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Rain cuts short Bills session

By Mark Gaughan

PITTSFORD -- The Buffalo Bills were forced to retreat to the St. John Fisher gymnasium for the last half hour of Tuesday's practice due to lightning and heavy rain.  

The Bills took off their shoulder pads and switched from cleats to sneakers. They essentially did a walk-through of their final 11-on-11 portion of practice.

"At least we've got something that we can go in and get the last 30 snaps and get a feel for it and get communication," coach Chan Gailey said. "And that's about what it's for, communication."
 
Gailey said the team knew a storm was close and was prepared to shift to the gym. The Bills have white lines marking off 35 yards of a football field on the basketball court.

"We have a great communication system with some area people about their lightning horns going off, and so we try to monitor that closely," Gailey said. "Bud Carpenter, our trainer, keeps in close contact with me on that and we have to get off that field before the lightning gets close."

Pittsford's Oak Hill Country Club is almost directly across the street from camp. When Oak Hill's lightning siren goes off, the Bills get off the field.

Before the outdoor practice was stopped, rookie running back Chris Douglas was injured when he collided at the end of a run with safety Delano Howell. Douglas limped off the field with an apparent leg injury. There was no initial word on the severity.

The Bills' practice was more run-oriented. C.J. Spiller had some good runs off tackle in 11-on-11 work.

Quarterback Tyler Thigpen had a fine ball fake and got around the defense on a designed running play. Quarterback Brad Smith had the best deep throw of the day, hitting David Clowney on a well-timed rainbow down the right sideline. In 7-on-7 work, safety Da'Norris Searcy got the first clean interception off Ryan Fitzpatrick (not counting batted balls) when he caught an overthrow down the middle intended for Scott Chandler. Fitzpatrick hit Derek Hagan on a deep ball down the right sideline on a play that fooled the defense. Rookie kicker John Potter made a field goal from 59 yards.

Meanwhile, center Eric Wood (knee) returned to take a few snaps of team action for the first time this summer. Terrence McGee (knee) took a few snaps, as well. Sitting out team work with minor injuries were David Nelson, Torell Troup, Erik Pears, Josh Nesbitt, Justin Rogers, Johnny White and Kellen Heard.

The Bills have a night practice Wednesday, and all tickets for it have been distributed.

David Lee says Fitzpatrick off to good start

By Mark Gaughan

PITTSFORD -- Bills starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has looked sharp so far in training camp practices at St. John Fisher College.

New quarterbacks coach David Lee likes what he has seen.

"I thought he had two really good practices the first two days out," Lee said today. "Then we put the pads on (Saturday) and the defensive line disrupted all our timing, disrupted everything we’ve been working on and kind of had to regroup and start again in practice No. 4."

"He’s throwing well right now, making good decisions," Lee said. "He doesn’t have an interception -– well he does, in two-minute drill (Sunday) on a pass that got blocked at the line by Mario Williams."

Camp is only four practices old. Nevertheless, Fitzpatrick has looked pretty good with his deep accuracy, particularly to the left, which was a point of emphasis for him this offseason.

"It’s a credit to him because he’s worked on it from the spring and worked on it through the summer," Lee said. "He’s very conscious of where his feet need to be when he throws left, and throws left and deep. I was pleased the other night. We threw several 'go' balls. We didn’t hit ‘em all, but all of them stayed in bounds. We didn’t carry any of them out of bounds, and it’s because he had good footwork. That was encouraging."

Bryan Scott's position: Where should we start?

By Tim Graham

ScottMugPITTSFORD -- Bryan Scott is the Buffalo Bills' defensive thingamajig.

He entered the NFL as a cornerback, has been a safety and this year has been fully switched to linebacker. A few oddball assignments have been mixed in along the way.

"I like it," Scott said with a beaming smile after a recent practice at St. John Fisher College. "I think I might be the first guy in NFL history to go from corner to safety to linebacker. I might have to look into that."

Let's throw defensive end on the pile, while we're at it. Scott officially lined up at left defensive end last season in Week 11 against the Miami Dolphins. He also opened the season as the starting left cornerback and started three games at linebacker.

That's quite a spread. But Scott can't say he wasn't warned. While he visited teams as a Penn State cornerback before the 2003 NFL draft, Kansas City Chiefs head coach Dick Vermeil made a fascinating prediction.

"Dick Vermeil said 'I see you playing linebacker before your career's over,' " Scott said. "I don't know if he figured the game was going to evolve to where a big corner would be the size of a linebacker. But he called it."

Scott always has been listed as a defensive back with the Bills, but this summer he's designated an outside linebacker. He doesn't go to meetings with the defensive backs anymore.

He has been shifted around over the years because of his size and athleticism. He's listed at 6 foot 1 and 220 pounds. At the time he entered the NFL, 6-foot cornerbacks weren't common.

Three of the six Pro Bowl cornerbacks that season were under 6 feet. Dre Bly was 5-9. In 2004, three of the six Pro Bowl cornerbacks were 5-10 or shorter. In 2005, only one Pro Bowl cornerback was a 6-footer.

Last season, only one Pro Bowl cornerback was not at least 6 feet tall.

But as coaches have come to prefer taller corners to compete with power-forward receivers such as Calvin Johnson, Andre Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald, those corners still must maintain their speed. They're not bruisers.

To wrangle some of the elite tight ends like Rob Gronkowski, Antonio Gates and Jimmy Graham, coaches need a few players who possess a combination of height (to defend), bulk (so they don't get run over) and speed (so they don't get left in the dust).

A player who's stronger than a cornerback and faster than a linebacker will have a role, and Scott is happy to go wherever the matchup warrants. For instance, in 2009, Scott was the starting strong safety on opening day and for the first three games. By the end of the season he had started six straight games at weak-side linebacker.

So what about defensive tackle?

"Who knows?" Scott said. "If they needed me to move inside, hey, I'm all for it. If they need me to put my hand in the dirt, why not?"

SI gives Bills, SJFC high marks as camp site

By Jay Skurski

St. John Fisher College is receiving some props as the host of the Buffalo Bills' training camp.

In a top-10 list released this week online, Sports Illustrated ranked Fisher third in its “Top Ten Training Camp Site” list.

According to a release from the school, the list cites the camp at Fisher as the “classic old-style football camp” where there are “fans on top of players in modern bleachers.”  Additionally, it said “because the fans treat the players like community treasures, the Bills treat the fans with the same respect. Great vibe there. And a very nice souvenir tent.”

My take: The list is right on. Fisher has served the Bills extremely well, especially with the completed construction of a new practice field. It's important for the team to have a presence in the Rochester market as it tries to regionalize itself as much as it can, and having camp in Pittsford is a great way to do that.

“For the thirteenth year, we are on track for another successful Buffalo Bills camp here at St. John Fisher College, and we are thrilled to have the team back on campus,” school President Dr. Donald Bain said in the release.

The top spot went to the Pittsburgh Steelers (Saint Vincent College), while the Arizona Cardinals (Northern Arizona University) ranked second.

Behind the Bills, from 10th to fourth, were: the New York Giants (University at Albany), Chicago Bears (Olivet Nazarene University), Dallas Cowboys (River Ridge Playing Fields), Kansas City Chiefs (Missouri Western State University), Minnesota Vikings (Blakeslee Stadium), Carolina Panthers (Wofford College) and Philadelphia Eagles (Lehigh University).

A deeper look at Buffalo Bills' changing culture

By Tim Graham

It was a big day for me in Cheektowaga. I finally had the chance to meet Zach the baby and Harold the dog and then I got to sit down in Brad Riter's kitchen and do a Trending Buffalo podcast.

Brad has a wonderful kitchen. Studio, schmudio, I say. He doesn't need one. And aside from the fact Brad was wearing a headset and we had ice water in our tumblers, it felt just like the other times he and I shoot the proverbial breeze.

We spent 44 minutes talking about the Buffalo Bills and, in particular, my culture-change story that ran recently in The Buffalo News. We mused about how the Bills have morphed from dysfunctional bizarro team that seemingly had no master plan to a franchise on the rise.

We covered a lot of ground, going back to the Tom Donahoe era on through Donte Whitner and Trent Edwards and Marshawn Lynch and Terrell Owens and Aaron Maybin. Somewhere along the line, however, the Bills started making shrewd and, at times, unflinching moves.

The Bills also went from a team you had to force yourself to like to a team that's easy to embrace.

Bills talk with Springfield, Missouri's Jock 98.7 FM

By Jay Skurski

It's not often I get to brag about the weather in Buffalo. But I did this morning with Ned Reynolds and Kirk Elmquist during an appearance on their "Sports Reporters" show on Jock 98.7 in Springfield, Mo.

While on hold waiting to go on, I heard the weather report in Springfield -- with highs above 100 degrees each of the next three days. I was sure to tell the guys about what a gorgeous summer day we're having here.

We also talked a lot about the expectations for the Buffalo Bills this season, and what the future may hold for the team in Western New York.

You can listen to the segment below.

Bills roundup: A programming note and some links

By Tim Graham

If you have SiriusXM satellite radio, then you'll want to listen to its NFL station from 3-7 p.m. Tuesday. That's when analysts Pat Kirwan and Tim Ryan will broadcast their "Movin' the Chains" show live from St. John Fisher College.

Their stop is part of the eighth annual SiriusXM Radio Training Camp Tour of all 32 clubs. Kirwan, a former New York Jets executive, and Ryan, a retired defensive lineman, will interview Bills players and perhaps a coach and an executive or two.

Here's a collection of Bills-oriented links for your certain enjoyment:

* Buffalo News columnist Donn Esmonde cast a curmudgeonly eye on Erie County's negotiations with the Bills over the stadium-lease extension.

* Buffalo News reporter Jay Skurski looks at the backup middle linebacker battle between Chris White and Scott McKillop.

* John Wawrow of the Associated Press writes the Bills' defensive line has gotten off to a dominant start at training camp.

* BuffaloRumblings.com editor Brian Galliford shines a spotlight on the fullback position and whether Chan Gailey will assign more touches.

* Bleacher Report columnist Ryan Talbot takes a gander at the Bills' defensive end spot opposite Mario Williams and presents a poll for Mark Anderson, Chris Kelsay and Shawne Merriman.

* Darren Heitner of the Sports Agent Blog reports Bills guard Kraig Urbik has switched agents and now is represented by former Bills guard Joe Panos of Athletes First, the same agency that has center Eric Wood and guard Andy Levitre.

Should the Bills make a play for Mike Wallace?

By Jay Skurski

With no end in sight to the contract dispute between Mike Wallace and the Pittsburgh Steelers, it's a good time to ask: Should the Buffalo Bills pursue the receiver in a trade?

First, the reasons for it.

The Bills' need for a proven No. 2 receiver opposite Stevie Johnson is well-documented. Wallace certainly has the credentials. In fact, he's got better career numbers than Johnson, with 171 catches, 3,206 yards and 24 touchdowns in three NFL seasons. He's also averaged 18.7 yards per catch, flashing the elite deep speed the Bills have lacked since they traded Lee Evans.

But while Wallace's skill set seemingly matches the Bills' need, it doesn't seem likely a trade between the two teams would work.

The first reason is always the most important: money. It's been reported Wallace wants a contract in the range of what the Arizona Cardinals gave Larry Fitzgerald -- eight years, nearly $50 million guaranteed with a potential maximum value of $120 million.

Even if he were to lower his demands, and he'll likely have to if a trade is to be worked out, it's still unlikely the Bills would be able to pay Wallace a big bonus in the same year they already have the highest-paid defensive player (Mario Williams) in NFL history.

From a salary cap perspective, the Bills could probably find a way to squeeze Wallace in, given they're about $8.5 million under the cap, and could create some more room.

But in actual cash spending, they're more than $18 million over the standard NFL salary cap of $120.6 million, according to Buffalo News estimates.

Knowing that, and that it might cost as much as a first-round draft pick in a trade, would you still be interested in acquiring Wallace? Let us know below.

Rex Ryan raves about Aaron Maybin's motor

MaybinJetsAP

By Tim Graham

The New York Jets' coaching staff has been showcasing Aaron Maybin to the rest of the team as an example of how they want their players to approach the game.

This is the same Aaron Maybin the Bills drafted 11th overall in 2009 but cut after two seasons. He's the same Aaron Maybin who, in his first training camp in 2010  (he held out as a rookie) touched off a brawl when he knocked running back Fred Jackson down from behind in a no-tackle practice, causing center Eric Wood to yell "Give back some of that money you ain't f------ earned!"

But with the Jets, Maybin has remained a favorite of head coach Rex Ryan and defensive coordinator Mike Pettine.

"The guy has been tremendous," Ryan said in a transcript the Jets disseminated Sunday. "Mike Pettine did a great job [Saturday]. He showed [a film clip of] Aaron running to the football like he does. He said 'Guys, as teammates you have to be embarrassed because this guy embarrassed the other 10 guys that were out there at that time.'

"They might have been thinking they were going hard, but this guy reminds me a little of [two-time Pro Bowl defensive end] Michael McCrary in the fact that when I had this young man in Baltimore, he was relentless. That's the way Aaron plays.

"He goes 100 miles an hour. ... He doesn't play with any brakes. He doesn't slow down until he runs into something. That's who he is, and that's who he's been since he's been a New York Jet."

Bills head coach Chan Gailey told me at the 2011 NFL owners meetings that Maybin's failures with the Bills weren't for lack of effort. That seems to jibe with the player Ryan and Pettine are coaching now.

Maybin didn't have any sacks in his two seasons with Buffalo. He was a healthy scratch on occasion and started only one game because the Bills wanted him to be an all-around outside linebacker. With the Jets last season, he recorded six sacks and forced four fumbles as a situational pass-rusher.

Ryan was asked if Maybin might get more playing time as a three-down outside linebacker.

"I could definitely see that," Ryan said. "He's going to earn that, and you have to earn your way out there, and I think he's on his way to earning more reps and more responsibility from us."

Maybin is a weird story angle for Bills fans. The consensus when the Bills cut him was "Good riddance." He was tough to root for because of his cocky persona and invisible production. I get the sense Bills fans still are glad he's gone even though the team didn't get anything in return.

But as long as he's with the Jets and getting Ryan excited, then there's reason to dread facing Maybin twice a year. He's now one of those villains Bills fans can't stand to see doing well.

(Photo: Julio Cortez/Associated Press)

Scott Chandler feels at home with the Bills

By Tim Graham

PITTSFORD -- Scott Chandler thought he had a home when he entered the NFL. The San Diego Chargers drafted him in the fourth round five years ago, and he bought a house.

"I shouldn't have done that," Chandler said.

He never could stick in any one place for too long. He's a tight end, and wherever he went, the position was quite occupied.

In San Diego, it has been Antonio Gates. The Dallas Cowboys signed Chandler in April 2009, but tight end Jason Whitten is Tony Romo's go-to guy. The New York Giants signed Chandler off the Cowboys' practice squad in December 2009. The Giants had Kevin Boss at the time and later waived Chandler. The Cowboys signed Chandler again.

ChandlerMulvilleNow he's happily with the Buffalo Bills and apparently not going anywhere for a while, having signed a two-year contract extension in March. This is the first time since his first two pro seasons that he has been with the same team for consecutive training camps.

Chandler and his wife, Alissa, felt comfortable enough to buy a home in Hamburg. They have two daughters, 3-year-old Lyla and nearly 1-year-old Vayda.

"A little while ago I bought a place in Iowa because if I was cut again I wanted us to have some place to go instead of just being homeless," Chandler told me after a recent practice at St. John Fisher College. "Apartment living wasn't fun. It's good to be off that train."

"It's nice for my family to know we're going to be here. I'm so glad this is how it worked out. I can't say enough about the Bills organization and Buddy Nix. He drafted me into this league and gave me another opportunity when I didn't know I was going to get one."

The 6-foot-7 Chandler had a breakout 2011 campaign. Despite missing two games, his six touchdowns tied the club record for touchdowns by a tight end. He had 38 receptions for 389 yards.

"I don't see any reason he shouldn't have a better year this year than he had last year," Bills coach Chan Gailey said during minicamp. "He and [Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick] have a great feel for each other at this point in time.

"He's made some plays down the field. He's a big target. I see nothing but more positive things happening for him in the future."

Chandler started nine games last season. Over his previous four career stops, he made zero starts and caught one pass.

For the first time since San Diego, when he probably didn't realize he wasn't going to be around very long, training camp has been an enjoyable experience with the Bills.

"To be in the same training camp two years in a row is a lot of fun," Chandler said with a grin. "It's fun to go out there and know you're a big part of the offense and you're going to be playing a lot on Sunday. It's a good feeling to know you've got your spot and you've found a home."

Rather than sweating out a roster spot, Chandler said he's sharpening his game within the Bills' offense.

"It's a different mind-set," Chandler said. "You're really focused on improving. I can focus on little areas as opposed to 'I've got to make a play!' That's how you feel a lot of times. When you're pressing, you're not always relaxed and playing as well as you can.

"I just felt in the offseason and OTAs I was able to be much more comfortable and relaxed in the offense and just go play the game and have a blast. If we can put some wins up, I can only imagine how much fun we'll have."

(Photo: Mark Mulville/Buffalo News)

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About Press Coverage

Tim Graham

Tim Graham

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

@ByTimGraham | tgraham@buffnews.com


Mark Gaughan

Mark Gaughan

Buffalo native Mark Gaughan started working at The News in 1980 and has been covering the Bills exclusively since 1992. He is a former president of the Pro Football Writers of America, and he is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee.

@gggaughan | mgaughan@buffnews.com


Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida. He writes a weekly Fantasy column in addition to his beat writing duties.

@JaySkurski | jskurski@buffnews.com

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