One player finished the week on a good note, the other just watched practice Thursday. But Marcell Dareus and Shawne Merriman, two of the more important pieces of Buffalo's defense for 2011, both have a chance to play Saturday night in the preseason home opener against Jacksonville. Head coach Chan Gailey however, won't be taking any unnecessary chances.
"We haven't decided yet," said head coach Chan Gailey as to whether Merriman will play Saturday. "But as we've said all along our goal is to get him ready for September 11th, not this game necessarily."
Merriman practiced fully on Thursday after missing the previous two days of practice, and participating on a very limited basis on Monday. But coming off the field after practice, the pass rushing linebacker felt spry.
"I feel pretty good. I missed a few days of practice," said Merriman. "My groin was feeling a little tight over the last few days. It was just precautionary stuff to make sure everything is good."
When asked if the coaching staff will turn him loose on Merriman, the veteran sounds as if he understands his path back to the playing field permanently is a marathon, not a sprint.
"I always want to play, but at the same time I have to think of what's in the best interest of the team and myself," he said. "I don't want to be put in a position that's going to jeopardize anything for September 11th."
The muscle tightness and soreness that he has experienced from time to time during the preseason serve as constant reminders that he has to pace himself to get back to where he once was.
"I've been off for some time. It's going to take me a little bit to get back into it," he said. "The coaching staff and training staff have done a great job in helping me with those every day reminders."
His entire timetable has been geared toward the regular season, so the Bills are not going to stray from their approach all along with Merriman, which is why though he may sit out Saturday night he believes come the opener in Kansas City his body will be ready for a 16-game season.
"I'm fully confident," he said. "I expected some of these things to happen coming back from such a long layoff. Just getting back into these football motions, you're going to have some of these things where muscles get sore over the course of time. I just have to take care of it."
Dareus meanwhile, sat out of practice Thursday after getting kicked in the leg in Wednesday's practice. The Bills top pick stood and watched the two-hour practice from the sidelines.
"I'm just fine," he said. "We're just taking precautions and taking it easy. I tweaked my ankle a little bit and coach said he didn't want to take any chances. So I'm getting treatment and icing it up, just being safe."
"He's going to be alright," said Gailey. "We'll see if he can get ready for the game or not, but he's got a pretty good chance to be ready for the game."
Dareus had an ankle injury during training camp, but the defensive lineman said this minor injury is not related. When asked if he's going to be taking it easy on game day Saturday, Dareus wasn't sure.
"I don't quite know," he said. "I think I'm going to play, but we won't know until that day."