It has been a lengthy wait for Leodis McKelvin this summer. Coming off hip surgery this offseason, the veteran cornerback has been a limited practice participant at best for most of training camp. That finally began to change last week in Latrobe where he was sprinkled in for some team work here and there, though he didn't play on Saturday night. At practice Monday night he was a full participant for the first time in weeks.
"It tests your patience a lot," said McKelvin of his strict participation protocol this offseason. "You don't want to rush to get back out there and re-injure things. It was a matter of getting those mental reps. See the things that the guys are making mistakes on and diagnose it so when I get in there I can make things right."
McKelvin admitted he was a bit rusty, but felt he held up well physically as he worked back in with the starting unit in both 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 team segments. Near the end of practice McKelvin broke up a pass to the middle of the end zone intended for Chris Hogan and let out a loud scream after forcing the incompletion. Having waited several months to make a play like that again, the outburst is understandable.
"You don't want to come back and get a touchdown caught on you, especially in the red zone," said McKelvin. "We're working on red zone and trying to eliminate touchdowns. That's what we have to do this year because we gave up a lot last year. That's one of the emphasis that we're working on as a defensive unit, especially the back seven with Donnie (Henderson) and (Jim) Schwartz telling us we've got to eliminate those touchdowns in the red zone."
McKelvin is coming off perhaps his best season in 2013 after posting a team-high 20 pass breakups last year including an interception. He was also tied for fourth on the team in tackles. Following his most extensive work in weeks, McKelvin was encouraged by how his body responded the day after.
"Everything felt good," McKelvin told Buffalobills.com Tuesday. "It was good to get back out there with the guys, especially to get back into it to sharpen my technique and to get ready for this weekend."
According to McKelvin the Bills' fourth preseason game was the target for his exposure to game action all along. He confirmed he will play in Saturday's game against Tampa Bay.
"We wanted to make sure we get some live bullets, live plays going on before we get to the regular season so we have it all tuned in and ready to go," he said. "I'll be ready to go and get out there and make some plays."
How much time he sees is up to coach Marrone and the athletic trainers. McKelvin knows it might take a little time before he feels like his old self again, but he insists he's not far off.
"I'm almost there. I'm almost ready to getting back to making plays," he said. "Once I'm all the way back there will be a lot more plays made and not thinking, just reacting and getting ready to have fun."