By Tim Graham
PITTSFORD -- Buffalo Bills tight end Chris Gragg knows there are zero guarantees for a rookie drafted 222nd overall.
"Just the thought that you could get cut," Gragg said of the most intimidating aspect of his first training camp. "This is not like college, where you're on a scholarship. You know at least for a whole year you can get cut at any time."
Gragg seems to be approaching camp with his eyes wide open. He has agreed to give BuffaloNews.com visitors a glimpse inside his journey.
Over the coming weeks on the Press Coverage blog, Gragg will share the thoughts, concerns and observations from a prospect trying to complete his NFL vision quest.
"It's a dream, things that you always wanted to do since you were little," Gragg said today at St. John Fisher after the Bills finished their second practice of camp. "You're an NFL football player. This is your job now.
"It is kind of surreal, but I try to stay grounded. It's surreal when I talk to my family and friends and they tell me how big of a thing this is. I try to make it seem like I'm still playing football, still the same game you played in the backyard when you were a kid."
The Warren, Ark., native certainly would look out of place playing backyard ball today. He's 6-foot-3 and 244 pounds. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds, the fastest time of any tight end at this year's NFL scouting combine.
In 43 games for the University of Arkansas, he caught 72 passes for 1,003 yards and seven touchdowns. He made the SEC Academic Honor Roll as a sports management major.
Injury concerns caused him to slide down the draft board, the 15th of 16 tight ends drafted. Gragg played only five games last year because of a leg injury. A dislocated ankle sidelined him for all of 2009.
All of that's behind him now. Pittsford is a long way from Fayetteville.
"It's work," Gragg said. "A lot of early mornings, a lot of late nights, a lot of classroom time, a lot of weight room time. It's every day. ... There's a lot going in your mind and coming at you real fast."
Gragg is one of only five tight ends on the roster. Scott Chandler, Lee Smith, Dorin Dickerson and Mike Caussin are the others after the Bills waived Mickey Shuler a day before the first practice.
To win a spot on the roster, Gragg acknowledged he can't rely merely on his receiving skills.
"In college, the game plan usually comes down to the coach putting you in the best position that you can possibly be," Gragg said. "The things that you're really good at, that's what you're going to do.
"Here, versatility makes you more valuable. That's how I think I can stay on the team. I try to be well-rounded."
Gragg made the best catch of today's practice, hauling in a deep pass down the right sideline over cornerback Ron Brooks. As Gragg ran back to the huddle, offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett charged toward him for a leaping chest bump.
"I know that the coaches see that, and I try to put on film every day me going hard, whether it be blocking, whether it running routes and catching the ball," Gragg said. "I try to give my best every time."