On a roster made up of several lunch pail, blue collar type players, Chris Kelsay is suddenly the elder statesman at his position. That position however, is a brand new one for Kelsay and several of his fellow converted defensive ends. Outside linebacker in Buffalo's 3-4 defensive front is providing him with a whole new perspective.
"I'm really excited about it," said Kelsay. "I always come into the year optimistic about whatever our situation is. This year there are a lot of changes, new defense, new position for me, but I'm excited about it."
Shifting from defensive end to outside linebacker is a significant change, especially for a veteran player that's become accustomed to playing in a defensive scheme that has been relatively the same since he arrived in Buffalo in 2003. Change might be difficult to embrace for some, but not for a seven-year vet still looking for his first playoff appearance.
"It'll be a lot of studying," Kelsay said. "I was basically in the same defense for the last seven years, so that side is different for me. But I'm working hard, I'm determined. There's a long way to go obviously, but we're going to get there."
Kelsay has hardly any previous exposure to the outside linebacker role. The last time he played stand up linebacker was in high school. Being a regular attendee at One Bills Drive since late March has been a huge benefit in getting himself up to speed in George Edwards' defensive system.
"It's something that I think I'll pick up on pretty quick," said Kelsay. "I can already see progress since we started a couple of months ago with offseason stuff. I intend to get better every day I step on the field and continue to learn from the coaches and other players around me."
Kelsay has not had to change his body composition at all for his new role in Buffalo's defense. The strength and conditioning staff is satisfied with him playing at 260 pounds. He has made some changes to his training knowing there will be a lot more running at his outside linebacker position when it comes to coverage responsibilities and setting the edge.
"More footwork drills, ladders and bags, hurdles and stuff like that," he said. "That's something that our strength coaches and conditioning staff are aware of and they're working into the workouts we've been doing here the last couple of months."
All of that training has Kelsay feeling all the more comfortable playing in space.
"It's something that I just have to continue to work on and make improvements in," he said. "I feel a lot better than I probably thought I would at this point. It's coming pretty quickly."
What appeals most to the former defensive end is the numerous ways Buffalo's new scheme can disguise their intentions pre-snap. He believes it can put himself and his fellow outside linebackers in several advantageous situations through the course of a game. Mastering the execution of all those pre-snap looks and assignments is the current task at hand in OTAs and minicamp.
"I try to stay one step ahead," said Kelsay. "We have the material for the whole week. I think it's important to study and know your stuff because we're really hitting on the fly. Stuff is going in really quick with installation we're putting in four or five defenses a day and we don't have a lot of time in between when we get here in the morning and practice time. It's important to stay on top of your studies, get your film work done and allow it to sink in and most importantly have it translate on the field."
All the extra preparatory work might wear on a veteran player that developed a strong familiarity with the previous scheme. For Kelsay it's made the game new again.
"I haven't studied this much since my first season just because I was so comfortable with our defense and with what everyone was doing," he said. "It's almost like being a rookie again, but I'm extremely excited about what this defense is capable of doing. But it's not going to do it by myself. Work ethic is something I take a lot of pride in and I think the rest of my teammates do as well. We'll get it. We've just got a lot of work ahead of us."