By Tim Graham
Back in training camp, Sam Young looked like an outsider to make the Buffalo Bills' roster.
Now he's their most important backup offensive lineman entering the homestretch.
Bills coach Chan Gailey noted this week Young will be the first player off the sideline if they lose another tackle or guard. Starting right tackle Erik Pears went on injured reserve this week, joining backup guards Chad Rinehart and Colin Brown.
Young has been practicing every O-line position except center.
"All over," Young said Friday at his locker. "I mean, you name it. I've been getting work everywhere. If someone goes down I have to be able to help out."
Young said he has played guard "sparingly," which is no surprise given his 6-foot-8 frame. He was forced into duty at right guard in Week Five, when both Rinehart and Brown went down against the San Francisco 49ers.
"It's something that's a challenge," Young said, "but one of the things I've tried to do over the last year and a half is not just know who I'm blocking at a certain position, but get to know the whole play. That's helped make it a little easier.
"Some things are harder. Some things come more naturally than others. It's a new position. At the same time, I have a feel for the assignments, and I know the techniques."
The Bills this week signed free-agent tackle Thomas Welch. Rookie guard David Snow was promoted from the practice squad last month, but Gailey indicated this week Snow is a work in progress.
In training camp, Young was a backup offensive tackle with no guarantees.
He'd gotten into only six games his first two NFL seasons, starting none. The Bills claimed him off waivers from the Dallas Cowboys last year for depth, but both starting tackles were back this summer in addition to two draft picks, including 41st overall selection Cordy Glenn.
Many observers were surprised Young lasted through the final roster cuts, but injuries helped him stick around. Pears was coming off sports hernia surgery. Fifth-round draft choice Zebrie Sanders went on injured reserve.
A little more room was created on the O-line depth chart when the Bills cut center/guard Mark Asper, a sixth-round draft choice.
Young has been a survivor. Going from the roster bubble to universal backup will be a challenge.
"At the same time," Young said, "it's an opportunity."