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."
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
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
"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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.