday but returned in a few plays. Henry Jones also missed practice time healing his off season wounds. Shawn Bryson and Robert Hicks practiced fully as Bryson's knee is healthy and Hicks is finally over his nagging ankle sprain. Our Take: Losing Jackson won't be critical and getting the walking wounded healthy is what is most important. Let's hope there are no new injuries in week 2 of mini camp.

The coaches decided to make two position switches during camp. Antoine Winfield will now start at left corner with Irvin moving over to Thomas Smith's old right corner position. Irvin is taller than Winfield and most of the taller receivers play on that side. Winfield also filled in admirably at left corner when Irvin was hurt late in the season and is more comfortable there. Irvin has played right corner before. The other switch is still in the experimental phase. The club has practiced Keith Newman on the weakside linebacker spot and moved Sam Rogers back to the strong side where he played when Bryce Paup was with the team. This move would give Rogers more chances at rushing the QB. The club is very high on Newman and thought about splitting time between him and Gabe Northern last year but they didn't want to tinker with the number one ranked defense. Our Take: The Irvin/Winfield switch isn't a big deal but it makes sense for both players. The outside linebacker switch will only work if Newman's pass coverage skills develop more.

Missing from camp all week was Steve Christie, John Fina and rookie WR Corey Jones. Christie wasn't required to be there since there weren't any kicking drills but his challenger, Dan Giancola was there fueling speculation that Christie would become a cap casualty. The coaches quickly tried to diffuse those rumors. Fina missed the week to be with his new born baby and Jones showed up and then left, there was no official word given by the Bills. Jamie Nails missed Thursday and Friday to get ready for his Saturday wedding. Hicks, Irvin, Marcus Spriggs and Pat Williams missed Friday's session to attend the wedding. Rogers missed the first day because of travel problems. Our Take: everyone who had to be there was there except for Fina who doesn't need the camp anyway. The club may have tried to squelch the Christie rumors but Giancola will have every chance to win the job and save the team important cap dollars. Jones will not be with the team in September and he might not even make it to training camp.

The team definitely has started putting an emphasis on conditioning to the point where they are going to start fining players who don't reach the weight goals the team sets for them. Ted Washington showed up in camp 15-20 pounds lighter than he left last season. Hicks has almost no body fat now and Johnson has built muscle on his lower body to help his mobility. Smith and Wiley also stood out as being in tremendous shape. The one player still lagging behind is Nails. Our Take: It is about time the team cracked down on out of shape players. If the club was in better shape the last couple of years they may not have tired come playoff time.

Speaking of Washington, he was voted one of five finalist for the Pro Football Weekly's Arthur S. Arkush Humanitarian Award. He is the only candidate nominated for the second year in a row. Washington has his own foundation and does work for multiple sclerosis. Our Take: Washington sometimes comes across mean to the press but he definitely has a heart of gold.

On the ex-players front there was little movement. Andre Reed has been rumored to be going to Denver for a workout but that may have fallen through as Denver coach Mike Shanahan said he may be out of their price range. Kevin Williams may be headed to San Francisco. They have an opening for a returner after trading R.W. McQuarters to Chicago. Bryce Paup was signed by Minnesota for $550,000 which includes a $100,000 signing bonus. Steve Tasker is now the color analyst for the Buffalo Destroyer Games on Empire. Our Take: Reed is going to have to play for the bare minimum somewhere as everyone is up against the cap.

In an administrative move the club hired Martin Bayless this week as their director of player development/special projects. He will be liaison between players and management. Our Take: This is basically the same position that Jerry Butler used to have and he was very successful in it.

Other Minor news this week, the Bills announced that Jet Blue Airways is now the official airline of the Bills and training camp. Jet Blue will outfit the Maple Leaf Club with their leather airline seats and giveaway a free upgrade each game. They will have a prominent billboard on top of the old administration building. Our Take: A good sponsorship agreement with an up and coming low fare airline that will offer out of town fans in select cities inexpensive ways to get to the game.

The Bills wrapped up last weekend by avenging a charity softball game loss to the Giants two years ago by winning 21-16 in Groton, NY. Collins put the game away for the Bills with a grand slam in the 9th. Our Take: It is nice for fans in rural areas of NY to get a chance to see players from two teams up close and personal.

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