PITTSFORD, N.Y. (AP) Saying he’s ”a grown man,” Buffalo Bills defensive tackle Marcell Dareus intends to focus on putting his best foot forward to straighten around a career that was nearly derailed by an offseason string of troubles.
”I’m going to do the best I can just to straighten my own things out because I am a man, I am human,” Dareus said Tuesday. ”And I’m going to do the best I can to continue to move forward and be positive from here on out.”
Dareus spoke during an impromptu gathering with reporters following practice at the Bills’ training camp facility in suburban Rochester. It marked the first time he’s spoken publicly since late May, when the 2011 first-round draft pick’s on- and off-field problems began to grow.
Dareus was arrested twice in the span of four weeks in May. He then reported to camp out of shape and failed a conditioning test that contributing him to missing the first four days of practice.
”It was just a hurdle I had to get over. And mentally I got over it, and got over everything else,” he said. ”I’m 100 percent sure that everything is just fine, and we’re just going to keep moving forward. I don’t have any worries.”
Dareus declined to talk about his legal issues, or discuss the possibility of facing any NFL disciplinary action.
”I’m not really discussing that because that’s something I’ll have to talk about with them,” he said, referring to the NFL.
Dareus did indicate that he has not yet been contacted by league officials.
Dareus first ran into trouble on May 5, when he was arrested in his native Alabama and charged with possession of synthetic marijuana and drug paraphernalia.
Last month, he agreed to enter an NFL substance abuse program in a bid to have the two felony charges dismissed.
He still faces a reckless driving charge and numerous traffic violations after crashing his 2012 Jaguar into a tree during an alleged car race with teammate Jerry Hughes not far from Ralph Wilson Stadium on May 30.
Dareus is still attempting to resolve those charges after failing to accept a plea deal last month. He is next scheduled to appear in court on Sept. 9, two days after the Bills open the season at Chicago.
He said the legal issues were a distraction that led to him reporting to camp out of shape.
”My weight is a lot better. I’m staying focused on doing what I can on the field,” Dareus said. ”I’m feeling good. Mentally I’m in a good state. I’m just happy to be back out here.”
He credited his teammates and coach Doug Marrone for their support. It was Marrone, especially, who backed Dareus after his second arrest. Marrone met with the player and suggested Dareus take two weeks off from voluntary practices to clear his head.
Dareus has been a three-year starter in Buffalo since he was drafted with the third pick out of Alabama. He’s coming off a career season in which he was credited with 71 tackles and 7 1/2 sacks and made his first Pro Bowl appearance as an injury replacement.
On the field Tuesday, rookie receiver Sammy Watkins was very limited in returning to practice a day after being held out because of bruised ribs. Watkins was limited to taking part in individual drills and did not catch any passes.
”I’m fine. I can go out there and do a practice if I need to,” Watkins said, noting the team is taking a cautionary approach to his injury. ”It’s just being safe.”
The first-round draft pick was hurt in a 19-16 preseason loss at Pittsburgh on Saturday.
Marrone said Watkins hasn’t been fully cleared for practice and said it’s too early to determine whether he’ll play Saturday, when the Bills host Tampa Bay.
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