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Merriman 'breaks down' Spurs

Irreverent NBA analyst Charles Barkley may want to steal a few ideas for his TNT broadcast from Bills linebacker Shawne Meriman on the breakdown of the Western Conference finals series between the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder. Merriman joked that he sees NFL-like schemes in the Spurs' dominant offense. San Antnoio is unbeaten in the postseason.

Does Merriman see the Spurs losing a game this postseason? "They’ll lose one. The Spurs will lose one, but I watched the game the other day and it’s like they’re running a clinic out there. There’s guys running all over the place. I think I saw some football patterns during the Spurs game. I saw one guy running the slant and one guy running a 5-yard out pattern on the other side of the basketball court. They’re shooting threes all over the place. It looks like some audibles."

---Mark Gaughan

Merriman excited to be full-go

Bills linebacker Shawne Merriman walked off the practice field in a full sweat and full of optimism. He said he participated fully in practice and has been cleared by doctors for full participation this spring.

"It felt great, just walking out there with the guys," Merriman said. "I’ve been here the whole entire offseason. Every day. Working with the guys full on. Just doing everything my teammates are doing. That just made me happy, because theyse guys never got a chance to see me go out and really work. I came in the middle of the year (in 2010), then we had the lockout (in 2011). This was the first offseason I got a a chance to actually have a full offseason in three years."

Merriman visited Dr. James Andrews on Tuesday to get his Achilles tendon checked out. Andrews is the renowned orthopedic surgeon based in Birmingham, Ala., who operated on Merriman's problem Achilles in early November. It has been seven months since the surgery. Merriman did not rupture the Achilles. He said Andrews went in to repair tears and "clean up" the tendon area. He called it a six-month injury.

"I'm glad they went in and did it when they did," Merriman said. "If they didn’t who knows? It could have been one of those things that would be much tougher to come back from."

Merriman had 39.5 sacks in his first three seasons in the league. He has just six over the past four seasons. He has missed most of three of those campaigns. He played the first five games of last season for the Bills before going on the injured-reserve list.

Said Merriman: "It was a hard three years when you’re dealing with something like the Achilles and you don’t know whether to go get something done. You’re a game-time decision. You don’t know if you can practice. You’re in pain. You can’t go out there and play the way you can play. I just felt that I was in a  position that I couldn’t go out and perform. I couldn’t go out and do the things I do best. I couldn’t explode. So what people have seen from the last three years wasn’t Shawne Merriman. It was a guy going out and trying his best for what I had at the time."

---Mark Gaughan


Bills add CB to roster

The Bills added cornerback Isaiah Green to the 90-man roster today and released linebacker Garrick Williams. Green, 5-foot-10 and 180 pounds, is an undrafted rookie from Fresno State. He played 46 games for the Bulldogs.

--Mark Gaughan

Rex bleeding blue & white

Here's another reason for Buffalo Bills' fans to either dislike Jets coach Rex Ryan -- or perhaps like him a bit more. He's a hockey fan and a big booster of a Sabres enemy, the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Ryan spent much of his young childhood living in Toronto with his mother, who worked for the University of Toronto. When he got into high school, he moved back down to the United States to live with his father, who was coaching the Minnesota Vikings at the time.

Ryan was at Game One of the Stanley Cup Finals last night and sporting a New Jersey Devils jersey. (Fans who watched the CBC broadcast got to see a interview in the stands with the coach.) 

Ryan on his hockey loyalties during the Hockey Night in Canada telecast: “The Leafs are my team, but living here in Jersey I support the Devils,” Ryan said. “They’re right down the road. They’re a good team. But I am waiting on Toronto. It’s been what, eight years since we’ve made the playoffs? We’re upset that we never made the playoffs this year. Eight-year drought, c’mon Leafs. I mean, they started the season great, and I’m, like, this could be our year. But we’ll see. Hopefully they get it together.”

The Leafs have one thing in common with the Bills. Toronto's eight-year playoff drought is the longest in the NHL (and considering 16 teams make the playoffs, that's long). The Bills' 12-year drought is longest in the NFL. The longest in the NBA is eight years, for Minnesota. The longest in major league baseball is 30 years, for the Washington Nationals (and Montreal Expos).

---Mark Gaughan

Bills set 15 training camp practices

The Bills will open training camp on Thursday, July 26, at St. John Fisher College in suburban Rochester, the team announced.

The Bills will have 15 training camp practices open to the public. Four of them are night practices, which will run from 6:30 to 9 p.m.

The schedule (all are 3 to 5:30 p.m., except when noted): July 26, July 27, July 28, July 29 (night), July 31, Aug. 1 (night), Aug. 2, Aug. 3, Aug. 4, Aug. 6, Aug. 7, Aug. 11 (night), Aug. 12, Aug. 13, Aug. 14 (night).

Meanwhile, the Bills also announced the signing of a free-agent wide receiver - Derek Session. He was one of the free-agent tryout players invited to the rookie minicamp a few weeks ago. Session, 6-1, 225, is an undrafted rookie from Maine who had 132 catches for 1,364 yards and five TDs in a 48-game college career. The Bills released lineman Paul Madsen.

---Mark Gaughan


Lights on for Merriman

Bills linebacker Shawne Merriman says via his twitter account he has been cleared to practice by doctors who checked out his Achlles tendon. He is expected to practice with the team at the second organized-team-activity workout on Thursday at One Bills Drive.

"Got the thumbs up can't wait to join my teammates in practice tomorrow," Merriman wrote.

In the Bills' best-case scenario, Merriman would give the Bills a New York Giants-like, multi-directional pass-rush cast, because he would be the third option behind Mario Williams and Mark Anderson. ... That's if he can stay healthy.

---Mark Gaughan

83 Ex-Bills in Concussion Litigation

There currently are 81 concussion-related lawsuits filed against the NFL, and they include 2,265 former players as of about a week ago.

There is a website - - that rounds up news on the lawsuits. That website includes a listing of all the plaintiffs in the cases. Based on a review of that list, The News counts 83 former Bills among the plaintiffs. Some played in Buffalo a long time, some only a matter of weeks.

There are lots of Hall-of-Famers who have joined in the suits, including Eric Dickerson, Joe DeLamielleure, Chris Doleman, Tony Dorsett, Fred Dean, Bob Lilly, Leroy Kelly and Art Monk, among others. Here are the ex-Bills who are included on the listing, according to the website:

Chidi Ahanotu, Ethan Albright, Gary Baldinger, Don Beebe, Rodney Bellinger, Curtis Brown, Bobby Burnett, Jeff Burris, Derrick Burroughs, Carl Byrum, Mario Clark, Tony Cline, Robert Coons, Paul Costa, Joe Cribbs, Matt Darby, Kenneth Davis, Joe DeLamielleure, Conrad Dobler, Kevin Everett, Joe Ferguson, Jay Foreman, Byron Franklin, Donnie Green, Drew Haddad, Dwight Harrison, Dale Hellestrae, J.D. Hill, Raion Hill.

And: Kelly Holcomb, Corey Hulsey, David Humm, Bill Hurley, Scott Hutchinson, Darrell Irvin, Harry Jacobs, Bruce Jarvis, James Jeffcoat, Ron Jessie, Jack Johnson, Rob Johnson, Trumaine Johnson, Trey Junkin, Rex Kern, Merv Krakau, Bill Laskey, Teddy Lehman, Mark Maddox, Shane Matthews, Ron McDole, Reggie McKenzie*, Seth McKinney, Ted McKnight, Aaron Merz, James Mueller, Ryan Neufeld.

And: Tom Nutten, Joe Panos, Robert Penchion, Lou Piccone, David Pool, Daryl Porter, Mike Pucillo, Constantin Ritzmann, Sam Rogers, Butch Rolle, Mike Schneck, Dennis Shaw, Daimon Shelton, John Skourpan, Fred Smerlas, Thomas Smith, Art Still, Anthony Thomas, Tavares Tillman, Richard Trapp, Maurice Tyler, Phil Villapiano, Dave Washington, David White, Art Whittington, Donald Wilson, Jeff Yeates. (*-Believed to be the ex-Bill by that name. There also is a James Williams among the litigants, but it is not know if he's the one of numerous NFLers named James Williams who played for the BIlls. A Bills draftee, Bernard Ford (third round, '88) is on the list, but he never got in a game with Buffalo.).

Here's a link to a Buffalo News story by reporter Henry Davis on the suit filed by Jacobs, the middle linebacker from the Bills' AFL championship teams.

---Mark Gaughan



Barnett, Peppers & Mario

Bills linebacker Nick Barnett was doing some elite training in March at the Athletes Performance Institute in Phoenix. The place has become famous among football fans because it’s one of the centers where top draft prospects go to get ready for the NFL Scouting Combine workouts. But veteran pro athletes in many sports also go there during their offseasons to get high-level speed and strength conditioning.

Barnett was there with Chicago Bears star pass rusher Julius Peppers when the NFL’s free-agency signing period opened.

“I was in Arizona,” Barnett said after Tuesday’s spring practice in Orchard Park. “It was me and Julius Peppers, and we were joking around. He said, ‘I think we’re gonna sign Mario Williams.’ I just said, ‘I don’t think so.’ Then I came in the next day and said, ‘Looks like we got him, bro.’ It was definitely exciting. If he comes in and does what he’s capable of doing and what he’s been doing, it makes us a better team just with that.”

As was widely reported at the time, the Bears were very interested in recruiting Williams. It’s worth reiterating that the Bills’ front office – Russ Brandon, Jim Overdorf and Buddy Nix – did a good job of lobbying Williams' agent that they were “all in” on the pursuit of the star defensive end and that he should make Buffalo his first visit. It obviously helped that Williams was intrigued by Buffalo and was not fixated on a “bright lights-big city” destination.

---Mark Gaughan


Chan on Merriman, Stevie

The organized team activity workouts officially are voluntary, but 88 of the 90 players on the team were in the building at One Bills Drive on Tuesday for the first day of practice.

Defensive end Shawne Merriman, rehabilitating from Achilles tendon surgery last fall, was at a doctor's appointment. The only other absent player was undrafted rookie safety Delano Howell, who is finishing up school requirements at Stanford.

Gailey on Merriman: “He was gone today. Today was the only day he could see the doctor to get final clearances on some stuff. He'll be back Thursday.

Will Merriman be on the field when he gets back? “I think so. It depends on whatwe hear from the doctors."

Receiver Stevie Johnson had groin surgery about a month ago. Gailey said he's not expecting him to practice until the end of July. 

“Training camp, training camp," Gailey said on Johnson's likely return date. "I don’t see him making minicamp. I’d love to say he would, but I don’t know if he will or not. We’ll see. ... You don’t ever want to rush it to the point where you have a chance of injuring a guy further. We’ll try to be smart about it, but if he can work we’ll work him. He needs it like everybody else. We all need it.”

Said Johnson: "I’m feeling good. They got me doing a lot of work in the pool and in my first day out here doing ladders and strides. Right now we’re a good five weeks and I don’t really feel too much in my groin. It’s just a little bit in my hamstrings. Once we get that out of the way then I’ll be full go."

Cornerback Terrence McGee and defensive tackle Kyle Williams worked in individual drills but not 11-on-11 sessions. Other players sitting out due to injury rehabilitation included: center Eric Wood, cornerback Chris Hill, safety Josh Nesbitt, tackle Erik Pears, tight end Mike Caussin, receiver Kamar Aiken, defensive tackle Torell Troup and defensive end Lionel Dotson.

---Mark Gaughan

Bills depth outlook at OTA

The Bills were talking about their improved depth after their first spring practice of the year at the fieldhouse in Orchard Park.

Said QB Ryan Fitzpatrick: "I think one of the biggest differences across the board for us this year, not only on the defensive side, but I think at every position, is there’s so much competition right now. Guys are competitive. That’s just the nature of the professional athlete. But you just see it every day here. There’s guys competing against other guys who are just as talented as they are. That’s been something that has slowly been changing since I’ve been here, is the talent level from top to bottom I feel like has gotten better and is going to continue to get a lot better because the better you are on defense, the more challenged you are on offense, and vice versa."

Coach Chan Gailey on Day One: “A lot of energy. A lot of quickness. We felt bigger on the field and it felt bigger on the field. It felt quick on the field. We’ve got a lot of work to do, but initial observations were good.”

Here's a look at how the depth sorted out by position on the practice field:

D-LINE: Working with the starting defensive line in individual drills were, left to right: Mario Williams, Marcell Dareus, Kyle Williams and Chris Kelsay. On the second team were, left to right, Spencer Johnson, Dwan Edwards, Kellen Heard and Mark Anderson. On the third team were Kyle Moore, Jarron Gilbert, Alex Carrington, Robert Eddins and Jay Ross were rotating on the third team. When the 11-on-11 team drills took place, Kyle Williams sat out. On the first team were Mario Williams, Dareus, Edwards and Kelsay. On the second team were, left to right, Spencer Johnson, Heard, Carrington and Anderson.

DBs: First-round draft pick Stephon Gilmore worked largely with the starters at one cornerback. He looks fluid in coverage and in breaking on the ball. The other starter in individual drills was Terrence McGee, but he’s rehabilitating from knee surgery and he’s pointing toward training camp for full-go work. Leodis McKelvin started at the other corner. McKelvin, Gilmore and Aaron Williams rotated with the starting unit. Second-year man Justin Rogers saw plenty of action in the nickel defense. He had one of the best pass break-ups of the day on an out route for Donald Jones.

WR: Stevie Johnson was not practicing due to offseason groin surgery. Starting from the first snap at wideout were Donald Jones and Derek Hagan. There was a lot of rotating at receiver. Third-year man Marcus Easley remains the most physically imposing of the group, at 6-foot-2 and a chiseled 217 pounds. He showed strong hands in catching during the workout. Rookie T.J. Graham caught the ball well, too, although he couldn’t come down with a well-thrown long-ball from Fitzpatrick.

QBs: Just as expected the rotation went: Fitzpatrick, Tyler Thigpen, Vince Young, Brad Smith.

O-LINE: Center Eric Wood is six months into his knee rehabilitation. He was not practicing. Neither was right tackle Erik Pears. The first-team offensive line was: left tackle Cordy Glenn, left guard Andy Levitre, center Colin Brown, right guard Kraig Urbik, right tackle Chris Hairston.

RBs: It’s obvious watching any Bills practice that Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller are two of the more talented players on the team. They always look good. Tashard Choice, the former Georgia Techster and Dallas Cowboy, was No. 3. Backing up fullback Corey McIntyre was ex-Pitt Panther Dorin Dickerson, who’s more of a receiving-blitz-pickup fullback at 226 pounds.

LBs: Middle linebacker Kelvin Sheppard was flanked by Nick Barnett on the weak side and Kirk Morrison on the strong side. Working with the second team were middle man Scott McKillop, flanked by outside men Nigel Bradham and Danny Batten. Arthur Moats and Bryan Scott, a hybrid safety-linebacker, got a good amount of work in sub packages.

---Mark Gaughan


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