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Chris Gragg's Rookie Journal: Chapter 4

By Tim Graham

PITTSFORD -- Three times already in training camp, the Buffalo Bills have expressed dissatisfaction with their tight end depth.

Before the first air horn, they cut Mickey Shuler. The Bills added Nick Provo on Aug. 4. They waived Mike Caussin on Wednesday.

Rookie tight end Chris Gragg knows he's not supposed to pay attention, but it's difficult when a player at his position isn't there one day or a new guy shows up.

"It just shows you that this NFL is a business," Gragg said after Wednesday night's practice at St. John Fisher College. "You try not to really think about it. You hear about it in the media and Coach tells us the business of the day, everyday. You just try to focus on your job."

That can be difficult when your father is keeping such close tabs on roster spots and makes it a point to keep score.

"He texts me every time somebody gets released and tells me he's glad it wasn't me," said Gragg, the seventh-round draft choice who has agreed to share his rookie journey with BuffaloNews.com throughout training camp.

"I try to block it out, just focus on your job at hand," Gragg said. "Coach Marrone told us [Tuesday] in the team meeting, when you think about stuff like that and you're always worried, it can affect your play, and I just don't want anything to affect my play.

"I think if I put everything good on film, I think I have a good chance to be on the team."

Gragg's NFL career began well Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts. He started along with Dorin Dickerson in a two-tight formation and saw more snaps than any other Bills tight end. Gragg called it "a great experience."

He took 57 offensive snaps. Provo was next at 32 plays, followed by Lee Smith with 16 and Dickerson with 15.

Gragg caught two of the four passes thrown his way. His catches went for 6 and 8 yards. He had one drop.

"I would probably give myself a B," Gragg said. "I never try to give myself an A. I mean, it was my first game.

"I know I had a pretty good day blocking. I know that's one of the things my coaches want to see from me, could I block at the NFL level? I think I did that."

With only four preparation days between games, Gragg is eager for Friday night's exhibition against the Minnesota Vikings. It'll be his first game in Ralph Wilson Stadium and a chance to square off against a high school and college teammate, Vikings receiver Jarius Wright.

The quick turnaround between games provides a healthy whirlwind for Gragg, who doesn't have enough downtime to dwell on NFL realities.

"You just look at the schedule and know the cut days are coming close," Gragg said. "That's the only thing. When the cut days get closer, it might be a little harder. Right now, I'm just getting prepared for Minnesota."

As focused as Gragg is supposed to be on the here and now, he admitted he's already looking beyond next Wednesday, the last day of training camp at St. John Fisher.

"It's been hard, especially my rookie year," Gragg said. "It's been a long year. From January, I've been living out of suitcases, getting ready for the combine, getting ready for rookie minicamp and things like that. ... I'm ready for it all to be over and get settled."

Chris Gragg's Rookie Journal: Chapter 3

By Tim Graham

PITTSFORD -- Chris Gragg probably didn't stand out to those who watched the Buffalo Bills' intrasquad scrimmage Monday night.

Over 90 minutes and 100-some plays, Bills quarterbacks targeted him only once. Gragg had zero receptions.

Gragg would've preferred to make a stronger impression. The seventh-round draft choice is fighting for a roster spot at tight end and never can be entirely certain where he stands.

That's life as an NFL rookie.

But a smile crossed Gragg's mug today when he noted he took 48 reps, more than any other Bills tight end Monday night. He's unsure what that means, but it's certainly not a bad thing.

Last year's starter, Scott Chandler, has been limited in his return from reconstructive knee surgery, and Mike Caussin has been sidelined again. Dorin Dickerson made the most plays at tight end Monday night.

"I did a lot of blocking," Gragg said as part of his periodic rookie journal for BuffaloNews.com. "I didn't get any passes. I got one thrown my way, but I think I showed the coaches I can block, especially down on the goal line."

Gragg said feedback from Bills coaches mostly has been positive so far. He admitted the main exception has been about maintaining his energy level when the Bills' staccato offense is several plays into a long drive.

Gragg's eager to show what he can do against players in different uniforms. The Bills will open their preseason Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts in Lucas Oil Stadium.

"At this point in camp, you get real tired of hitting your own teammates," Gragg said. "So you want to go against another team. It's going to be my first NFL game. I'm ready to get under the lights and make some plays."

Sunday won't be Gragg's introduction to an NFL stadium. When he was at Arkansas, he played in Cowboys Stadium and the Superdome for the Sugar Bowl. He was in Lucas Oil Stadium for the NFL scouting combine in February.

Chris Gragg's Rookie Journal: Chapter 2

By Tim Graham

PITTSFORD -- Football was something for Chris Gragg to do in rural Southeast Arkansas. His father was a football coach for whom Gragg would serve as a water boy until junior high.

Gragg blossomed into a pretty big deal in Warren, Ark., a town of bout 6,000 people. The school system there considers one hundred students a healthy class.

By his senior season, recruiting sites ranked him among the best receivers in the state. All he wanted from football at the time was a scholarship and a chance to keep playing on Saturdays.

"My goal was always to play college football," Gragg said. "I never really thought about playing in the NFL because I heard how hard it was and only the top one percentile get there."

Continue reading "Chris Gragg's Rookie Journal: Chapter 2" ยป

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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 | tgraham@buffnews.com


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 | mgaughan@buffnews.com


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 | jskurski@buffnews.com

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