In a couple of weeks Buffalo's open quarterback competition will begin in earnest. With OTAs set to get underway a week from Tuesday, the three veteran signal callers along with rookie Levi Brown will begin the process of trying to prove they deserve to be the starting quarterback for the 2010 Bills. One of the three returning quarterbacks from last season however, will be getting a head start this weekend.
Brian Brohm will be participating in the team's rookie minicamp this weekend opposite the rookie Brown. Being a second-year player, Brohm along with a host of other first and second-year players are free to participate in all of the practice sessions from Friday through Sunday on a voluntary basis.
For Brohm it's a welcome opportunity.
"I think it's a pretty big advantage going into OTAs and the next minicamps to get this time under my belt," said Brohm. "You see the offense develop, you get to run the plays and see how they unfold and how coach likes to call them and what he wants with different coverages. It's five extra days that you get to go out there and compete and be in the meeting room with the coaches and see what they want out of the quarterbacks. It's definitely an advantage."
It's also a much different situation than the one he walked into last season when he was signed off the Green Bay practice squad by the Bills in mid-November last season. Earlier that week Buffalo's head coach had been fired with then defensive coordinator Perry Fewell promoted to interim head coach.
Eager to absorb his new playbook as quickly as possible, Brohm quickly discovered he'd be on his own with that task.
"Coming in and getting settled was fairly difficult just because of the number of coaches that were still available to me," Brohm said. "Coach Van Pelt did everything he could, but he was the offensive coordinator and the quarterbacks coach. We didn't have a separate quarterback coach so there was really no individual time that I could steal away from him because he was working on game plans. So there was a lot of watching film on my own and studying the playbook on my own and trying to get up to speed as quickly as possible."
Brohm did make his first career start before the 2009 season was over in Week 16 at Atlanta. And though the final score against the Falcons was far from the desired result, for Brohm personally it was a valuable experience.
"The biggest thing I took away from it is that I can play at this level," he said. "I felt like I did the job they asked me to do. We had a real basic game plan. They didn't ask me to do a whole lot of things. We tried to keep it close, not make many mistakes and just do my job. I felt like the game wasn't too fast for me. The game has slowed down tremendously for me since I got in the league. It was good to get out there and get that feeling. I feel I can play at this level and that's what it did for me."
Now part of an open quarterback competition Brohm couldn't be happier about the situation he finds himself in knowing there's a genuine opportunity to be the starting quarterback come September.
"I have an opportunity to probably get some reps with the first string unit at times," he said. "I've got to get out there and go for that first string job. It keeps you optimistic and makes it a lot more fun and hopefully I go out there and show the coaches what I have."
What's even out the playing field for Brohm is the fact that Buffalo will be implementing a new offensive scheme under new head coach Chan Gailey and his staff. No other signal caller on the roster will have a leg up in terms of familiarity with the system.
"Everyone is starting from square one and I think that's a good thing for me just battling for a position," he said. "When you come in as a rookie, sometimes when you come to a new team there are other guys there that have been through the system that know special things better than you do and you have to play catch up. But right here we're all starting from the same point."
Many outside observers thought the upcoming competition would include a highly touted college quarterback. Several so called draft experts labeled quarterback as a positional hole the Bills had to address early in the 2010 draft after a season of relatively undesirable production. Buffalo took Brown in round seven, but GM Buddy Nix also explained that the organization felt their three returning quarterbacks could do everything physically that the prospects in the draft could do.
"I thought it was a great vote of confidence in the guys that we have here," said Brohm. "We obviously have some quarterbacks that have some ability and can play football. They want to see what we have. It made me feel good to know that there's not going to be a rookie incumbent that is expected to be the starter. It's going to be an open competition and the best man is going to win the job."
Of course the benefit of five extra practices for Brohm this weekend with the new staff in the new scheme before Trent Edwards and Ryan Fitzpatrick can step on the field is significant. He'll be afforded almost one-on-one instruction from Gailey and quarterbacks coach George Cortez through the course of the weekend.
"Coach will do a great job instructing us," said Brohm. "So far this offseason he has been giving us great instruction and telling us exactly what he wants from us."
Brohm is constantly reminding himself to take the competition one day at a time and one play at a time. He knows the quarterback competition will quickly take center stage once the two veteran signal callers join him on the practice field later this month. That's why his approach is to be singularly focused on whatever he's responsible for moment by moment, play by play and series by series.
If he can do that Brohm believes his true ability to be a successful NFL quarterback will be evident to Buffalo's coaching staff.
"I think all of us envision ourselves as the guy coming out number one," said Brohm. "Every single one of us has to have that vision or you're not going to win the job. I'm confident in my abilities and I feel like I can take over the reins and be that guy. I just have to go out there and prove it in practice and in the preseason in those games. That's what competition is for and that's why you play."