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CB McGee ready to go on knee

By Mark Gaughan

PITTSFORD -- Bills cornerback Terrence McGee is encouraged about the progress of his knee rehabilitation and is ready to start training camp practice today. The health of the prospective starting cornerback is going to be something to watch throughout the summer.

"I’ll be in there," McGee said after today's walk-through session. "I’d be lying if I said I was 100 percent. But I’ll be in there today getting some reps."

McGee, 31, went through conditioning testing with no problem on Wednesday. He's eight months removed from surgery, so it's no surprise he's still working his way back to full health. But McGee acknowledges he was getting concerned in May about the slow pace of rehabilitation, and now he feels better about it.

"Even in May I was up in the air. I’m definitely more encouraged," he said. "I’d be lying if I threw a number or a guess out there (on how close he is to 100 percent). I can’t really tell. Some days feel better than others. But I have progressed these last couple months, and I’m happy about that."

McGee tore a ligament in his knee last Nov. 20 in a game in Miami. This is his 10th NFL training camp.

"It’s definitely a blessing to be able to say you’re going into your 10th training camp – at the same place, too," he said. "I’m just trying to come out here and get better."

Bills open with walkthrough; live practice in afternoon

By Tim Graham

PITTSFORD -- The Buffalo Bills just completed their first 2012 training-camp practice at St. John Fisher College, and there's very little to report, quite frankly.

No breaking news about so-and-so looking phenomenal in his position battle with such-and-such. No fresh injuries to report. No skirmishes broke out.

As scheduled, the Bills had a walkthrough session that was open only to the media. Every player was accounted for. Even tight end Mike Caussin, the only player on the physically unable-to-perform list, watched.

The Bills are that much closer to getting started, and players are pumped.

"I love training camp," Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said. "I love getting away and being able to kind of put normal life aside for a little bit and being able to focus 100 percent on football.

"I think this team is ready. I think we're excited to get going and to improve as the season nears. There's a lot of excitement here."

The Bills' first live practice will be this afternoon. Fans can attend.

AFC East's best: No. 2 Darrelle Revis

By Tim Graham

RevisMugThe countdown of my top 25 AFC East players continues, one weekday at a time ...

The choice

New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis is one of the NFL's greatest players at any position. He's considered the best player at perhaps the second-most important position in today's game.

Revis placed fifth on the NFL Network's Top 100 Players of 2012 list. Another cornerback didn't appear on the list until Charles Woodson at No. 36.

If the naked eye isn't enough, ProFootballFocus.com had Revis atop its cornerback rankings based on statistical analysis. PFF said opposing quarterbacks completed only 41.2 percent (best among all regulars) and registered a 42.3 passer rating when throwing into Revis' coverage.

PFF's data also showed Revis allowed one touchdown on 1,036 snaps. Only one cornerback -- Tim Jennings -- gave up zero touchdowns and played more than 1,000 snaps.

Revis has been voted to four straight Pro Bowls and selected first-team All-Pro three straight seasons.

Fast fact

The Jets traded their 25th overall draft pick, one of their two second-round picks and a fifth-round pick to move up nine spots and nab Revis.

How acquired

Selected in the first round (14th overall) in the 2007 draft.

Hint about No. 1

You don't need a hint about No. 1.

Picks to date

2. Darrelle Revis, Jets cornerback
3. Rob Gronkowski, Patriots tight end
4. Nick Mangold, Jets center
5. Wes Welker, Patriots receiver
6. Mario Williams, Bills defensive end
7. Vince Wilfork, Patriots nose tackle
8. Jake Long, Dolphins left tackle
9. Logan Mankins, Patriots left guard
10. Cameron Wake, Dolphins outside linebacker
11. Fred Jackson, Bills running back
12. D'Brickashaw Ferguson, Jets left tackle
13. Kyle Williams, Bills defensive tackle
14. Sione Pouha, Jets defensive tackle
15. Jairus Byrd, Bills safety
16. Brandon Lloyd, Patriots receiver
17. Stevie Johnson, Bills receiver
18. Reggie Bush, Dolphins running back
19. Jerod Mayo, Patriots inside linebacker
20. Randy Starks, Dolphins defensive lineman
21. Sebastian Vollmer, Patriots right tackle
22. Aaron Hernandez, Patriots tight end
23. Marcell Dareus, Bills defensive tackle
24. Antonio Cromartie, Jets cornerback
25. Eric Wood, Bills center

Gailey wants Bills to scrimmage other NFL teams

By Tim Graham

GaileyMugPITTSFORD -- Buffalo Bills coach Chan Gailey eventually would like his training camp to consist of scrimmages against another NFL team, and he has started planting the seeds with partners around the league.

Toward the end of Gailey's news conference today, I asked if scrimmages are something he'd like to do.

"We sure would," Gailey said. "Not this year. I mentioned it to a couple of coaches at the owners meeting this year just to get some feedback on who might like to do it and who might not like to do it. We will see as time goes forward how we want to handle that."

The last time the Bills scrimmaged another team was under Mike Mularkey in 2005 with the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field.

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick enjoys joint practices so much he found two partners this summer: the New Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Patriots will practice with each for two days before that preseason game.

Fred Jackson: Broken 'dumb bone' all better

By Tim Graham

JacksonJetsPITTSFORD -- Is the dumb bone connected to the funny bone?

Buffalo Bills running back Fred Jackson couldn't have been more unequivocal today when addressing the issue of recovering from the broken right leg fibula that ended a possible All-Pro campaign in November.

"I don't really consider my injury last year as serious as a lot of people say," Jackson said today at St. John Fisher College. "It was just a dumb bone that I fractured. But I was walking around on it two weeks later without any problem. It's a non-weight-bearing bone. I'm fine, 100 percent ready to go.

"I'm excited about being back out here. Yeah, it took me off the field last year, but it's not a catastrophic injury that I suffered."

Jackson would have been cleared to return by December if he hadn't been placed on injured reserve. He had 934 rushing yards and six touchdowns when he got hurt. His 1,376 yards from scrimmage ranked second in the NFL at the time.

Jackson today also shared his latest thoughts on how he's mentally approaching the shared backfield workload with C.J. Spiller.

"I don't know what's going to happen," Jackson said. "All I can do is go out there and do everything I've done over my career so far -- take care of the opportunities when I get on the field, make the most of them.

"C.J.'s a talented player, and he's going to get opportunities as well. So when I get out there, all I can do is take care of when I'm out there and try to make some plays for my team."

Jackson has gotten this far in his career because of the chip on his shoulder. You can bet he wants to emphatically establish himself as Buffalo's featured back over the next few weeks.

(Photo: James P. McCoy/Buffalo News)

Donald Jones gets first crack at No. 2 WR job

By Tim Graham

PITTSFORD -- Throughout minicamp and voluntary workouts, Buffalo Bills head coach Chan Gailey advised everybody to ignore which players were lined up with which units.

He hadn't decided on a depth chart and said he wouldn't until right before training camp.

Today is right before training camp.

After a conditioning session at St. John Fisher College, I asked Gailey about some of those up-for-grabs positions.

Gailey said Donald Jones will be the No. 2 receiver when camp opens Thursday morning, but the competition remains open.

"Donald'll start there, but we're looking at everybody," Gailey said. "We've not ruled anybody out at this point at that spot.

"You've got to have somebody that walks out there the first day, and y'all will all write about it and talk about it. But we're going to move people around at different times in camp, try to get equal reps at left tackle, try to get equal reps at quarterback.

"Just because a guy starts the first day doesn't mean anything. There's some spots that we understand there's competition. We're going to make sure that we make it as equal as possible."

At right defensive end -- the job opposite Mario Williams -- Gailey said he would rotate Chris Kelsay, Mark Anderson and Shawne Merriman based on situations. But how the rotation will shake out is uncertain.

Gailey also said he would alternate Tyler Thigpen and Vince Young with the second-string offense each day and stressed he was more concerned with the starters.

Gailey didn't say so, but we also should expect second-round draft pick Cordy Glenn to be the starting left tackle when camp opens.

Other updates from Gailey: center Eric Wood, defensive tackle Torell Troupe and cornerback Terrence McGee have recovered from injuries and will be full-go Thursday.

NFL Network gives Buffalo little fantasy respect

By Tim Graham

Draft with caution, fantasy owners.

That's the general advice from NFL Network fantasy football fellas Jason Smith, Michael Fabiano and Elliot Harrison when it came to the Buffalo Bills this summer. Their Bills fantasy analysis was posted today at NFL.com.

Bills fans probably are itching to draft running back Fred Jackson this year, but Harrison warns Jackson should be considered a fifth-round player.

Smith says he would prefer to take third-year back C.J. Spiller late before he would use a selection on Jackson.

Fabiano rates Stevie Johnson around top-15 status among receivers, but prefers him as a No. 3 on a fantasy roster. But Harrison notes that owners shouldn't expect Johnson to be available when ready to pick a third receiver.

Ryan Fitzpatrick doesn't get much love either. They all considered him untrustworthy and probably undraftable in 10-team leagues. Harrison calls him the "Amish Stifle."

As for the Bills' defense? Sleeper pick, but not a top choice.

Bills tidy up roster before training camp opens

By Tim Graham

PITTSFORD -- On the eve of training camp, the Buffalo Bills made three minor roster moves.

They released defensive end Lionel Dotson, signed undrafted rookie defensive end Sean Ferguson and placed tight end Mike Caussin on the physically unable-to-perform list.

Ferguson played an impressive 49 games at Mississippi State. He recorded 41 tackles, three sacks and 5.5 tackles for losses last season. He's 6 foot 3, 248 pounds.

Dotson, a Miami Dolphins seventh-round draft choice in 2008, played five games for the Bills last season. That's the most action he has seen in his career.

Caussin still is recovering from a knee injury suffered in December. Caussin had five catches for 41 yards last year behind starter Scott Chandler.

How Buffalo's D-line looks through a QB's facemask

DLine

By Tim Graham

Analysis about the Buffalo Bills' revamped defensive line has been profuse the past few months.

We've heard from Chan Gailey and Buddy Nix and all sorts of players, current and former. Pundits have given their opinions. We've digested almost as many stats as we could cram down our gullets.

Yet here's a fresh, detailed perspective worth a listen: How will Buffalo's defense look through an opposing quarterback's facemask?

On a Trending Buffalo podcast, University at Buffalo radio analyst and former pro quarterback Jim Kubiak described what it might look like -- and feel like -- to play the Bills.

"When you're under duress and guys are hitting you constantly -- 10, 11, 12 times -- I don't care who you are or how tough you are," Kubiak told Trending Buffalo host Brad Riter "That affects a quarterback's performance.

"When you're building a football team, what better way to do it than get the biggest, baddest, most physical four guys up front and turn them loose?"

Kubiak, a St. Francis High alum, played quarterback at Navy, in NFL Europe and the Arena Football League. He was director of football operations and offensive coordinator for the Georgia Force and has coached quarterbacks at Erie Community College.

Although he never made a 53-man NFL roster, he signed contracts with the Carolina Panthers, Indianapolis Colts and New York Jets, the latter two clubs allocating him to NFL Europe.

The podcast is long, and it's worth the time.

Kubiak covered a lot of ground, explaining how a great defensive line can improve a secondary, allow a defense to use seven men in coverage, get inside a quarterback's head and throw off his five- and seven-step drops enough to create turnovers.

"What the difficulty becomes is you've got four legitimate guys that can beat your up-front guys one-on-one," Kubiak said. "So how do you get help in the passing game? You're keeping backs in. You're keeping tight ends. You're going to maybe a six- or seven- or eight-man protection. ...

"Now you're just sending maybe two or three wide receivers or running backs out in passing routes. You become limited, and it kind of takes you out of your game."

(Photo: James P. McCoy/Buffalo News)

AFC East's best: No. 3 Rob Gronkowski

By Tim Graham

GronkowskiRMugThe countdown of my top 25 AFC East players continues, one weekday at a time ...

The choice

New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski isn't simply an elite player. He also has changed the way defenses operate.

Gronkowski has broken several NFL and Patriots records. Last year, the Williamsville kid caught 90 passes for 1,327 yards and a league-leading 17 touchdowns. The yards and touchdowns were the most in NFL history by a tight end. He also scored a rushing touchdown and topped the AFC in non-kicker scoring, the first tight end to lead a conference.

As a rookie, Gronkowski had a relatively modest 42 catches for 546 yards and 10 touchdowns. But his two seasons put together were historic. No other tight end amassed 20 touchdown receptions faster. Gronkowski did so in 26 games, breaking Mike Ditka's record of 31 games.

Gronkowski's 27 touchdown catches fell one short of Randy Moss' record for players in their first two NFL seasons and ranked second only to Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson over the past two seasons.

Gronkowski broke the season record for most multi-TD games by a tight end with seven. Antonio Gates and Jerry Smith previously shared the record at just four games. Jerry Rice had seven multi-TD games only once in his illustrious career.

Fast fact

Averaged out, Gronkowski's career production against the Buffalo Bills would translate into a season of 88 receptions, 1,256 yards and 28 touchdowns.

How acquired

Selected in the second round (42nd overall) of the 2010 draft.

Hint about No. 2

It's either Tom Brady, Darrelle Revis or Tim Tebow.

Picks to date

3. Rob Gronkowski, Patriots tight end
4. Nick Mangold, Jets center
5. Wes Welker, Patriots receiver
6. Mario Williams, Bills defensive end
7. Vince Wilfork, Patriots nose tackle
8. Jake Long, Dolphins left tackle
9. Logan Mankins, Patriots left guard
10. Cameron Wake, Dolphins outside linebacker
11. Fred Jackson, Bills running back
12. D'Brickashaw Ferguson, Jets left tackle
13. Kyle Williams, Bills defensive tackle
14. Sione Pouha, Jets defensive tackle
15. Jairus Byrd, Bills safety
16. Brandon Lloyd, Patriots receiver
17. Stevie Johnson, Bills receiver
18. Reggie Bush, Dolphins running back
19. Jerod Mayo, Patriots inside linebacker
20. Randy Starks, Dolphins defensive lineman
21. Sebastian Vollmer, Patriots right tackle
22. Aaron Hernandez, Patriots tight end
23. Marcell Dareus, Bills defensive tackle
24. Antonio Cromartie, Jets cornerback
25. Eric Wood, Bills center

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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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