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Cook happy to have a second chance

St. Joe’s graduate Domonic Cook was in camp on a tryout basis. The former University at Buffalo cornerback was grateful to have a second chance with the Bills.

Cook signed with the team as an undrafted free agent last year, but suffered a serious knee injury in the first week of training camp. He had surgery last August, and wasn’t cleared to work out until February.

“When [the Bills] called, I almost teared up for a chance to come back,” he said. “I’m just trying to get my knees back. My quickness was a big part of my game, so I’m trying to get my speed back up.”

Cook said he gained some unwanted weight being on the shelf for six months.

"I've lost most of it, but I still feel a little stiff," he said. "I'm trying to loosen up. Each day I've felt better."

Cook was one of 21 players in camp on tryouts, along with Niagara-Wheatfield graduate and former UB basketball player Byron Mulkey.

While not naming specific player, Gailey said he saw some good things from tryout group.

“We had a couple that impressed us well enough,” the coach said. “We’re going to go in and discuss exactly who we might need to bring onto the team.”

There’s not much room – the team has 89 players on their roster, which has a 90-player limit.

---Jay Skurski

@JaySkurski on Twitter

Gailey wraps up rookie camp weekend

The Bills finished up their fourth and final practice of rookie minicamp early this afternoon on the grass field outside the team's fieldhouse.

Coach Chan Gailey on what he took away from the the weekend: "We had great effort. We got to see some guys run around and try to retain what we had taught them for three days. It was very good work in my opinion. We were able to get outside all three days and we were able to get a lot accomplished."

Gailey's big focus was on seeing what the players could retain from day to day.

"Impressed with some and not impressed with others. But that’s the way it is. You’re trying to find that out. You can watch them run, jump and change direction but you don’t know their mental capacity," he said. "That’s the one thing you don’t know off film, so you’re trying to get a good gauge of that."

A total of 45 players took part in the four practices -- nine draft picks, 10 undrafted free agents, five first-year players and 21 tryout participants.

The next phase of the offseason program will be voluntary organized team activities. The first of those 10 sessions will be May 29. The team will hold a mandatory three-day minicamp from June 19-21.

---Jay Skurski

@JaySkurski on Twitter

Gailey goes Green on Graham

Bills coach Chan Gailey gave a Dennis Green-like answer when asked today about receiver T.J. Green.

"To be honest with you, he's exactly what we thought," Gailey said. "He's a raw runner and he can run fast and catch the football."

OK, so maybe not quite as passionate as the former Cardinals coach.

As for Graham, his speed was on display as the Bills opened their three-day rookie minicamp on the grass field next to the fieldhouse this afternoon. Graham easily got behind cornerback Domonic Cook early in practice on a deep route, but the ball was slightly overthrown.

Later, he caught the first two passes of a 7-on-7 drill from quarterback Aaron Corp.

"I had a lot of fun competing and putting on the uniform," Graham said. "The hardest thing today was kind of figuring out the concepts. It's a really different playbook. So to come out and try to learn on the fly was pretty tough, but pretty fun just getting out and finally playing football. The last couple months have been kind of tough just training and training."

You can read more about Graham and the first day of rookie camp in Saturday's print edition.

And for those who don't get the Green comparison, I refer you to one of the best clips ever: "They are who we thought they were!"

 

---Jay Skurski

@JaySkurski on Twitter

Gailey on goals for the weekend

A total of 45 rookies and first-year players took the field this afternoon for the Buffalo Bills' first rookie minicamp. The team will hold three more practices this weekend, two on Saturday and one on Sunday (all sessions are closed to the public).

Of those 45, 21 are with the team on a tryout basis, including Western New York natives Byron Mulkey and Domonic Cook. They face the longest odds of finding a spot on the team's 53-man roster at the end of training camp, but that's a long way off.

For now, coach Chan Gailey described his focus for the weekend as the following: "You try to see the effort that a guy gives. You try to see if a guy is a lazy guy or a worker. You're trying to figure that out. You're trying to figure out, does a guy retain what you teach him? Can he hold on from day one to day two what you taught in day one, and add on to day two? So you're looking at that. Those are the two main things. They're talented guys, or they wouldn't be here to start with."

Along with Cook and Mulkey, the other 19 tryout players are: C Taylor Boggs, RB Zach Brown, DE Vince Browne, TE Derek Buttles, WR Roddell Carter, LB Nick Clark, WR Gino Crump, FB Dorin Dickerson, DE Sean Ferguson, WR Kevin Fitzpatrick, DE Corey Hart, DT Johnny Hollins, LB Brian Smith, S Nick Saenz, WR Derek Session, DE Bernard Smith, QB Alex Tanney, LB Jeff Thomas and DT Logan Walls.

---Jay Skurski

@JaySkurski on Twitter

Buddy & Chan on VY

Bills General Manager Buddy Nix after the team's rookie practice today on the signing of free-agent quarterback Vince Young:

"We’re looking always to try to improve our team – get deeper and get more competition, and that’s what this is. It’s a competition for the backup quarterback job. Not the starter, obviously, I’ve said that 100 times. He knows it. That’s the way it is. It’s just to try to get us better."

"We’ve got two of the best quarterback coaches in the business, starting with Coach Gailey and then David Lee. Those guys are good teachers. They will do what he can do best. Trust me he’s a big good athlete who can do a lot of things for you."

"The guy’s been to two Pro Bowls. He’s 31-19 as a starter in this league. We think he can do that again. If he has to play, he can give us a chance to win the game or at least this, he will make Tyler (Thigpen) better. One of ‘em will be better. So that will make our team better."

Gailey on Young's strengths: "Well, he's got a great arm. When he worked out here, he threw it very well. Everybody knows his mobility. He brings you that. And he's won football games in the NFL. That's another positive."

Gailey on how Young's abilities fit the Bills' spread scheme: "We tend to fit the offense around what people do. We don't make people fit in to our offense. If he ends up ... if we get an injury to Fitz and he ends up playing, we'll tailor some things to do what he does, using his movement skills."
  
Does Gailey see Young being part of a Wildcat package?

"Right now, I ain't even had him here. It's hard to say what a guy might do, but when he gets here, we'll teach him the basics and go from there. There's no telling what he can do."

---Mark Gaughan

VY agrees to terms with Bills

The Buffalo Bills have taken out a high-profile insurance policy on quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.

The Bills have agreed to terms on a contract with Vince Young, the team announced. ESPN reported the deal is for one year and is worth $2 million with another $1 million in incentives.

The move gives the Bills added security behind Fitzpatrick. Young will be the favorite to win the No. 2 job in a competition with incumbent Tyler Thigpen, who spent last season as Fitzpatrick’s backup.

“We think adding Vince to our roster will create more competition for the backup quarterback position,” said Bills General Manager Buddy Nix. He brings with him some unique physical abilities that most are aware of and that will make the competition interesting. It’s all about improving our team.”

"Thanks to Buddy Nix and Coach (Chan) Gailey for giving me the opportunity to come in and play and compete," said Young in a statement released by the team. "I am looking forward to playing with the guys and helping where I am needed.  I have always respected the Bills organization and am looking forward to being a part of the team."

Young became a free agent in Febraury when Philadelphia decided not to pick up the option on his contract after he spent one season backing up Michael Vick. Young, who turns 29 this month, was 1-2 in relief of Vick last season and threw four touchdown passes with nine interceptions. The Eagles signed ex-Bill Trent Edwards to be Vick’s backup for the coming season.

Young, 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds, spent his first five seasons in Tennessee and made two Pro Bowls (in 2006 and 2009). But he lost his job to Kerry Collins in 2010 and fell out of favor with then-Titans coach Jeff Fisher. He was released after the season. Young has a career record as a starter of 31-19. His career completion percentage is 57.9, and he has 46 TD passes and 51 interceptions.

Thigpen, 28, saw almost no action last season, only entering in mop-up duty in a loss at San Diego. Thigpen is a former seventh-round draft choice who has played five seasons and has 12 career starts. He went 1-10 with a Kansas City team that finished 2-14 in 2008. He has just one start since, for Miami in 2010.

---Mark Gaughan

Six draft picks signed by Bills

Six of the nine members of the Bills' 2012 draft class will be under contract Friday when the team opens rookie minicamp.

The Bills announced tonight the signings of the following players: outside linebacker Nigel Bradham (fourth round), cornerback Ron Brooks (fourth round), offensive tackle Zebrie Sanders (fifth round), linebacker Tank Carder (fifth round), offensive lineman Mark Asper (sixth round) and kicker John Potter (seventh round).

That leaves first-round pick Stephon Gilmore, the cornerback from South Carolina, Georgia offensive lineman Cordy Glenn (second round) and North Carolina St. wide receiver T.J. Graham (third round) as the team's drafted players still unsigned.

---Jay Skurski

http://twitter.com/jayskurski

Bills sign RB Jackson

Buffalo Bills running back Fred Jackson has struck a two-year contract extension that keeps him tied to the team through 2014.

The deal was announced today at One Bills Drive. Jackson was entering the final year of a contract he signed in May 2009.

Jackson, 31, rushed for 934 yards in just 10 games last season before being lost for the season with a fractured fibula. At the time of his injury, his 1,376 yards from scrimmage ranked second in the NFL. Jackson accounted for 40 percent of the Bills’ offense the first 10 games.

"I'm excited because I feel like something special is about to go down and I want to be a part of it," Jackson said. "I've always said I wanted to be here, now I have the opportunity to be here."

"He is a huge piece of the puzzle for us," said Bills General Manager Buddy Nix. "We always said we want to try to keep our good players, and we've done it again today, with what we think is one of the best backs in the league."

Jackson's average salary more than doubles during the two-year extension, rising to about $4.5 million a year. It could go up to about $11 million for the two new years if he hits all incentives. Jackson has produced three straight outstanding seasons for the Bills. In 2010 he rushed for 927 yards and caught 215 yards in passes. In 2009, he rushed for 1,062 yards and caught 371 yards in passes.

Last season, Jackson led all NFL running backs in yards per carry, at 5.49 yards an attempt. That was the best total by a Bills running back since O.J. Simpson averaged 5.52 a carry in 1975.

Jackson was playing under a four-year deal that averaged $1.87 million a year. Jackson was an exclusive-rights free agent at the time he signed that deal, which meant he had little leverage in negotiations. The deal also was stuck with the NFL staring at the prospect of a lockout in 2011 that could have wiped out a full season. Had that happened, Jackson still might not have been an unrestricted free agent coming out of the lockout. He felt pressured by the circumstances to strike a deal, and he never was fully satisfied with it. Jackson wound up signing with a new agent, Buffalo-based Ron Raccuia, and he negotiated the new contract.

---Mark Gaughan

 

Stevie on MTV2 at 11 am. today

< a href="http://www.mtv.com/shows/sucker_free/series.jhtml" style="color:#439CD8;" target="_blank">Sucker Free - MTV2

 

MTV2 shot a segment billed as a day in the life of Bills receiver Stevie Johnson that is airing at 11 a.m. today on MTV2. It's part of the show Sucker Free Countdown that goes from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Above is a brief clip that's part of the segment.

---Mark Gaughan

How CB battle shapes up

Here's how the Buffalo Bills' cornerback lineup shapes up in the wake of the release of veteran Drayton Florence (see previous blog item):

First-round draft pick Stephon Gilmore and eight-year veteran Terrence McGee are the favorites to start. Second-year man Aaron Williams will push McGee for a starting job. In the nickel defense, Gilmore and Williams are the favorites to be the outside coverage men, with McGee bumping inside on the slot.

However, there's plenty of competition, and the Bills could create more playing opportunity for cornerbacks by using a dime (six defensive back) scheme, something they used almost never the past couple seasons. Second-year man Justin Rogers saw extended action the last six games of last season and probably would open training camp as the second slot man in a dime defense. Fourth-round draft pick Ron Brooks covered outside receivers and worked in the slot for Louisiana State. The Bills tend to throw rookies into action on the outside before working them on the slot, but we'll see how fast Brooks picks things up. Leodis McKelvin, entering the last year of his contract, has been used almost exclusively outside. He will aim to have a good training camp and preseason to try to force his way into action. McKelvin also led the Bills on punt returns, averaging 19.5 yards on eight returns. That included an 80-yard TD return against Denver.

Many teams keep six cornerbacks on the 53-man roster. That would be a top six for the Bills. The Bills have two other young corners. Prince Miller is a second-year man from Georgia. In 2010, he spent a month on the Ravens' roster and a month on the Lions' roster. He was on the Bills' practice squad last season. Cris Hill is an undrafted rookie from Virginia Tech.

---Mark Gaughan

 

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