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DeHaven's return a win-win

Bruce DeHaven thought his 13-year stint in Buffalo would be his last opportunity to coach in the city he had grown to admire and appreciate. Three NFL stops later the special team coordinator's career has come full circle.

"In this league you never know from day to day what's going to happen," said DeHaven. "It seems the longer I've been in the league the more changes there are and the quicker they are. I'm happy that this is the way it worked out."

DeHaven called returning to the Bills staff for a second go round like a homecoming of sorts, and he didn't quite expect it to happen having never been on a staff with Chan Gailey in the past.

"I've never worked with him," said DeHaven. "But I know his reputation. All I know is every place he has ever been as a head coach or as an assistant they've won. I'm glad to be around him because everywhere he's been they've been successful."

Of course Gailey considered himself fortunate to land an experienced special teams coach of DeHaven's caliber after getting strong recommendations from people in football that Buffalo's head coach trusted.

"In this level of football you always are looking for people that have been there, done that," Gailey said. "He's been there and done that. He's been very successful, not just in one place, but in several different places. I didn't really know Bruce. We were fortunate enough to get into a conversation and he flew in here and visited with us and it looked like a great fit."

A great fit because DeHaven's skills are capable of sustaining what has been one of the best special teams units for the better part of the last six years.

"I don't think I need to assess Bobby's (April) tenure here," said DeHaven. "He did a good job of keeping the torch burning while I was gone. Danny Smith was an excellent special teams coach and Bobby's record speaks for itself. Those guys are excellent football coaches."

DeHaven hasn't gone through all the game tape from 2009 to evaluate the skills of all the specialists on the roster, but he knows enough about his kickers to feel good about the talent he inherits.

"It doesn't make a difference where you go or who you follow you want good players. If you've got good specialists you've got a chance," he said. "If you have a good snapper, a good punter and a good kicker you've got a chance. If you have great returners as well you've really got something because you can make a difference in that area as well."

Buffalo arguably has all of those ingredients, but DeHaven likes what he sees in his punter and kicker.

"Brian is one of the better punters in the league no question about it," he said. "He's very versatile, he can drive the ball for distance you get backed up, he can hang it up there high if you have a returner you're trying to take out of the game. He's very quick with the ball which helps your protection. He's got good hands and an excellent athlete.

"I think that Rian has really developed since he's come into the league. His accuracy has improved dramatically from his first year in the league and he's done a nice job of that. He's an above average kickoff guy. It looks like he's good enough where you could work with him as a kickoff guy."

One big concern that special teams coaches have when joining a new staff is the level of input they'll have when it comes time to make roster decisions. Special teams coaches need six to eight core coverage and return unit players to be a quality squad. DeHaven doesn't have that worry.

"Coach (Gailey) coached special teams when he got started out in Denver. So I guarantee you he understands what you need to get it done," said DeHaven. "It's a little different than coaching for somebody that's always been an offensive coach and really doesn't know anything about the kicking game other than he wants it to be good.

"Coach Gailey and Buddy Nix, those guys are football guys. I've been some places where I was real concerned about who I might end up with. That won't be the case here. They'll get good players in here for me."

As far as what might be different with his approach to that of his predecessor, DeHaven isn't forecasting big changes. There's a strong likelihood though that his units play things a little closer to the vest.

"I think subtle changes are what you can expect," he said. "I've always believed in working from the part to the whole, start simple and be fundamentally sound. I'm probably a little more conservative in my approach than some special team coaches. You're probably not going to see a whole lot of onsides kicks and wild reverses and fakes and that kind of thing as you would some other coaches in the league."

Aside from the season after his dismissal DeHaven has followed the Bills from afar. After putting 13 good years in to make something as good as it can be, it's hard to forget it completely. He admits even while working for the likes of San Francisco, Dallas and Seattle, he was always a fan of the Bills.

So DeHaven is all too familiar with the struggles the franchise has experienced the past 10 years when it comes to wins and losses. Buffalo hasn't been in the playoffs since he was on the staff a decade ago.

"I don't know if there's a connection there, but I certainly am looking forward to the opportunity where we can get back into the playoffs," he said. "These are some of the greatest fans in the world. Everybody has got good fans, but I don't know that there's any team in the league that supports the team any better than this bunch in Western New York does. There's nothing that would make me happier for them than to get these guys back in the playoffs."

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