It took all of two weeks with the veterans for Bills rookie wideout James Hardy to speak up and ask for some extra one-on-one time. At the close of week two of OTA sessions Hardy approached quarterback Trent Edwards and asked if he would work on the fade pattern in the end zone with him. It was a pass they had misconnected on during practice.
"The funny thing about James is he came to me," said a somewhat surprised Edwards. "As a rookie and a young guy that wants to get better and he's approaching me… I know I'm not a veteran, but I've been in this league for a year now, but there's not any intimidation by any means."
"I want to come out here and make big plays," said Hardy. "I'm just going to try to get that chemistry down with our quarterback like I did at Indiana."
Earlier during that same practice last Thursday, Hardy was bending the ear of veteran wideout Lee Evans about the pre-snap adjustments and footwork on routes.
"For rookies coming in now they throw so much stuff at you that your head can be spinning at times and it can be frustrating," said Evans. "So I'm just trying to help him get things together in his mind. I'm just trying to get him a little more comfortable so he can come out here and play."
Hardy recognizes the experience of the veterans as an asset and has taken the proactive approach of tapping into it whenever he can.
"We have veterans showing us what we're going to go through," said Hardy. "Actually being in the meetings and talking to the veterans they just let you know that they've got your back and that they're going to be there to see you move forward."
Moving forward and contributing quickly however, is easier said than done.
"Young receivers need to be able to find the zones and be able to recognize zone and man coverage even out in the open field," Edwards said. "It's hard on the quarterback because we're watching the defense unfold, but for them to be running a route and trying to recognize the defense too is even harder especially on the young guys. You don't see a lot of coverages in college, you see a lot more up here in the pros and that's what he has to overcome."
But in a locker room that is close-knit and determined to land a playoff berth for the first time in a long time, the veterans don't mind helping an eager rookie.
"He wants to get better and he wants to get better as fast as he can and that says a lot about a guy that has a lot of talent and skill like he does and he obviously has the work ethic," said Edwards.
The bottom line is the veterans on offense know if they're ever going to improve from an offensive ranking of 30th each of the past two years, Hardy will have to be part of their success and quickly.
"We're going to need him to step in and play well so as we progress along all the help he can get will be beneficial for him and for us," said Evans.
So seeing Hardy putting some extra work in with the starting quarterback after practice is a welcome sign. If those extra 20 minutes sessions shorten Hardy's learning curve, Evans is encouraged by the possibilities.
"He can make plays. He makes plays on the ball," said Evans of Hardy. "That's the biggest thing and as he continues to grow he'll learn how to use his size to his advantage. Once he can do that and put it all together they're ain't no telling."