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Doug Marrone finds a former Bills coaching term to be vulgar

By Tim Graham

PITTSFORD -- Every coaching staff has its buzz words and catchphrases.

Last year, the Buffalo Bills were big on "run fits," the kind of coachspeak that drove Buffalo News columnist Jerry Sullivan bonkers.

Sully will be pleased to hear Buffalo Bills head coach Doug Marrone hates that term, too.

Marrone was asked Monday about his defense apparently stressing "run fits" in the second training-camp practice at St. John Fisher College.

"Run what? Fits?" Marrone said. "Yeah, we don't use that word. Noooooo.

"That's the F-word."

Continue reading "Doug Marrone finds a former Bills coaching term to be vulgar" »

Chris Gragg's Rookie Journal: Chapter 1

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 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."

Video: Mario Williams is missing plus QB chatter from Bills camp

Buffalo News sports reporters Tim Graham and Jay Skurski provide updates from the second practice of Buffalo Bills training camp.

Bills WRs willing to play in traffic will catch Doug Marrone's eye

By Tim Graham

PITTSFORD -- Much has been said about how the Buffalo Bills' flashy-yet-untested receiving group should be able to stretch the field this year.

An ability to catch the ball in traffic, however, could be the ticket to making the roster.

Bills coach Doug Marrone smiled when he talked about one of his favorite traits for a reliable receiver.

"To me," Marrone said, "I kind of value who's going over the middle."

Continue reading "Bills WRs willing to play in traffic will catch Doug Marrone's eye" »

Mario Williams 'off campus' with foot injury; answers limited

Mario Williams 2
Mario Williams did not attend this afternoon's practice at St. John Fisher College because of a "sore foot."


By Tim Graham

PITTSFORD -- Mario Williams has an ambiguous injury, and the Buffalo Bills sound confused about it.

Stop me if you've heard this one before.

Williams, the team's highest-paid player, did not attend this afternoon's practice at St. John Fisher College because of a "sore foot."

Bills coach Doug Marrone had few answers about the extent of Williams' injury, how it happened or which foot it was. Marrone's only update from when he first heard about the issue Sunday night was that Williams was "off campus" to have the injury examined.

Continue reading "Mario Williams 'off campus' with foot injury; answers limited" »

Day 1: Offense starts fast, grinds to finish

By Mark Gaughan

PITTSFORD -- The Buffalo Bills' offense got off to a wild start then settled into a typical, unspectacular training camp debut Sunday night at St. John Fisher College.

The Bills treated a capacity crowd to nine straight "go routes" during the evening's opening one-on-one drills between receivers and defenders. The two fastest Bills receivers -- T.J. Graham and Marquise Goodwin -- look blazing fast. Rookie QB EJ Manuel hit Graham on a bomb vs. Justin Rogers down the right sideline. Then Manuel hit rookie Robert Woods in stride down the left sideline but Woods dropped the pass. Then Manuel hit Graham (again vs. Rogers) and Goodwin (vs. Nickell Robey) on successive throws. Goodwin showed off an extra gear that gives him late separation from defenders, even if he's well covered off the line.

But once the Bills went to 11-on-11 drills, the defense mostly had the upper hand.

Continue reading "Day 1: Offense starts fast, grinds to finish" »

Doug Marrone prefers top QB named before preseason finale

By Tim Graham

PITTSFORD -- Doug Marrone didn't set a deadline to name the Buffalo Bills' starting quarterback.

The rookie head coach did, however, provide the first significant glimpse into how he's approaching perhaps the most critical decision of his first season.

Marrone told reporters tonight at St. John Fisher College the Bills should have the quarterback depth chart settled shortly after their third preseason game.

Continue reading "Doug Marrone prefers top QB named before preseason finale" »

Scott Chandler takes another step toward remarkable recovery

Scott Chandler, coming off a serious knee injury, is the Buffalo Bills' most experienced and productive tight end by far. (Photo: John Hickey/Buffalo News)


By Tim Graham

PITTSFORD -- Buffalo Bills tight end Scott Chandler was pleased with the way he handled a milestone practice.

Not only was tonight the opening session of training camp, but it also marked the first physical practice Chandler went through since he underwent reconstructive knee surgery.

"It's the most I've done in a while," Chandler said in Growney Stadium. "It's the first time I really got my hands on somebody and blocked them, the first time I ran a route with somebody guarding me.

"But it felt good. It was what I expected. Hopefully, I can come back out here and continue to build on that."

Continue reading "Scott Chandler takes another step toward remarkable recovery" »

'Sore foot' keeps Mario Williams sidelined at first practice

By Tim Graham

WilliamsMMugPITTSFORD -- While the Buffalo Bills held their first 2013 training-camp practice, Mario Williams watched from the sideline.

Williams was in uniform tonight at St. John Fisher College, but he didn't participate in team drills because of an undefined foot problem.

Bills coach Doug Marrone said it was too soon to know the extent of the injury.

Continue reading "'Sore foot' keeps Mario Williams sidelined at first practice" »

Major NFL injuries underscore the randomness of health

By Tim Graham

PITTSFORD -- Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson has said many times in the past that a team needs luck to be successful.

That sentiment is particularly germane given what's happened around the NFL over the past 48 hours and with the Bills holding their first practice of training camp tonight.

Already lost for the season are Philadelphia Eagles receiver Jeremy Maclin (knee), Baltimore Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta (hip) and Denver Broncos center Dan Koppen (knee).

Arizona Cardinals rookie receiver Ryan Swope retired over concussion fears. Cleveland Browns offensive lineman Ryan Miller suffered a scary head injury Saturday and was taken off the field by ambulance.

Continue reading "Major NFL injuries underscore the randomness of health" »

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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 |

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 |

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 |