When the Bills made interior offensive linemen two of their first four draft picks earlier this spring and traded away their starting left tackle, Brad Butler had an inkling he might be on the move as well. Not long after the draft he was told he'd be moving from right guard out to right tackle. Moving outside from the interior is usually harder, but Butler has a benefit that most NFL guards do not have.
Butler has more than 30 collegiate starts at right tackle, so for the fourth-year pro it's a matter of reactivating the motor memory of playing on the edge. Still having started at guard the past two seasons re-acclimating himself will still take some time.
"It's different and certainly you're playing in more space and it involves a lot more of moving your feet, but at the same time you're going against more athletic guys," said Butler. "Inside you're more worried about a bull rush and the strength of the game. Now I'm facing more of the athletic players in the game. It's just something I'm going to have to work at and try to get better at."
With rookies Eric Wood and Andy Levitre holding great promise as potential starters at both guard positions, Buffalo's coaching staff saw right tackle as the best destination for Butler with Langston Walker flipping over to the left side.
"There was a lot of thought put into that and it's to get our best five out there to give us the best chance to win," said Bills offensive line coach Sean Kugler. "We thought that was our best option to do that. I think Brad sees that it will benefit us as a team and benefit him also."
Some might wonder if Butler will be able to keep up with the faster and more athletic pass rushers on the outside after grinding with interior defensive linemen the past couple of seasons. But knowing the Bills will be facing 10 teams that employ a 3-4 defensive front this season, the defensive ends won't necessarily be speedy.
"The benefit of playing against a 3-4 as a guard is a lot of times you're spread out there against the defensive ends," said Butler. "So I'm kind of familiar with the New England, Miami and New York Jets defensive ends already."
Butler also has the experience of facing the 3-4 as a right tackle from his college days having faced that defensive scheme every day in practice for four years under Al Groh at the University of Virginia.
"Having that experience and that knowledge of knowing what it's like to face a pass rusher that's coming off the edge in a 3-4 compared to a 4-3 will help and there's some memory of it," he said. "I got to block it every day for four years, so hopefully that will ease the transition to tackle. But I just have to work hard."
And working hard has never been an issue for Butler. An aggressive player by nature, Butler has just the kind of mental makeup Kugler wants on his line knowing the fire wasn't always in the belly of some of the line's former members.
"We're looking to have guys that are blue collar, that have a strong work ethic and guys that are tough and compete," said Kugler. "In this division, it's a very competitive division with outstanding defensive lines and we want some tough guys in here that have that mentality and Brad has that. He's blue collar and every down he's going to work and he's going to fight and he's going to finish."
Just one example of Butler's persistent nature in making himself the best he can be came to light during the first week of OTAs. Unhappy with the way he executed a particular pass set during practice, Butler stayed on the field an extra 20 minutes after practice to work on that set until he was satisfied with his performance.
"I have a lot of improvement to do," said Butler. "I've been on the field working on my sets. These OTAs and minicamp coming up is the time where I'm really trying to get better and pick up the nuances of the position. Hopefully by the time the season starts I'll be ready to go."