Today is the long awaited day when the Bills hit the practice field for the first time in training camp. Rookies and veterans will suit up and get to work as they begin to make their final preparations for the 2012 regular season. For the rookies however, there has already been a two-week run-up to Thursday afternoon's full squad session leaving them with a sense of readiness most rookies don't enjoy.
Buffalo's coaching staff had their rookies report to One Bills Drive for what essentially was the start of training camp for them on July 9th. For the past two weeks the rookies took part in a lot of physical training with the strength and conditioning staff.
Just about every NFL player trains on their own at home during the offseason often times with a personal trainer, but having the opportunity to work with the team's staff the final two weeks before the whole team arrives for camp is a tremendous help to an unknowing rookie.
"That was invaluable for our rookies to be able to do that," said head coach Chan Gailey. "I think our rookies were able to realize what's going to be expected of them and have worked themselves into better shape so they can come out and be people that not only participate, but contribute early."
Top draft choice Stephon Gilmore feels like the past two weeks of work have served him well in anticipation of camp practices at St. John Fisher.
"I think it got me stronger and faster and working hard," said Gilmore. "I also got to learn the playbook a little bit more. As long as I come out here and work hard I don't worry about anything and do what I do on the field."
Rookies could study the playbook on their own and review any film they wanted to see to help streamline their transition to the training camp setting.
"It was more of conditioning than anything, but I took it to the classroom and put more on myself. But it mainly prepared us physically to come out and compete in camp."
That wasn't the case for Buffalo's rookies last year. With the NFL lockout last offseason there were no spring practices and there was an abbreviated training camp. What's more without any input permitted from the team's strength and conditioning staff, the rookies were on their own to best duplicate the type of training recommended by the club.
"I know last year we had a couple of rookies that came in they were a little heavy and pulled a muscle early," said Gailey. "Shep was one of them and then couldn't practice. All of a sudden you lose all that time with a guy like that."
That's partly why Kelvin Sheppard, who suffered a pulled hamstring on his first day of camp practice last summer, went from being a potential Week 1 starter to a backup. Sheppard didn't enter the starting lineup until almost midseason.
It's why this year's draft class and other rookies on the roster will sleep a bit easier knowing they're physically prepared for the grind that will ensue this afternoon.
"I think it helped prepare each and every one of us to have a great camp," said Gilmore.