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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

Nix, Wannstedt on Junior Seau

Bills General Manager Buddy Nix and defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt released statements on today's death of NFL great Junior Seau. Nix's first two seasons in San Diego (2001 and 2002) were Seau's last two seasons with the Chargers. Wannstedt was head coach for Miami for the first two of Seau's three seasons with the Dolphins, 2003 and 2004.

Said Nix: "I am deeply saddened to hear the news of the passing of Junior Seau. This is such a tragedy and his passing will be felt by many. Junior was a great player in this league for so many years and he embodied that competitive spirit that all the great linebackers possess. My deepest sympathies and heartfelt condolences go out to his children and his entire family, his friends, the Spanos family and the Chargers organization.”

Said Wannstedt: “Hearing this news about Junior ... it’s just so tragic … it’s hard to believe. I still to this day remember the day that Junior joined our family at the Dolphins. He brought a sense of renewed energy and a spirit to the field, off the field, in the weight room, just everywhere that Junior went and everyone that Junior was associated with. He instilled a belief that we hadn’t reached our potential and that we could be better, and he would find a way to help make that happen. I just feel terrible but I know how much he loved his kids. I remember him coming to me and the first thing we talked about was what the offseason schedule would be and what was going to be our bye week schedule. Everything he was doing was centered around getting back to San Diego from Miami to be able to spend quality time with his kids. I don’t think there’s a better way a man could be remembered than in those terms."

 

 

Junior Seau in the pages of The News

Former linebacker for the Patriots, Dolphins and Chargers Junior Seau, who is dead at age 43 after apparently committing suicide today, was mentioned in a May 2011 piece written by News Sports Columnist Bucky Gleason about concussions taking a toll on athletes, causing confusion, pain and fear. An excerpt from the article:

"Experts said all irrational behavior cannot be blamed on CTE [Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy], but it also cannot be ruled out when it comes to athletes or others who have suffered multiple concussions. [Clinical professor of neurosurgery at Boston University School of Medicine Dr. Robert] Cantu wondered if former NFL linebacker Junior Seau, who last year drove his vehicle off a cliff after a domestic dispute, could be suffering from the disease. Nobody knows for sure. Doctors cannot diagnose CTE in living people, leaving many unanswered questions until their deaths."

Seau was also prominently featured in a piece written in January 2008 by News Sports Reporter Mark Gaughan shortly after the AFC Championship Game that year. Seau, then 39, played a key role in the Patriots' victory over the Chargers that improved the Pats to 18-0 before a loss to the Giants in the Super Bowl. An excerpt from that story:

"Seau was voted to the NFL's all-decade team for the 1990s. His streak of 12 straight Pro Bowls from 1991 to 2002 is tied for the third longest all time. He has played in 257 regular-season games, second most ever by a linebacker."

Gaughan also wrote about Seau prior to the linebacker's first game in Western New York in October 2000. Seau was then 31 and already a nine-time Pro Bowler. The Chargers would fall to 0-7 that day after losing to the Bills in overtime, after Doug Flutie replaced an injured Rob Johnson. An excerpt from that story, leading up to the game:

"This will be Seau's first game in Buffalo in his 11-year career. He has made the Pro Bowl nine straight years. He was on the NFL's all-decade team for the '90s. He is a sure-fire Hall of Famer and ranks up there with Dick Butkus, Ray Nitschke and Lawrence Taylor among the great linebackers to play the game."

Johnson to have minor surgery

Bills receiver Stevie Johnson will wake up Monday in Philadelphia, where he's scheduled to have surgery on his groin.

Johnson tweeted that news himself tonight. His agent, C.J. Laboy, said in a text message to The News that it's "not a serious surgery" and has a "very brief" recovery time.

Johnson was nagged nearly all of last season by the injury, but battled through it to become the team's first-ever receiver to post back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. He did not miss a game.

Johnson finished with 76 catches for 1,004 yards and has 17 touchdown catches over the past two years.

The Bills rewarded him this offseason with a five-year, $36.25 million contract extension.

---Jay Skurski

http://twitter.com/jayskurski

BuffaloNews.com is your home for live NFL draft coverage

Join BuffaloNews.com and its deep roster of sports reporters and columnists for live coverage of the NFL draft Thursday and Friday nights.

* Live video Webcast beginning at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, hosted by Tim Graham (@ByTimGraham) and Jay Skurski (@JaySkurski).

* Reports from One Bills Drive from Mark Gaughan (@gggaughan), Jerry Sullivan (@TBNSully), Bob DiCesare and Lauren Mariacher (@Lolo_Nicole).

* Additional analysis from Bucky Gleason (@TBNbucky) and Mike Harrington (@BNHarrington), and segments featuring Sports Editor Lisa Wilson (@lisabellwilson) and Milt Northrop.

* A live chat with input from a wide array of News sports reporters.

* A running ticker with the latest picks, as well as Mark Gaughan's best available players remaining at each position.

* Updates from @TBNSports with #tbndraft.

* Live video coverage of the second and third rounds begins at 6 p.m. Friday.

Scout's take: Majeski on Kuechly and Adams

In the days leading up to the draft, the Bills are making their scouts available to the media. On Monday, Doug Majeski, Brad Forsyth and Shawn Heinlen took their turn. Majeski, the team’s coordinator of college scouting, covers the Midwest and East Coast. Forsyth has the Rocky Mountain and West Coast parts of the country, while Heinlen oversees Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Arkansas.

Over the next couple days, I’ll pass along some of their takes on players who the Bills could potentially be targeting heading into the draft, starting with Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly.

Here’s what Majeski had to say when asked whether Kuechly could transition to either the strongside or weakside linebacker spot in Buffalo’s new 4-3 scheme: “He’s played weak and inside middle linebacker at BC and he’s actually played all three spots in games over his career. Mentally, obviously, he’s very sharp. He’ll be able to handle it. Athletically he can handle a lot of the attributes of each position and he’s probably best as a ‘mike,’ but he gives you flexibility to play ‘will’ or ‘sam.’

Majeski then elaborated on Kuechly’s ability to play the pass.

“He’s really a good coverage guy. He’s got a good feel for it, got good awareness. He can run with tight ends in man, he can carry receivers down the field. He does a good job of getting in throwing lanes. … He’s good in coverage.”

Majeski also shared some thoughts on Ohio State left tackle Mike Adams, who reportedly tested positive for marijuana use at the scouting combine.

"Very talented. He’s a big man, 6-foot-7, 325 [pounds]. Obviously missed some games this year because of the NCAA suspension, but when he played, he played well," Majeski said. "He’s got a lot of ability. Still has room to get better as far as strength and [his] experience, but he should have a good future.

Majeski said the positive test would factor into the Bills' thinking about any prospect.

"With all these kids it’s a concern. It’s things we talk about," he said. "That [and] with other character concerns, whether it’s mental or other issues, you know it’s all part of our discussion when we talk about a player. It affects how you look at a player."

...

Join The Buffalo News for extensive live coverage during the first round of the NFL draft Thursday night.

Watch a live broadcast beginning at 7:30 p.m., follow a ticker with draft selections and join a live chat.

The News' deep roster of sports reporters and columnists will be situated in the newsroom and at One Bills Drive to bring you the latest developments.

Myself and Tim Graham are anchoring the draft webcast from One News Plaza, with additional insight from Mike Harrington and Bucky Gleason.

Mark Gaughan, Jerry Sullivan, Bob DiCesare and Lauren Mariacher will be at One Bills Drive to get reaction from the Bills' front office.

---Jay Skurski

http://twitter.com/jayskurski

Fred not focused on new deal

Bills running back Fred Jackson reported for work today as the team started its voluntary offseason workout program.

Jackson, who's entering the final year of his contract, said "it's just not the time" to be worried about a new contract.

"This week [the front office has] the draft coming up. That’s what they’re focusing on. I’ll just continue to be patient and see what happens," he said. "It’s like I’ve said all along, 'I think something will get done.' [General Manager] Buddy [Nix] said that they want to get something done, so I’ll just continue to put faith in that."

Jackson is 100 percent recovered from the broken bone in his lower right leg that ended his season after 10 games in 2011.

"I got medically released about three months ago," he said. "I've been training and nothing's changed."

Jackson said he never considered skipping the workouts, even though they are voluntary.

"I'm just going to continue to show up, be with my teammates and play football. That’s what I do. This is just part of that process, showing up and trying to get ready for the 2012 season," he said.

...

Join The Buffalo News for extensive live coverage during the first round of the NFL draft Thursday night.

Watch a live broadcast beginning at 7:30 p.m., follow a ticker with draft selections and join a live chat.

The News' deep roster of sports reporters and columnists will be situated in the newsroom and at One Bills Drive to bring you the latest developments.

Myself and Tim Graham are anchoring the draft webcast from One News Plaza, with additional insight from Mike Harrington and Bucky Gleason.

Mark Gaughan, Jerry Sullivan, Bob DiCesare and Lauren Mariacher will be at One Bills Drive to get reaction from the Bills' front office.

---Jay Skurski

http://twitter.com/jayskurski

Attendance high as Bills get back to work (with audio)

The Buffalo Bills got back to work early this morning with the start of voluntary offseason workouts.

Attendance was strong, with wide receiver Stevie Johnson one of the few known absences. (Johnson's wife just gave birth to their third child last week.)

Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was the first to meet with the media. He said he was in Costa Rica for a wedding during the pursuit of Mario Williams. The only access to the internet he had was in the hotel lobby, so he was down there every 20 minutes checking for updates.

"When it finally happened, obviously I was pretty excited about it. I got a lot of calls and texts. I’m really glad he’s here," Fitzpatrick said.

Shawne Merriman, Fred Jackson and Williams also met with the media. Audio of Merriman, Williams and Fitzpatrick can be found below.

Ryan Fitzpatrick

Mario Williams

Shawne Merriman

Join The Buffalo News for extensive live coverage during the first round of the NFL draft Thursday night.

Watch a live broadcast beginning at 7:30 p.m., follow a ticker with draft selections and join a live chat.

The News' deep roster of sports reporters and columnists will be situated in the newsroom and at One Bills Drive to bring you the latest developments.

Myself and Tim Graham are anchoring the draft webcast from One News Plaza, with additional insight from Mike Harrington and Bucky Gleason.

Mark Gaughan, Jerry Sullivan, Bob DiCesare and Lauren Mariacher will be at One Bills Drive to get reaction from the Bills' front office.

---Jay Skurski

http://twitter.com/jayskurski

Meat of the schedule; recent December home record

The Bills will likely find out a lot about themselves from Week Five to Week 10 in the 2012 season.

Check out this stretch: Start with a trip to San Francisco -- which was an overtime from the Super Bowl last season -- in Week Five. Either take a cross-country flight home, or stay out west, which might be a better idea because Week Six takes the Bills to Arizona.

After that, it's a home game against Tennessee in Week Seven followed by the bye week. The schedule picks right back up after that, however, with visits to AFC South champion Houston and then finally a visit to Buffalo's own House of Horrors, New England, in Week 10.

---

Four of Buffalo's five games are at home (well, three of them are, and one is in Toronto).

The Bills face a tough task in selling those games out. Buffalo's attendance for its three December games in 2011: 56,643 (Dec. 4 vs. Tennessee), 60,988 (Dec. 11 vs. Miami) 45,112 (Dec. 24 vs. Denver).

The only hope Buffalo has in seeing better gates is to improve the product on the field. During the 12 playoff-less seasons, Buffalo's home record in December and early January is 11-16 at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

---Jay Skurski

http://twitter.com/jayskurski 

Buffalo's 2012 schedule

The Buffalo Bills' 2012 regular season schedule, as released tonight by the NFL.

Date            Opponent                    Time

Sept. 9        at New York Jets          1 p.m.
Sept. 16      KANSAS CITY                1 p.m.
Sept. 23      at Cleveland                 1 p.m.
Sept. 30      NEW ENGLAND             1 p.m.
Oct. 7         at San Francisco           4:15 p.m.
Oct. 14       at Arizona                    4:05 p.m.
Oct. 21       TENNESSEE                   1 p.m.
BYE
Nov. 4        at Houston                    1 p.m.
Nov. 11      at New England              1 p.m
Nov. 15      MIAMI                           8:20 p.m.*
Nov. 25      at Indianapolis               1 p.m.
Dec. 2        JACKSONVILLE               1 p.m.
Dec. 9        ST. LOUIS                      1 p.m.
Dec. 16      SEATTLE                        4:05 p.m.**
Dec. 23      at Miami                        1 p.m.
Dec. 30      NEW YORK JETS              1 p.m.

* - Thursday night NFL Network game
** - In Toronto

---Jay Skurski

http://twitter.com/jayskurski

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