Bills open informal workouts in suburban Buffalo

Running back Fred Jackson brought the coolers filled with
bottled water and sports drinks. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick
brought the laughs as several Buffalo Bills opened their
NFL-lockout version of a voluntary minicamp Monday.

Proudly displaying his sweat-soaked T-shirt after a 40-minute
running and conditioning session, Fitzpatrick winked and said,
”That’s why I wore a grey T-shirt, so it looks like I was working
hard.”

With no end to the NFL labor dispute in sight, this is about as
lathered up for football as Fitzpatrick and his colleagues can get
these days. He was one of about 35 Bills – plus a handful of
undrafted rookie free agents – taking part in a two-hour informal
workout inside a suburban Buffalo sports complex that doubles as
home to the Western New York Flash of the Women’s Professional
Soccer League.

It was the first of five informal workout sessions the players
have scheduled for this week in what amounts to the team’s largest
reunion since the Bills cleaned out their lockers a day after their
season ended in January.

”It’s like old home week,” cracked center Geoff
Hangartner.

Fitzpatrick was impressed with the turnout after he hosted a
smaller group of teammates for workouts in Arizona last month.

”It always helps when you’re working out with other people,
especially your teammates,” Fitzpatrick said. ”I thought it went
as well as expected today.”

Monday’s workout was limited to agility, strength and
conditioning sessions. The players split time working out in the
weight room and on the field. Fitzpatrick expects he’ll get an
opportunity to start throwing passes to build chemistry with his
receivers later in the week.

Reminders of the lockout were still prevalent.

With team staff barred from attending because of the lockout,
the players brought in two private trainers, Bob Bateson and
Demeris Johnson, to oversee the workouts.

Before the players stepped on the field, they were required to
sign a waiver so the owners of the facility weren’t held
responsible for anyone getting hurt. A reporter was asked to seek a
facility staff member to mop up a pool of water that had collected
in a hallway after rain blew in through an open doorway.

And the players had to switch fields near the end of their
workout to make room for the start of the Flash practice.

”It’s definitely different, because we’re accustomed to coming
in, getting breakfast, getting taped, having the typical warmup, so
the routine is off,” Wilson said. ”But the good thing about this
is we’re all – all 32 teams – having to endure the same fight. It’s
all about whoever handles the lockout the best, and once it’s over,
who ever get ready the fastest.”

The Bills joined a number of NFL teams whose players have
organized informal workouts over the past month. It’s a group that
includes the Saints, Jets, Giants, Redskins and Lions, who held a
series of workouts outside of Detroit last week.

Fitzpatrick isn’t sure how much the workouts will help the Bills
in the win-loss column once the season begins.

”I think that part of it is overrated, because guys that have
been around for more than a year or two know how it works,”
Fitzpatrick said. ”I do think it’s good just in the sense that
everybody’s able to get together to see where you’re at and compare
yourself with your teammates just to let them know that you’re
working hard and expect them to do the same.”

Receiver Lee Evans, linebackers Chris Kelsay and Reggie Torbor
were among the veterans present. The group included two other
quarterbacks, Levi Brown and Brian Brohm, who has not been
re-signed by the Bills. Also on hand were two of the Bills’ nine
rookie draft picks, linebacker Kelvin Sheppard, a third-round
selection, and defensive back Da’Norris Searcy, a
fourth-rounder.

Linebacker Andra Davis, who helped organize this week’s
workouts, was absent due to travel delays. Cornerback Terrence
McGee is expected to show up later this week, as well.

Among the notable players not present were linebacker Paul
Posluszny, who elected to continue working out near his home
outside of Pittsburgh, Shawne Merriman and rookie first-round pick,
defensive tackle Marcell Dareus.

Wilson finished the session leading a handful of players through
a limited walk-through to help the rookies become familiar with the
team’s defensive philosophies.

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