Bills upbeat in reporting for voluntary workouts
Defensive end Mario Williams was happy to finally begin putting
faces to the names of his new Buffalo Bills teammates. Quarterback
Ryan Fitzpatrick had no complaints trading in his golf clubs and
100-degree temperatures back home in Arizona for a 30-degree day in
And Shawne Merriman was so upbeat over reporting for the first
day of the Bills’ voluntary conditioning program Monday that not
even a freak snowstorm could put a chill into his mood.
”I’m so excited, I’m going to go out and make snow angels,”
That Merriman can even kid about making snow angels is
encouraging news. After injuries limited him to playing eight games
over the past two seasons, the ”Lights Out” linebacker said his
rehab from surgery to repair a nagging right Achilles tendon injury
has him on track to be ready for training camp.
”Absolutely, that’s everyone’s target, including mine,”
Merriman said. ”I’m excited seeing the guys, and how excited
everybody is to get back here and start working.”
The Bills are back in town together for the first time since
cleaning out their lockers in early January following a
disappointing 6-10 season in which they lost eight of their last
nine games to miss the playoffs for a 12th straight season.
Yet, the mood was distinctly upbeat. The players are buoyed by
an eventful offseason in which the front-office raised expectations
by delivering on its vow to retain talent – receiver Stevie Johnson
and tight end Scott Chandler were both re-signed – and add to it by
signing Williams and fellow defensive end Mark Anderson in free
agency last month.
”There’s a lot of excitement in this building right now,”
Fitzpatrick said. ”That’s the message I think that’s clearly
gotten across to the players through some of the stuff we’ve done
The buzz is not limited to just the Bills facility, either.
”Talking to a bunch of fans around town, they let us know how
excited they are about things,” running back Fred Jackson said.
”We feel the exact same way. We feel the organization has done
some things to give us a great opportunity to go out and win
football games. So we’re putting a lot of expectations on
The spark was provided by Williams, the pass-rushing specialist
who became the NFL’s highest-paid defensive player upon signing a
six-year $100 million contract three days into free agency was the
Williams made sure to be on hand for the first day of workouts,
well aware of what his presence means to improving both a patchwork
defense and the Bills overall fortunes. And he was reminded of that
a few days earlier, when he was shopping at a local store and
greeted by a nervous fan.
”He was shaking, and he was like, `Mario, I just want you to
know we’re on your back,”’ Williams said. ”I told him, `Thank
you. I’m here to win.”’
And it’s not lost on Williams that he might have something to
prove, too. He was limited to playing just five games last season
with Houston due to a torn chest muscle, and also missed three
games in 2010 after having surgery to repair a sports hernia.
”I’ve been away from football for a while, too,” he said.
”I’m extremely anxious to get out there.”
The conditioning program will continue through next month,
before the Bills open a series of voluntary minicamps starting on
May 29. Buffalo then closes its spring sessions with a three-day
mandatory camp that opens June 19.
Defensive tackle Marcell Dareus couldn’t wait to attend the
workout program. Aside from meeting his new defensive linemates,
last year’s rookie first-round pick missed the benefit of any
offseason workouts last spring because they were wiped out as a
result of the NFL lockout.
”I’m just so excited about so many things this year that I’m at
a loss for words,” Dareus said, noting he’s spent the past
three-plus months in his native Alabama dropping weight and adding
”I think we can be pretty good,” Dareus said, assessing the
potential of Buffalo’s new-look defense. ”I know I’m going to have
a ball this season. I can’t wait.”
In other news Monday, offensive linemen Kraig Urbik and Chad
Rinehart both re-signed with the Bills after accepting the tendered
contracts offered them by the team last month.
Rinehart, a fourth-year player, had 12 starts in 16 games last
year, splitting time between right and left guard in his first full
season with Buffalo. Urbik, a third-year player, started 13 games
split between right guard and center last season, his second with