It was the first day of mandatory minicamp for the Bills Tuesday and Stevie Johnson participated in team work for the first time this spring as anticipated. The Bills top wideout, however, had his reps scaled back as he's eased into more of a game-like setting.
"Today was definitely a big step," said Johnson after practice. "There's still a lot of work to do mentally I feel. As for everything else I think I'm pretty good. My groin felt good. I still have to get over the mental aspect of it. I feel like I'm there. I can't say 100 percent because I'm not feeling it all the way. I'm about 90 percent so I'm good."
Johnson got 10 team snaps total on Tuesday and wasn't thrown to all that often as he works through his route assignments after being unable to for the past month.
"They took care of me," he said. "As a competitor you know I want to go out there and do more. I don't want to be selfish because they're doing a good job with me, but at the same time I want to be selfish and say I need more so I can get better and get over this mental part. But I believe in what they're doing because they gave me the right steps since the surgery. So I'm going to go with what they're doing."
"Great to see him out there," said Ryan Fitzpatrick. "He's a special player and we obviously need him out there. He didn't get a ton of balls thrown his way, but some of that was just the way they were playing coverage. I talked to him during and after practice about some stuff, but I think it's good for him to get out there and get confidence back in his groin. We'll look at the film, but I think he did fine and we had a lot of discussion."
Others back as wellAlso returning to action after missing time due to minor injuries and absences were Aaron Williams and Spencer Johnson. Both were dealing with knee irritation last week. Marcell Dareus was also back after tending to personal business late last week.
Graham flashesThrough three weeks of OTAs the plays very few and far between for third-round pick T.J. Graham, who was trying to learn all four receiver positions while also executing and completing plays within the scope of the offense.
Outside of a well-timed streak down the far side of the field for a 40-yard touchdown in OTAs, and a couple of other intermediate receptions, Graham has been trying to develop more consistency in his game. But on Tuesday the rookie flashed a couple of times for touchdowns.
On the first play Graham got down the seam and Fitzpatrick hit him in stride where he would've promptly split the safeties and reached the end zone for a touchdown under live football conditions.
The second play came during red zone work when Fitzpatrick threw an accurate ball to him in the back of the end zone despite tight coverage.
"I feel better than I did about a month ago when I first started with this stuff," Graham told Buffalobills.com. "The plays in the huddle have started to slow down. I'm getting to a point now where I can forget about what I have to do and just look at the defense now."
Early in OTAs Graham had to figure out what the play call was, what side of the field he was going to, what play he was going to run, what the depth was on his route and then who he was playing off of if there was a motion.
"I'm past all that and now I can kind of run routes more naturally and adjusting to defenses is what I've got to work on now," he said.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, who has seen a lot of Graham with the first team believes all the reps the rookie has had might finally be paying off.
"It's tough for a rookie to come in here," said Fitzpatrick. "In our offense (a receiver) needs to know all four positions. It's just the way wide receiver is in our offense. It's a lot more difficult than going somewhere and playing one position all the time. That being said he's made big time strides in the OTAs and we're throwing everything at him. Once we get into the season and start game planning and doing those things, it's going to be easier for him to know his assignments, what he has based on formations and motions."
Fitz looking sharpFitzpatrick himself had a pretty productive day with some very, very accurate passes. The Bills starting QB looked sharp with his execution on a hurry-up drive from the defense's 40-yard line. He completed his first three passes of the drive, which began with under a minute on the clock and a timeout at the offense's disposal.
With eight second left on the clock Fitzpatrick threw his first incompletion on a throw to the end zone that was broken up by Stephon Gilmore. But with three seconds left on the clock and the Bills needing a touchdown Fitzpatrick threw a perfect pass to David Nelson in the back of the end zone despite perfect coverage.
Even Nelson commented out loud to himself on what a well-thrown ball it was as Fitzpatrick put the pass only where Nelson could make a play on it.
Fitzpatrick's two passes to Graham were also right on the money and well-timed.
HighlightsFor the Graham highlights as well as several others be sure to take the time to watch them in the Media Center at Buffalobills.com in our daily minicamp Roundup Report.
Non-participantsThe only new notable not participating Tuesday was veteran defensive tackle Dwan Edwards. The others have been sitting for some time including Kellen Heard who has been dealing with a bad ankle sprain for two weeks now. Most of the other non-participants are coming off of major offseason surgeries.
ScheduleThe Bills have another minicamp practice Wednesday scheduled to begin at 2:35 pm.