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Rookie Symposium set

One week after the NFL canceled its annual rookie symposium because of the ongoing lockout, the NFL Players Association announced plans to stage its own two-day educational program for rookies on June 28 and 29 in Washington, D.C.

The NFLPA will cover the expenses for all 254 drafted players to attend.

Calling it "The Business of Football, Rookie Edition,'' the NFLPA-sponsored forum will cover financial education and planning, proper behavior on and off the field and provide other information to help rookies prepare for their future in the NFL.

The NFL decided against hosting a rookie symposium because it wouldn't have been able to get all the people together that's needed to conduct the event. Players association spokesman George Atallah said the organization chose to hold a symposium because "it's the right thing to do.''

He's right of course, but it's a shame this won't be a joint venture. Given the amount of money teams will be investing in these rookies, it would be in their best interest to be a part of lecturing these young players on what and what not to do. And the NFLPA should have been willing to work with the NFL so the NFL didn't have to cancel its symposium.

But it's better to have someone hosting a symposium than no one at all.

---Allen Wilson

Torbor on group lifting

Bills veteran linebacker Reggie Torbor said there's a significant benefit to working out in the weight room with a big group of teammates, as the Bills players did this week during sessions in Elma.

“The competition was the thing that was really great," Torbor said. "We kind of laughed. We said we’ve been fooling ourselves. It’s one thing to go in a gym and work out by yourself. You need a little break, and you take your little break. But when you have guys pushing you, they don’t let you take breaks. It was turned up. So it was a good gauge to see how far we actually have to go to be ready to play football.”

Torbor said it was good to talk to rookies about defensive schemes and ways in which they might not be able to free-lance as much as they did in college. “Even their mentality has to change," he said. "We try to talk about plays and we’re talking about schemes. And they’re like, ‘Well why can’t I do this?' You’re not in college. They’re kind of set in their ways. They’re still thinking, ‘I can do it.’ It starts the process. Even for the older guys it was good to see everyone. We haven’t seen each other in months."

---Mark Gaughan

L.A. financier would want to keep Bills in Buffalo

There are going to be people stepping forward to try to buy the Bills and keep them in Buffalo when the time comes for Ralph Wilson's estate to sell the team.

Another one has made himself known. Jeffrey Gundlach, a bond fund manager in Los Angeles, told the Wall Street Journal that he's looking to put a group together that would bid on the Bills when the franchise is put up for sale. Gundlach said he has broached the idea with some wealthy clients for whom he manages money.

“I’m trying to put a group together to buy it,” Gundlach told the Journal. "Now, I’m thinking about thinking about it.”

According to the Journal's blog item, Gundlach was brought up in Buffalo. He was a star fund manager for Trust Co. of the West, which he joined as a bond analyst in 1985. He later founded DoubleLine Capital, which is headquartered in Los Angeles.

Sabres owner Terry Pegula, Bills Hall of Famer Jim Kelly and former Sabres owner Tom Golisano are among those who have expressed an interest in bidding on the team and keeping it in Buffalo when it is sold by the estate.

The link to the WSJ blog: http://blogs.wsj.com/dailyfix/2011/05/26/bills-draw-another-interested-buyer/

---Mark Gaughan

Fitz happy with workouts

Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick declared the four days of players-only workouts a success today as his teammates finished their final session in Elma.

"I thought it went great, even better than I think any of the expectations," Fitzpatrick said. "It was kind of thrown together at the last minute. We asked guys to come out and spend some time out here, a lot of them away from their families. We had a great turnout and I think we got a lot out of it."

The NFL lockout continues. A court hearing on the merits of the lockout is scheduled for June 3, but a decision on that hearing isn't expected for probably several weeks after. The players know they are on their own for at least a month.

"We’ve got to plan like this thing is going to go on until training camp," Fitzpatrick said. "So we’ll get together one or two more times, depending on the timing of it. We’ve got to get together a couple more times, especially quarterback, receiver, running back, get some timing down."

Fitzpatrick thinks he got a big benefit in throwing passes to the recievers.

"I think the quarterback-receiver relationship and the timing of that is something you can work on year-round," he said. "That’s a lot different than maybe a linebacker taking drops or a safety trying to read his keys or whatever it is. A receiver is out there running routes and getting better. And me being able to throw to them, we can work on them and get better at that without a defense."

He also sees a benefit to building camaraderie. "We've continued to build on the off-field relationships that are really important, we’ve done a good job of (building) that so far, and hopefully it will pay off during the season."

There were about 31 Bills in attendance Thursday. Overall 37 Bills showed up at some point in the week.

Fitzpatrick said he expects the players to have another week of workouts in Western New York. Nothing is scheduled for the next several weeks. He said he might organize another passing-game week of work outside of Western New York, maybe near his Arizona home, depending on how long the lockout lasts.

"Right now we'll just play it by ear and see what we're going to do," he said.

Meanwhile, Bills linebacker Reggie Torbor was involved in a two-car "fender-bender" collision on Seneca Street at the entrance to the Sahlen's Sports Park while arriving for Thursday's session. Torbor was unhurt and participated fully in the workout. The driver of the other vehicle, a man in his 20s, was treated at the scene and released. Both cars had to be towed away.

---Mark Gaughan 

 

 

Dareus eager to get to know teammates

Bills first-round draft pick Marcell Dareus showed up to be with his teammates at their workout Wednesday, even though he can't do much on the field in the way of running around.

Dareus, like the other rookies at the workout, isn't under contract with the Bills. He figures to sign a huge deal, regardless of whether a rookie wage scale is imposed in the NFL for this year. But he can't afford to risk injury and threaten the terms of that deal. So he lifted some weights but stayed mostly out of the way for on-field conditioning drills, which involved a lot of running around at the indoor facility in Elma.

Dareus pooh-poohed the suggestion it was big of him to come from his home in Alabama for two days of workouts.  

"Its nothing," he said. "There was not a doubt in my mind I’m not coming. My agent was like, "Marcell you’ve got to do the insurance thing, you’re not covered with them (the Bills) yet. I said, 'You know Todd (France), I still want to go out there and show my face. I'm the first pick. The (Bills' players) were kind of like, 'We want him out here.' I'm not going to turn them down, because I’ve got to show some kind of support because I do want to be out here. I'm kind of excited. They wanted me out here, so im here."

Dareus spent a good 20 minutes after the workout talking with Bills veteran defensive linemen Dwan Edwards and Spencer Johnson about the Bills' defensive tactics.

"Picking their brain," Dareus said. "Talking to them about heavy 5 (technique), 4s and tilts and everything. They’re kind of getting me to come along."

Dareus will line up at defensive end in the 3-4 defense in regular situations and move inside to defensive tackle when the Bills go to a four-man line on passing downs. That's no change for him.

"They run the same defense we ran at Alabama," he said. "It’s pretty big. I’m kind of excited. It’s a blessing to come in and make a smooth transition. I'm all about smooth transitions. And learn from the guys. They know the defense, I know the defense, so we kinda got an upper hand on it. They really just help me technique-wise."

---Mark Gaughan

Long road for Bills TE Chandler

Tight end Scott Chandler went above the call of duty in showing up for the Buffalo Bills' players-only workouts Tuesday and Wednesday.

Chandler's plane flight out of Iowa was cancelled on Sunday. So he drove 12 hours to get to Elma to be with his teammates.

"I was supposed to fly in on Sunday but there was tornadoes and stuff in Iowa, so all my flights got cancelled," Chandler said. "They couldn't get me out here 'till Wednesday. So I just packed up the car and drove."

"It’s probably 10 1-2 (hours), but they’re doing all these construction projects on Interstate 80 and Interstate 90 right now, so I caught quite a bit of that," he said.

Chandler was claimed by the Bills off waivers from Dallas on Dec. 3. He was active for the last four games of last season and started the season-finale against the New York Jets. He originally was a fourth-round draft choice of the San Diego Chargers in 2007. He's 6-foot-7 and 265 pounds.

"Any chance I can get to get some camaraderie going with these guys is good," Chandler said. "I was only here a month last year so I'm still getting to know guys. Throwing with Fitz is something that's vital. Usually we'd be doing that this time of year. so any chance I can get to get together with him and throw is something I'm going to take advantage of. ... I just want these guys to know that I'm all in here."

Chandler left late in the morning Wednesday to get back to Iowa to celebrate his daughter's birthday.

---Mark Gaughan

Fitz says camp is key

Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick is hoping for a complete - or close to complete - training camp. Obviously, that's where the critical practice preparation for the season takes place.

Asked if the Bills had a slight advantage over some teams becasue they already are a year into their offensive system, Fitzpatrick said: "I think Peyton Manning would have a leg up because he’s been in that system a little longer. We have a lot of young guys and this work in the offseason really helps those guys, especially with the jump from year one to year two. David Nelson, Donald Jones, even Marcus Easley, Naaman Roosevelt, even Stevie (Johnson), a guy who hadn’t played much until last year. We’re really expecting to make a big jump this year. Without the work, the 7 on 7 work, the team work, I think it hurts us a little. Hopefully, we’ll have a lot of time to catch up in training camp. And I know those guys are working out hard right now. We’re going to throw as much together as we can."

"I think all the talk about guys getting their playbooks or not getting their playbooks, I think it’s very overrated, to be honest at this point," Fitzpatrick said. "You have to be out there doing it. You have to be on the field against a defense. You have to see situations against coverages. We're going to have a very similar offense to what we had last year. There’s going to be a period of time where guys are going to have to go through it again and think about their routes."

"At this point just being out here doing it on air, I don’t think that is a big issue," he said of not working with playbooks. "I think training camp is going to be the issue. That’s when we’re going to get the majority of our work done. I think that’s what happens in the offseason anyways, training camp is the big time."

---Mark Gaughan

Fitz looks fit

Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick looks in pretty good shape during players workouts this week.

He looks trimmer than last season, although he said he's essentially the same weight as throughout his career. He's listed at 225 on the Bills' roster. He said he's 227. But he said he feels in improved condition.

"I think I am. I do weigh a little bit more, just a couple pounds, but in terms of the strength stuff I’ve been doing, the guy I’ve been working with in Arizona, I’ve been doing a lot more of that this offseason to prevent (injury). ... I've worked with Keith Poole. He played receiver in the league for a number of years. Just to prevent injury and kind of get back into it. I think I got away from that a little bit last year."

Poole played five years in the NFL, with the Saints and Broncos. He's an Arizona State graduate, and he runs a fitness center in suburban Phoenix.

Fitzpatrick, incidentally, has re-grown the beard he shaved off at the end of the season, which only was noteworthy because it got to "Grizzly Adams" length by the end of the year. He said he doesn't know if he will keep it.

---Mark Gaughan

Bills put ball in play at workout

The Buffalo Bills broke out the football for throwing and catching during their second day of players-only practices in Elma.

Quarterbacks Ryan Fitzpatrick, Levi Brown and Brian Brohm threw for at least a half an hour to receivers, running backs and tight ends. There were no defenders guarding the receivers. The workout was long - going for about two hours and 40 minutes. Most of it was on-field conditioning work and work in the weight room.

Said Fitzpatrick: "There’s obviously some rust out here today but that’s what this is for, getting the timing back. We’re not on a field here with lines or anything. We’re on a soccer field. So we had a couple issues in terms of figuring out how far everything was and even tracking the ball as far as the lights."

"But it was a good first day of throwing, I’ll tell you that," Fitzpatrick said. "It is like riding a bike. We were kidding out here. Just throwing some of that stuff to Lee, I could do it with my eyes closed. Even David Nelson. He’s become a guy that we’ve worked enough now that I’m getting real comfortable throwing the ball to him."

The unofficial attendance count of Bills players was 38. They included: quarterbacks Fitzpatrick, Brown and Brohm; running backs Fred Jackson, Corey McIntyre and Jehuu Caulcrick; receivers Lee Evans, David Nelson, Naaman Roosevelt, Paul Hubbard and Felton Huggins; offensive linemen Geoff Hangartner, Andy Levitre, Demetrius Bell, Cordaro Howard, Kraig Urbik and Jason Watkins; tight end Scott Chandler; defensive linemen Dwan Edwards, Spencer Johnson, Torell Troup and Alex Carrington; linebackers Chris Kelsay, Reggie Torbor, Andra Davis, Aaron Maybin, rookie Kelvin Sheppard, Arthur Moats, Antonio Coleman and Danny Batten; defensive backs Leodis McKelvin, Jairus Byrd, George Wilson, Jon Corto, Bryan Scott, rookie Da'Norris Searcy; punter Brian Moorman; and long-snapper Garrison Sanborn. 

---Mark Gaughan

 

Ex-Bills flock to UFL Hartford staff

The coaching staff of the United Football League's Hardford Colonials has a ton of Buffalo connections.

Former Bills cornerback Jeff Burris was named cornerbacks coach earlier this month. The team's head coach and general manager is Jerry Glanville, who was on Kay Stephenson's Bills staff as a defensive backs coach in 1983. (Glanville, of course, went onto be head coach in Houston and Atlanta in the NFL.)

Glanville's quarterbacks coach is Turk Schonert, the former Bills offensive coordinator. The defensive line coach is Tim Krumrie, who coached that group with the Bills from 2003 to 2005. The safeties coach is Bill Bradley, who coached DBs for Wade Phillips in Buffalo. The offensive line coach is Larry Zierlein, who aided Jim McNally with the Bills' O-line in 2006.

---Mark Gaughan

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