Buffalo's newest free agent additions are chomping at the bit to get on the field this evening for the Bills night practice scheduled for 7:15 pm. Forced to sit and watch the past five days until the new CBA was ratified, Nick Barnett, Brad Smith and Tyler Thigpen are ready to suit up.
"I've never been this excited for a practice so I just can't wait," said Smith. "Being out here with this hard working group of guys and I'm just excited to try and bring something to the table for them."
"I'm definitely excited to go out there, but good things come to those who wait. Patience is a virtue and all those good sayings," said Barnett. "I'm just waiting to get out there. I'm excited. It's going to be fun."
Fun for a linebacker because the night practice this evening will be the first one in full pads for the team.
As for the new quarterbacks Brad Smith and Tyler Thigpen got their play call sheets last night in preparation for tonight's session.
"We get it every day before practice, like the night before so we can go over it," said Thigpen. "You don't want to sit there and go over just the plays you have. You know which ones you have, but you want to know every single play. If you learned just your plays and you get somebody else's plays you've got to be a professional and know every single play that's on the script and know what's going on."
That's especially true for Smith, who will be doing more than just taking snaps at quarterback.
"I'll start off with mostly quarterback stuff but I'm going to run some routes and return kicks on special teams," said Smith. "I think the quarterback stuff so I can grab the entirety of the offense with protections. I think it's a great plan by coach Gailey."
What should help all three of the newcomers make a smooth transition to the field with their new team are the four days they were able to sit in team and position meetings and study the playbook.
"I should be able to be right on top of it," said Barnett. "But it's a whole different situation when you're on the field. So I'm looking forward to putting that knowledge to use. I'm excited about it."
Smith has credited Ryan Fitzpatrick with providing some assistance in the meetings thus far.
"Fitzpatrick has been great," said Smith. "Just in the meetings, he has been very helpful assisting me translate what I've been used to for five years. You know both languages, now it's just converting it what you're used to."
Bills head coach Chan Gailey now suddenly has five quarterbacks counting undrafted rookie Josh Nesbitt, though he may move to safety at some point. Still, with four quarterbacks, dividing up the reps becomes more challenging.
"We're fortunate that both of them have played in the league so it's not like you're trying to get a rookie ready to play," said Gailey of Smith and Thigpen. "They've both played. Tyler has been in the system. We'll get them enough reps in practice and in games that it won't be an issue by the time we get to September 11th. Their knowledge of the scheme was good coming in because of the time they spent in the meetings before they hit the field.
As much as they've prepared mentally the past four days and physically all offseason, they know once the pads go on it's a different kind of workout.
"I feel like physically I'm in shape from working out this whole offseason," said Thigpen. "You feel good when you're working out and doing the drop backs, but it's different when you get in there and the adrenaline starts pumping and your wind gets going. I'm just real excited to get out there and just get to work."
"Being new in this system and new around these guys you want to be out there fighting with them every single day," Smith said. "It's working out the way it is supposed to and I can't wait for tonight."
Also set to make their 2011 debut tonight are CB Drayton Florence, TE Scott Chandler and LS Garrison Sanborn.