As training camp practices begin in earnest on Thursday there will be a rare quartet of players on Buffalo’s roster that have accomplished an uncommon feat in the NFL these days.
In the era of free agency seeing four players with that much staying power is anything but routine. For those veteran stalwarts on Buffalo’s roster there’s a measure of pride in it.
“When I was drafted by the Bills in ’03 one of my goals was to play my entire career with one club,” said Kelsay, who has missed just six games out of a possible 144 in his first nine seasons. “And in free agency it’s unheard of mostly, so I feel really blessed. Time has flown by. I can’t believe it’s been 10 years in Buffalo.”
“Yeah I definitely take a little pride in it,” said Moorman, who reported for his 12th training camp Tuesday. “It’s one thing to play 12 seasons in the NFL and it’s another to play 12 seasons with one team. It’s been nice to be part of this organization and the community and everything else.”
Of course none of them are happy about the fact that the team hasn’t been more successful with respect to the postseason. For Lindell, he doesn’t focus on the years he’s spent in a Bills uniform as much as he focuses on improving his game to help get the team to where they want to be.
“Sometimes that does hit me a little bit where I think it is pretty cool that I’ve been with this team for 10 years,” he said. “I just always feel like I need to get better. It hits me more like, ‘Boy I’m running out of time here.’ I always thought I’d maybe have a couple of playoff games or Pro Bowls. So I still feel like I’ve got a lot of work to do. It doesn’t feel like I’ve been in it that long.”
For Terrence McGee, the situation as he enters training camp is a bit different than those of years past. Injuries have caught up with him the past few seasons, and he reports to camp hoping his torn patellar tendon suffered last November will respond and allow him to play much like he has the past nine years for Buffalo.
McGee still remembers watching and learning from the likes of Antoine Winfield and Nate Clements in his first camp in 2003. Now the elder statesman of the cornerback contingent, McGee doesn’t really see the roles reversed in light of his injury situation.
“I would say that the only tables that are turned is showing that I can still play,” said the veteran of 90 career starts with Buffalo. “Coming out here and proving I can still do it.”
Moorman also recalls his first training camp with Buffalo in 2001, a camp that he viewed as his last ditch effort to earn a job on an NFL roster.
“I felt like at the time it was my last opportunity to make a team,” he said. “It was just one of those things not knowing what the future was going to hold or where I stood. Obviously I was grateful that at the time (special teams coach) Danny Smith put a lot of stock in me as well as Mr. Donahoe and coach Williams and it just kind of took off from there. They stuck by me and things have gone well.”
McGee isn’t sure if he uttered a single word during that first camp, especially on the practice field.
“I really didn’t ask anybody anything when I first came in,” he said. “I made my own mistakes and I took the risk on making my own mistakes, but I’d definitely watch the vets work. A person who was really vocal and would tell you things on his own was Troy Vincent. He’d give me advice. You’re going to listen to Troy. He was a great corner and a veteran guy.”
Kelsay remembers the anxiety of his first camp in 2003 as a rookie, but looking back on his career with Buffalo the changes that have taken place around him is what sticks with him most.
“I think the one thing that stands out for me over my time is I’ve had five head coaches in 10 years if you count Perry Fewell as interim head coach,” he said. “So I’ve seen a lot of new faces obviously, but football is still football.”
Lindell recalled the small elevators in which the players would try and cram their belongings to get up to their rooms before the St. John Fisher dorms were renovated and updated. His first camp, also in 2003 after signing as a free agent, had a measure of star power for him too.
“I remember Drew Bledsoe being there, which was cool for me because he was a Cougar legend,” said the fellow Washington State alum. “So that was memorable to see him going through practices.”
With 563 career games combined, the four veteran Bills certainly have a lot of memorable moments to reflect on, but the consensus was last year’s Week 3 victory over New England.
“Obviously that game last year I remember that,” said Lindell. “I still remember my first game against New England in the 2003 opener and I thought, ‘Boy this is going to be easy.’ It took a long time before we beat them again.”
“The New England Patriots game this past season is a favorite of mine,” said Kelsay. “It was the first time that we had beaten them since my very first NFL game when we beat them 31-0 to open the season in ’03. To get that win in front of our home crowd and see the excitement in the locker room, that was a special win.”
Obviously what’s still left on the to-do list for all four of the decade-plus vets is to help the club end their playoff drought.
“We’re real excited for this year,” said Kelsay. “We really feel this could be the year that we can make the postseason and do some good things in Buffalo.”