While the timing for any four-game suspension is never good, it couldn't have come at a worse time for Anthony Hargrove. Still dealing with the three misdemeanor charges he faces from an incident in downtown Rochester a week ago, Hargrove's league suspension only further jeopardizes his status as a member of Buffalo's roster.
Head coach Dick Jauron did not say the team would cut ties with Hargrove now, but would not rule it out either.
"Releasing him is an option," Jauron said. "At this point we're not there. We're not at that point. A lot of things have to occur and a lot of facts have to be gathered."
For now Jauron and the organization have decided to take a day-by-day approach to the issues facing the defensive end.
"It's an unfortunate situation," said Jauron. "We're disappointed and we'll deal with it as we move forward kind of on a daily basis. We'll see where it takes us."
Hargrove spoke after Sunday's brief practice session to make his second public apology in a week.
"I want to take the time to apologize to Ralph Wilson himself, the whole Bills organization, the Bills fan club, to my family and friends and anybody that's really affected by this," Hargrove said. "The last two weeks have been rough from the incident in the club to here now. I'm trying to put those things behind me and move on and be a better man and grow up."
Hargrove claims he's learned a lot over the past two weeks including facing things head on.
"Through all these things I've kind of grown up here in Buffalo," he said. "If there's one thing I can say I want to give thanks to the organization, not just for trading for me, but for being there and helping me as an individual. Right now it doesn't look like much of anything, but those who are near and dear know what the Bills mean to me and what Western New York means to me."
Hargrove realizes his recent off the field problems have put his status as the team's fourth defensive end at risk. That's why he's prepared to go all out in the three remaining preseason games provided he's around that long.
"I'm ready to put everything behind me and go on and play football," he said. "I'm going to serve these four games and I know that. I'm hopefully going to play the rest of the preseason and give it my all, and if the team decides that I'm good enough to stay and they'll wait for me then I'm all for it, but if not I'll deal with things as they come."
The defensive end is allowed to practice with the team until Sept. 1 and counts toward a roster spot until that time. If the team elects to keep him beyond Sept. 1 he will then be placed on the team's suspended list and will not count towards a spot on the team's 53-man roster. After he serves his suspension if the team wants to add him to their active roster they will need to move someone off the roster at that time.
But that scenario is far from a sure thing. The reasons why are his playing time for the remainder of the preseason and his reps in practice are bound to be affected. The coaching staff knows they won't have him for the first four games of the regular season. So it's not unusual to think that reps in the preseason games and practice would best serve the team if another player that can play at the beginning of the year were getting them.
"We'll have to make an adjustment because we know he won't be available to us the first four games," said Jauron. "I'm not going to deny that this changes our perspective on a number of things. It has to."
But for Jauron and his staff determining who fills the void at defensive end in Hargrove's absence by suspension will come down to making plays.
"It will depend on performance number one," said Jauron. "Who is performing well and where? That will determine how many we carry active into a game and who they are. A lot of those things usually take care of themselves as we play our preseason games. Some of those other defensive ends will get a longer look."
Currently there are two defensive ends behind Hargrove in second-year player Eric Powell and seventh-round pick C.J. Ah You.
Now entering his second season in Perry Fewell's defense, Powell holds an upper hand over Ah You. Though Powell was inactive for all 16 games last season, he practiced with the team every week last season and comes to camp knowing what he needs to do to improve his game.
"Pass rush. Just knowing lanes and where I'm supposed to be and being accountable," said Powell. "Just trying to be more consistent. There is competition everywhere, I just need to be more consistent and hopefully I'll beat the odds again."
After a strong showing against the Saints, Powell has opened the eyes of the coaching staff.
"In the game the other night he was very noticeable I thought on a couple of plays," said Jauron. "He made a play in the kicking game which is huge when a big man does that. He made a terrific play on Reggie Bush on the sideline. That's not easy to do for anybody. He did a nice job."
While it was clear on film that Powell had made strides in the offseason, the second-year player still knows that there are numerous question marks before a decision is made on who will be filling in for Hargrove come the regular season.
"As for playing time, I have to keep doing my thing because there is no telling with his situation. I just have to go play because there are other guys out there that are looking to play too," said Powell. "I can't just look at (Hargrove) because it is the NFL; there are no guarantees for me and no guarantees for him."
While Powell felt that he could have improved on his performance against the Saints, he has shown that he has the skill set and knowledge of the defense to step into the mix for the Bills on defense.
The familiarity with the Bills system is one thing that C.J. Ah You is still working on. As a rookie, Ah You has not had a year in Buffalo's defense like Powell. While he is still working on learning the scheme the staff believes in his abilities.
"Obviously we liked him because we used a draft choice on him. I like his toughness; he's got pedigree in our business," said Jauron. "He's got a chance, but he's got a longer way to go just because he's never done it."
While Powell is spending time shoring up his pass rush, Ah You is working on being strong against the run. Weighing in 10 pounds lighter than Powell, Ah You is a leaner end that will have slightly more trouble shedding blocks in the run game. That's why it was his number one concern entering his first NFL action this past Friday.
"The biggest thing, going into that first preseason game, was being strong against the run. I wanted to make sure they could count on me," said Ah You. "But everyday there is something I need to get better at; whether it is pass rushing or run techniques."
With the distinct disadvantage of not having the extra time in an NFL defense Ah You must further prove himself to the coaching staff in the practices and preseason games that remain. What he lacks in experience must be made up for with work ethic and consistency.
"I just have to make sure I know the plays, play hard, play fast and put everything out there," said Ah You. "I can only control what I can do. I just have to keep working everyday to get better."
The last three preseason games will be the barometer for who can prove themselves worthy of the spot vacated by Hargrove for at least the first four games of the regular season.