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Berry wonders -- again -- about hit from Johnson

Chiefs safety Eric Berry told the Associated Press today to "make your own opinion" about whether the hit he took from Bills receiver Stevie Johnson in the season opener last September was intentional.

"You can look at the tape and make your own opinion about that. I mean, my opinion is my opinion," he told the AP.

On March 5, Berry tweeted: “Sometimes I sit n wonder if they had a bounty out on me...oh well...who cares. Either way u can't hold me down.”

Berry told the AP his tweet was, "pretty much a joke." He suffered a torn ACL in his left knee on the hit, which Johnson delivered legally in the open field.

Johnson has repeatedly denied any intention to hurt Berry.

Johnson was unavailable for comment today: he and his wife, Brittney, welcomed the birth of their third child, Mia, on Monday. Johnson's agent, CJ Laboy, issued the following statement:

"Eric Berry is a phenomenal football player who will be a Pro Bowler for years to come, but knowing the Bills organization and Stevie as well as I do and hearing Stevie's very public statements concerning 'bounties'as well as his apologies for the legal downfield block made on Eric, there is no doubt that the hit was unintentional. It is unfortunate that Eric suffered an injury during that game and we all look forward to seeing him back on the field in 2012."

---Jay Skurski

Schedule coming out at 7

The NFL is the undisputed king of the American sports landscape.

Further evidence of that can be seen on ESPN tonight, when the sports network devotes three hours of prime time to a special on the release of the NFL schedule.

The show starts at 7 p.m., at which time each team will release its schedule for the 2012 season. The information will be posted here as soon as it's made available.

In the mean time, some preliminary information was leaked by the New England Patriots' official Twitter site: the Pats will start the season on the road and end it at home. Also, New England has four prime time games.

The Bills' last Monday Night Football appearance came against New England in the 2009 season opener.

The season's first game had previously been announced: Dallas faces the New York Giants at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 5, a day earlier than the recent Thursday night openers to accommodate President Obama's speech at the Democratic National Convention.

---Jay Skurski

King says Tannehill to visit

Sports Illustrated's Peter King tweeted this morning that Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill is scheduled to make a pre-draft visit with the Buffalo Bills next week.

With that in mind, here's what ESPN Monday Night Football analyst Jon Gruden had to say about Tannehill in a conference call earlier this week.

"What's not concerning is what kind of athlete he is. Let’s not forget, he didn’t just play wide receiver at Texas A&M, he started at wide receiver. He had over 200 yards receiving in one game against Kansas State. He’s an outstanding athlete, and he’s also been tutored by an NFL coach in Mike Sherman," Gruden said. "So when you do watch Tannehill, every time you watch him you’re seeing an outstanding young man who’s been tutored by an excellent offensive coach in an outstanding system. That I like. So the arrow is going up on Tannehill."

What is concerning, according to Gruden, is Tannehill's lack of experience. He started only 19 games after switching to quarterback from receiver, as Gruden alluded to. He also went just 1-5 against ranked teams this past season.  

"There are some issues you wish you could see. You’d like to see more tape. You’d like to see Tannehill and the A&M offense finish games in the second half when they have a lead. Some of the losses they had this year, I’m not blaming Tannehill, I’m not blaming anybody, but they lost the lead a lot this year in games, and it cost them, because I thought Texas A&M was going to be a top 10 team this year," Gruden said.

Tannehill has steadily moved up draft charts this offseason, so the chances are the Bills would have to move up to draft him as their quarterback of the future. So the question is simple: Should they?


---Jay Skurski

Wannstedt's name mentioned in connection to Arkansas job

It didn't take long for Bills defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt's name to be kicked around as a potential replacement for fired Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino.

In a tweet last night, ESPN national college football reporter Joe Schad mentioned Wannstedt as a possible candidate.

That's likely due to Wannstedt's relationship with Arkansas Athletic Director Jeff Long, who hired Wannstedt as his head coach when the two were at Pitt back in 2004.

Long left Pitt for Arkansas late in 2007, and became AD in 2008, while Wannstedt resigned in December 2010 after a 7-5 season with the Panthers. He joined the Bills as assistant head coach for last season and took over as defensive coordinator in January after George Edwards was fired.

Wannstedt has been instrumental in the Bills' recruiting process this offseason, helping land free agents Mario Williams and Mark Anderson. He's also in charge of overseeing the team's switch back to a 4-3 base defense.

The Bills said Wannstedt will be out of the office until Monday in response to an interview request today.

---Jay Skurski

Gruden on Fitz: 'It's about sustaining'

ESPN analyst Jon Gruden believes Ryan Fitzpatrick still has something to prove as quarterback of the Buffalo Bills.

Speaking in a conference call with reporters Wednesday, Gruden was asked whether he thought the Bills can win with Fitzpatrick under center.

"I think Fitzpatrick showed some things early that were very exciting ... helping the Buffalo Bills come out of the gate in impressive fashion," the former coach and current Monday Night Football broadcaster said. "But in this league at the end of the day it’s about sustaining. Ryan Fitzpatrick has to prove he can start the season and end the season by putting the Buffalo Bills back in the playoffs. ... That remains to be seen. I think he’s got to answer those questions himself."

Gruden also spoke of the 10 quarterback prospects he interviewed for his popular ESPN series "QB Camp," some of whom the Bills have or are scheduled to visit with as part of the pre-draft process.

I'll have more from Gruden in Thursday's Buffalo News.

---Jay Skurski

Pre-draft visits planned or in the books

Each NFL team can bring in up to 30 prospects before the NFL draft. So far, the Bills have or are scheduled to meet with 16 prospects, based on reports here at The News, the Bills' official website, and other national outlets.

Here's the list of who has/will visit:

RB Trent Richardson, Alabama

QB Kirk Cousins, Michigan State

OL Cordy Glenn, Georgia

QB Russell Wilson, Wisconsin

WR Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State

WR Brian Quick, Appalachian State

LT Jonathan Martin, Stanford

DE Whitney Mercilus, Illinois

LB Tank Carder, TCU

DE Andre Branch, Clemson

LT Matt Kalil, USC

QB Brock Osweiler, Arizona State

CB Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama

DE Chandler Jones, Syracuse

LB Bruce Irvin, West Virginia

LT Mike Adams, Ohio State

This list may very well not be all inclusive, as some teams prefer to keep their interest in certain prospects quiet.

With that in mind, a few thoughts:

-- The two names most often pegged for the Bills in mock drafts, offensive tackle Riley Reiff of Iowa and wide receiver Michael Floyd of Notre Dame are not on that list. That could mean a a few things: 1)As mentioned above, the Bills have already had Reiff and Floyd in for visits, and asked them to keep quiet, 2) the visits simply haven't yet, 3) the Bills "know what they have" and don't need to schedule a visit, or 4) they simply don't like them.

-- The Bills are clearly doing their due diligence on the quarterbacks in this year's class.

-- By far the most interesting name on the list is running back Trent Richardson. He plays a position that's clearly not a "need," but if he was to be available at No. 10, it would put General Manager Buddy Nix's theory of taking the best player available to the test.

---Jay Skurski

Bell lands with Eagles

(UPDATED) Buffalo Bills free agent tackle Demetress Bell will be reunited with his former mentor, Jason Peters, in Philadelphia. Bell has agreed to terms with the Eagles, the team announced. The move was precipitated by the recent injury to Peters, who tore his Achilles tendon in a workout in Texas, where he lives. Peters probably is out for the season.

Bell's departure from the Bills has been expected since the end of the regular season. The Bills made an offer to Bell to return to the team. But it was apparent the Bills were not going to make a big commitment to him, and Bell looked to the free-agent market for a better opportunity. Bell missed big parts of two of the last three seasons due to injury. His season was limited to eight games in 2009 due to a torn knee ligament. He played all 16 games in 2010. He was limited to six starts and seven games overall due to a shoulder injury in 2011. When he played last season, he performed pretty well.

Bell got a five-year contract from the Eagles. He had visitied Washington, Arizona and Pittsburgh and also had drawn interest from Green Bay.

Bell used the signing as an opportunity to correct the spelling of his first name. He went by Demetrius all his life. But according to the Eagles, he recently needed his birth certificate and found that his legal name was Demetress.

---Mark Gaughan



Poll: You make Peyton's call

You're Peyton Manning. It's time to make a decision. You have three teams in your sights - Denver, San Francisco and Tennessee. You'd rather not go to an NFC team, because you'd rather not compete against brother Eli for a Super Bowl berth and the top NFC teams (the Giants, Green Bay, San Francisco, New Orleans) all look tougher than the AFC competition. In Tennessee, you'd be going back to the state where you're so comfortable due to your college career, and you have a solid team with a great running back. In Denver, you have a legend for team president (John Elway), a strong defense, a good offensive line and a weak division. But San Francisco clearly is the best team of the three, with an elite defense and a great coaching staff. What do you do?


Video: Gaughan analyzes impact of signing Williams

The News' Bills beat reporter, Mark Gaughan, weighs in on what impact the addition of Mario Williams will have on the Bills' defense:

Audio: Update from Bucky Gleason at One Bills Drive

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