With the Bills making additions and changes to the offense and defense this season, many veterans will enter training camp preparing to fill a new position. Guard Brad Butler, playing his fourth season with the Bills, has had to adapt to new positions in the past. As a rookie, he practiced at tackle, and was then moved to guard, where he has started for the past two seasons. However, this year the Bills' staff has different plans for Butler. With Jason Peters traded and Langston Walker moving from right to left tackle, Butler now finds himself at right tackle.
After a two-year layoff at the position can Butler re-master right tackle?
As far as the Bills' staff is concerned they believe that Butler is the best option.
During the draft, the team made an investment in the interior of their offensive line with first-rounder Eric Wood and second-rounder Andy Levitre. This gave the coaching staff the leeway to move Butler out to tackle.
"It was something that after the draft, they called me and said, 'Hey, we're going to make a move to Langston at left tackle and you at right tackle.' I told them, 'Hey, if they want me to move to field goal kicker, then that's what I'm willing to do,'" said Butler. "I believe in what Coach (Dick) Jauron has to say. We haven't made the playoffs since I've been here, and if they think the best way to make the playoffs is by me playing right tackle then I'm willing to do it."
Butler played tackle for four years in at the University of Virginia, and became a Bills fifth-round draft pick in 2006. Offensive line coach Sean Kugler believes that Butler's college experience will help him during the process of converting from guard to tackle, and has been working with him to ensure an easy transition.
"It'll definitely be an adjustment, but I played there in college for my whole career and even played some left tackle. My rookie year here at training camp I was at tackle," Butler said. "Moving back out there will definitely be different because you play so many 3-4 (defenses) in the NFL and you don't face it much in college. But the little nuances of the 3-4, I'll pick up as we go along."
"Certainly (having played tackle in college) helps because he's familiar with it and he's made the process smooth by being a worker coming in before practice, after practice and working every day," said Kugler. "Brad's a worker and he's jumped into it full boat. There was a lot of thought put into (moving him to RT), too, and (the idea is) to get our best five out there to give us the best chance to win. We thought that was our best option to do that."
Butler is aware of the differences between playing in college and playing in the NFL. While at guard, Butler had two people on either side of him on the line. At tackle, he will be positioned on the edge, making him responsible for protecting a greater area of the pocket in passing situations.
"It's different and certainly you're playing in more space and it involves a lot more moving your feet," Butler said. "At the same time you're going against more athletic guys, whereas inside, you're more worried about a bull rush and the strength of the game."
Another challenge lies in the Bills' schedule this season. While playing tackle, Butler will be matched against very athletic pass rushers such as Houston's Mario Williams and Miami's Joey Porter. With two rookie starters a strong possibility, and veterans transitioning to new positions, it will take some time for the line to mesh. That only adds to the test that Butler faces.
"The biggest challenge is more about athleticism and speed," Butler said. "It's going to take some time to get used to that. But what's great is that I've got (defensive end Chris) Kelsay to go against every day, and he practices hard, and ultimately the way I'll make the conversion to tackle is by working hard in practice and he's going to expect that out of me every day, and I'm going to expect that of him."
OTAs and minicamp served Butler well as he makes the position switch. His coaches and teammates have been working with him and will continue to do so through training camp. But once the real games begin in September it will be up to Butler to make it work against some impressive competition.