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Bills' 'Goon squad' keeping things loose

Posted Sep 29, 2011

The name came up in the normal kind of kidding conversation that young NFL prospects often have with one another. Joking around often eases the stress of trying to scrape and claw one’s way onto an NFL roster when you’re an undrafted rookie, which was the case for Bills receivers Donald Jones, David Nelson and Naaman Roosevelt.

The three young wideouts had made an early impression on then backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick not long into May minicamps in 2010. He said there was some young talent on the roster that could play and contribute based on what he was seeing in the practice setting.

With as much time off the field to spend together as on it, and the common bond of sport, position and the goal of making an NFL roster, the trio kidded about a name to describe themselves. Out of that good-humored conversation came the title ‘Goon Squad.’

“David was the first to utter the term ‘Goon Squad,’” said Roosevelt. “Us coming in as free agents and being so close and trying to understand the plays in our first year and studying together. We all definitely clicked and things just came along for all of us.”

“We’re always goofing around and we’re always having fun,” said Nelson. “I put ‘Goon Squad’ up on twitter just as a joke and people just ran away with it. Some of the guys in our receiving corps liked it and we kind of adopted it.”

When final roster cuts were made Jones and Nelson made the active roster while Roosevelt was later added to the practice squad. The charter members of the ‘Goon Squad’ were still together. Stevie Johnson along with the other receivers on the active roster and practice squad were indoctrinated as well.

By the end of the 2010 season the three undrafted rookies were all on the 53-man roster with Nelson making the biggest contributions offensively. Jones and Roosevelt had enough time on the field to show flashes of what they could offer in the future.

Through the course of the offseason the recognition of the ‘Goon Squad’ label by Bills fans only grew with Jones, Nelson and Roosevelt often hash tagging their tweets on twitter with their group handle.

“It’s crazy how we can start something like that with social media these days,” said Jones. “But it’s cool for us to have the little nickname.”

“It’s funny how the fans will tweet you and support the goon squad name,” Roosevelt said. “It’s cool to have fans like that who are so into what you’re doing. So we’re just enjoying that support.”

Through three games this season the ‘Goon Squad’ contributions are more readily apparent. Nelson is tied for the team lead in receptions and stands second in receiving yards. Jones is emerging as a deep threat in Buffalo’s passing game and Roosevelt was again called up to the active roster, but will have 14 games to make an impact instead of just six as was the case last season.

The term ‘goon’ has a negative connotation in some sports like hockey, where it describes a player of lesser skill who often makes up for that deficiency with his fists. For Buffalo’s young receivers their interpretation of the term is far different.

“Goon, we looked it up and it’s like a young person that likes to have fun and is care free,” said Nelson. “That’s what we are. We take care of each other, but at the same time we like to have fun and we’re always joking with each other and ranking on each other. It’s more like a fun moniker.”

The first definition listed for goon in the dictionary is in fact ‘a silly, foolish or eccentric person.’ And that’s the connotation Buffalo’s young wideouts would prefer knowing what else is out there.

“There are other ways you can look at it too because we’ve seen how things get associated with the gangster scene, but we don’t look at it like that. We’re care free and fun,” said Nelson.

Keeping things loose should help a Bills team that is suddenly on the fast track to success with a 3-0 start. Head coach Chan Gailey has already spoken to his team about handling prosperity. Sometimes a bit of levity can keep the pressure of maintaining a winning streak in the NFL at a manageable level.

As for where the ‘Goon Squad’ label goes from here, the players are more concerned about building on their recent results on the field rather than focusing on creating greater exposure for a nickname that somehow stuck around just like three undrafted rookie receivers.

“It stays like it is,” said Nelson. “It’s just for fun. It’s nothing serious. A couple of people talked about making T-shirts, but it’s just one of those things where we have fun with the fans. When we go out to practice we’re not out there talking about it. It’s only for when we’re messing around and joking around with each other.”

“We hang out and do things together,” said Roosevelt. “That’s what that nickname is about. It’s like we’re brothers pretty much.”