"Every year it seems like I'm a bubble guy."
That's not a phrase you expect to hear from a wide receiver who had 41 receptions and four touchdowns last season, but that's where Chris Hogan is. Hogan, or "7-Eleven" as he was dubbed by Reggie Bush, was originally signed by the San Francisco 49ers as an undrafted free agent out of Monmouth College in 2011. He only played one season of college football for the Hawks after he graduated from Penn State in 2010 where he played lacrosse on scholarship. With that background, playing with something to prove is nothing new for Hogan.
"I'm never going to take anything for granted out here. Every single day out here is a blessing for me," he said. "I said I'm 'on the bubble' and yeah, I do play with a little chip on my shoulder. But that's the way that I play and that's the way that I've always been."
Hogan is a young veteran in a group of 13 wide receivers that the Bills brought to training camp. In the first two days of practice, Hogan has done most of his reps with the first and second teams. On Saturday, he put forth a great effort. He was wide open for a touchdown after busting a move at the line, only missing the end zone due to an overthrow. He also had key blocks to open up space for ball carriers and receivers on screens towards the end of practice.
"For me personally, I was a little rusty the first day. Uncharacteristic of me, I don't really drop that many passes and I had a couple," Hogan said of his play last Friday. "Saturday was much better. We're just building chemistry with this offense and we've still got a long way to go but we see it and we've just got to keep working."
Hogan takes advantage of every opportunity that comes his way. During the offseason, that included working with new Bills quarterback Matt Simms. Hogan and Simms live "right around the corner from each other" and went to high school in neighboring towns. They've been working out in the offseason together for the past few years.
"It's nice to have a quarterback back home. I even worked with Matt when he was with the Jets," Hogan said. "It was good having a quarterback and being able to work on the certain routes that I'm running and timing and everything like that."
Besides working with Simms, Hogan is using a hyperbaric chamber in his room at St. John Fisher College. The chamber contains more oxygen than would normally be in the atmosphere around it. It has numerous health benefits, including speeding up recovery time.
"When you get to this level, it's all about recovery," Hogan said. "You tell me that my body is going to be feeling better if I eat this food, I'm definitely going to eat it and try it out."
Hogan is off to a solid start at camp. With the competition for roster spots at wide receiver as fierce as it is, his early leg-up is hugely important. There is talent up and down the depth chart and Hogan recognizes the skill that he's competing against every day.
"This group is really talented and we stay together," he said. "We're just going to keep working and we're pushing each other every single day out here just trying to get better."
With just a few days in the books, nothing is decided as far as roster spots go. Although he may have an advantage out of the gate, Hogan knows that he will have to continue to work hard to make it onto the 53-man roster.
"I'm going to come out here and work 100 percent every single time."