Two and a half weeks into Bills training camp, and with one preseason game under their belt, players still can't get too comfortable about where they stand on the depth chart. The reality is that with the amount of time they spend on the field comes a high risk of injury.
On Tuesday, head coach Dick Jauron announced that linebacker Ashlee Palmer, who backs up Kawika Mitchell at weak-side linebacker, suffered a badly sprained ankle. Palmer is listed as week to week.
Set to fill the void is Alvin Bowen. Now entering his second season in the NFL he has the opportunity to line up as Kawika Mitchell's backup on the weak side. With a good showing Bowen could merit consideration to be one of the top six linebackers on the team, which would make him a virtual lock for the 53-man roster.
"I didn't really look at it like I was going to specifically take (Palmer's) spot, but you know, I have been called upon to step up into another slot and just make plays for my team," Bowen said. "I don't want to go into it like I'm going to be taking the position from Palmer, just because he's injured. But the situation has appeared and I'm going to do what I have to do. I want the coaches to see what I'm capable of."
One of Bowen's tutors, Bills assistant linebacker/special teams coach DeMontie Cross, also coached him at Iowa State. Working so closely with Bowen has given him a firm grasp of his game, and why he makes for a good fit at the weak side linebacker position to back up Mitchell.
"We liked Alvin coming out of college," Cross said. "From my experience with him in the past, I know he's a real athletic linebacker. He has good size and plays the game physical, the way we like. It was unfortunate, his set back with the injury last year, but he's starting to bounce back.
"He's still learning the scheme. It's a little bit different learning the scheme on the field versus off the field, but we're very pleased with his progress to this point, just have to keep it going."
While practicing and making the Bills' staff aware of his potential, Bowen also has been giving Palmer tips on rehabilitating from his injury and sharing information that was given to him during his recovery a year ago.
As fortunate as Bowen feels to have the opportunity, he also can relate to what Palmer is going through. Last August, Bowen suffered an ACL injury that kept him off of the field for the whole season. Having missed out on preseason games, regular season games and practices, Bowen knows what Palmer is experiencing, and had some encouraging words for him.
"I told him to stay strong, no matter how big or small his injury is," said Bowen. "I just told him to stay focused on the fact that it's going to heal and get better. If he stays focused on that then it will make for a much easier recovery."
Cross wasn't at all surprised when Bowen offered recovery advice to Palmer.
"One thing about our group, we've been very fortunate," said Cross. "Our players stick together, even though there's a job at stake and definitely believe in helping one another. They're good at coaching another guy when they're not in and assisting us as coaches as we go along.
"We definitely have a tight-knit group. We like to say there's really no drop off when the next guy goes in, especially within player assignments. Obviously athletically there are differences between each player. Assignment-wise, we believe every guy should know what their job is and go out there and get it done as well as they can."
And that's just what Bowen intends to do.