Since its inception, NFL Europa has been a useful stepping stone for players to find spots on NFL rosters. Buffalo's two-time Pro Bowl punter Brian Moorman spent two seasons in NFL Europa before making the jump to the NFL.
This season Buffalo signed five players from NFL Europa rosters in hopes that they find another diamond in the rough.
Of the five players the Bills have added, cornerback Chris Thompson has the most NFL experience. Thompson saw action in 12 games during the 2005 season with the Chicago Bears. As the first overall pick in the NFL Europa free agent draft, Thompson enjoyed a productive season. He recorded 35 tackles, three forced fumbles and two interceptions. However, Thompson still has work to do in training camp.
"Since I played ten games in Europe my legs are kind of heavy, right now I'm trying to get my timing back down and get back into the speed of things because the NFL is faster than NFL [Europa]," said Thompson.
One thing that Thompson has on his side is this is not his first time working with Perry Fewell. Fewell was the defensive backs coach in Chicago when Thompson was with the Bears. The prior knowledge is something that should help Thompson during camp.
"It's pretty much the same defense," he said. "You have got some different terminology and languages. But for the most part I'm pretty familiar with it being in Chicago with Perry."
Even though Thompson has had time in the Tampa 2 scheme he still knows he has plenty of work ahead of him if he wants to earn a spot on the Bills roster.
"You have got to come out here and give 110 percent everyday. The NFL is about business and you have to be productive to stay around," said Thompson.
While Thompson is the only NFL Europa free agent with significant NFL playing time, the other free agents that have been brought in have their fair share of talent as well.
Felton Huggins left Southeastern Louisiana as the school record holder in receptions, receiving yards and touchdown catches. These stats came in only his third year as a wide receiver. As a freshman Huggins switched to receiver from defensive back. While the change brought success, he is still learning the position.
"I'm pretty raw," said Huggins. "I'm just trying to learn and get better everyday. I haven't been at it as long and I'm just learning from the older guys like Peerless. I wouldn't want to be under anyone else than Coach Tyke and those other guys."
Luckily for Huggins he has come to camp with a quarterback he is familiar with. Huggins spent the summer catching passes from quarterback Kevin Eakin with the Frankfurt Galaxy.
"It is good to have a familiar face. It is good to have a receiver that I can get some extra work with and some continuity with," said Eakin.
As a recent addition, Eakin has only had the playbook for a week before arriving at camp. As a result he has seen limited reps through his first week. While he hasn't seen action in live settings, Eakin's time under center should increase as he becomes more familiar with the offense.
In his second season in Europe, Eakin served as Frankfurt's primary back-up, recording 353 yards passing and two touchdowns. However as a starter in 2005, Eakin threw for 1,299 yards and 11 touchdowns. While Eakin's reps have been scarce, he has not come to St. John Fisher without a plan.
"I have got to get better and be more consistent. I want to be known as a smart quarterback, not just someone who can make plays," said Eakin. "That is definitely my goal here, to stay consistent and improve as a football player."
Eakin and Huggins were members of the runner-up Frankfurt Galaxy in the final World Bowl this summer. One of their new teammates played a vital role in their championship game defeat. Justin Jenkins had seven receptions for 74 yards and a touchdown for Hamburg in the World Bowl.
Like Kevin Eakin, Jenkins is still unfamiliar with the Bills offense. He is using all the time he is given to become more at ease on the field.
"I'm just getting the playbook down and using everything I have at practice and making plays. Once you make a couple plays you get comfortable and things will happen," said Jenkins.
Of all the free agents, only kicker/punter D.J. Fitzpatrick has the luxury of learning from a two time Pro Bowl talent.
"Everyday we go out to practice and I watch him warm up and kick and cool down. He has got to be doing something right so I'm just trying to follow that," said Fitzpatrick. "He has got a lot of insight on how to mentally prepare as well. That is a huge part of the kicking game as well."
With veterans like Brian Moorman and Rian Lindell to learn from Fitzpatrick can only improve during his time with the Bills.
With an NFL Europa success story on the roster, each of Buffalo's free agent additions are hopeful they can join the list of NFL Europa alums to make it in the NFL.