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.
Now 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)