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Bills Today: Dareus making his big presence felt away from the gridiron

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Here's the Bills news of note for Feb. 20th.

1. Marcell Dareus is making his big presence felt away from the gridiron this offseason

The Bills defensive tackle donated $25,000 to the U.S.-based charity Hope for Haiti last week in hopes to improve the quality of life for children there.

The country suffered another devastating hurricane in 2016, and Dareus is one of several Bills players to put in their time and effort into the country this season. Two of Dareus' defensive teammates donated money based off their play on the field last season as part of a league-wide campaign.

In addition to his monetary donation, Dareus will travel to schools and orphanages around Haiti to have a chance to get a first-hand look at where the money will be going.

"I love giving back, especially to kids in need, but this is extra special because I've never been on a trip like this before," Dareus said. "The Haitian people have seen hardship after hardship, with the earthquake and then the hurricane. Being able to meet with them and show them that I care about them is really important to me."

The cause is especially close to his heart, as Dareus' father was born and lived in Haiti until early adulthood.

"Although my dad died when I was younger, I'm lucky to have other family here in the states that have told me stories since I was a kid about life in Haiti," Dareus said. Being in a position to not only visit, but also make a donation that will really impact Haitian kids and their families is a great feeling. I know it will be an eye-opening trip."

Dareus has been one of Buffalo's best players since he was drafted third overall in 2011, recording 34 sacks and 292 tackles with the Bills.

2.**Chris Gragg is hoping to get another year in Buffalo to prove what he can do

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The 26-year-old tight end appeared on the John Murphy Show Friday to discuss his injury rehab and what he is hoping for once he hits free agency in early March.

Gragg suffered a season-ending knee injury in last year's preseason from a low tackle by Washington cornerback DeAngelo Hall. He has been rehabbing at the University of Arkansas, his alma mater, ever since his surgery and says that he is ahead of schedule.

"I've had injuries before in college, but I would say that this was the toughest thing in football that I had to go through," Gragg said. "But I'm doing pretty good with everything. I'm a little ahead of schedule, rehab went good. The first few weeks it was pretty painful, but they say I should be cleared by doctors within the next two weeks."

Gragg was drafted in the seventh round by the Bills in 2013, and has caught 12 passes for 251 yards and two touchdowns in 34 games with the team. He started the last five games of the 2015 season after Charles Clay went down with an injury.

Gragg's ability as a blocker in the NFL has kept him on Buffalo's roster, but Gragg also felt that he was coming on as a receiver before the injury.

"Like I've been telling the training staff and I told (Doug) Whaley this at our end of the year meetings, if I come back and you get me to the season, I promise that I'm going to pick up where I left off," Gragg said.

He was surprised to get a call from new head coach Sean McDermott, and said that the two talked for several minutes about football and his knee. That call affirmed Gragg's belief that Buffalo is the place for him, if the Bills want him back.

"You do have to kind of wait and see," Gragg said. "Whaley and I have had conversations at the end of the year meetings, and he didn't tell me this was my last time with the Bills. He said he didn't know for sure, and he did say he was proud and liked everything I did in my four years with the Bills. It is a business, I know, but I would love to come back with the Bills."

3. Bills up against one of the hardest schedules in the league next season

           As the Bills look to rebuild off of 2016's 7-9 campaign, they will be up against one of the hardest schedules in the NFL.

CBS Sports analyzed each team's opponents for 2017, and the Bills have the fifth-toughest schedule in the league. They face teams that had a combined record of 143-112-1 in 2016, with a winning percentage of .561.

For the 2017 season, all 32 teams play four games against a 2016 division-winner, four against a team that finished second, four against a third-place team and four against a fourth-place team.

Some of Buffalo's toughest road trips are to face the NFC Champion Falcons in Atlanta, the Panthers, Chiefs, and of course, New England.

The Bills play a total of five playoff teams in 2017, including the Dolphins and Patriots twice.

At home, the Bills have a rematch with the Raiders from last season, along with matchups against offensive powers like New Orleans and Indianapolis.

The Broncos have the toughest schedule in the league, while the Colts have the easiest slate of games, according to CBS. The full schedule will be released sometime in April.

 

 

1.      Marcell Dareus is making his big presence felt away from the gridiron this offseason. 

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