When the Bills signed offensive tackle Mansfield Wrotto to the practice squad on Oct. 1, it may have seemed like just another offensive line transaction to many, as the revolving door in Buffalo continues to move in this first half of the 2010 season.
But Wrotto, promoted to the 53-man roster two days later, brings more to the table than other available free agent linemen. He played for head coach Chan Gailey at Georgia Tech from 2003-2006, worked under offensive line coach Joe D'Alessandris there his senior year and knows the offense.
Wrotto spent his first NFL three seasons in Seattle – after the Seahawks drafted him in the fourth round in 2007 – where he ran a similar zone-blocking scheme. Wrotto said knowing the offensive techniques has helped him adapt quickly to Buffalo.
"Apart from the terminology, everything is basically the same," Wrotto said. "This is the same system I did in college; it's basically the same technique we did in Seattle. It won't take me as long as someone who's never been in the system (before) to learn it, so I can jump right in. If they need me, I'll step up to play."
After being inactive all of 2007, Wrotto played in a combined 14 games for the Seahawks in 2008 and 2009, making five starts at guard. The Seahawks cut Wrotto on Sept. 5, but re-signed him nine days later. He appeared in two games this season before being released again Sept. 28.
Wrotto said he has been getting reps at tackle in practice, and could get some at guard as the season progresses, but his role for now is to make the current starters better.
"Obviously, (Gailey) wants to ease me in to the system; make sure I gain confidence in the offense and what I'm doing," Wrotto said. "In summary, (my role for now is) basically to make this team better, push the d-line and linebackers when I'm on scout team (and) be prepared and ready when they need me to step up."
After playing defensive tackle his first three seasons at Georgia Tech, Wrotto moved to offense where he started all 14 games at right tackle his senior year. The Yellow Jackets had the No. 2 rushing attack in the ACC that year and won the Coastal Division.
Gailey said the 6-foot-3, 310 pounder's versatility, low center of gravity and knowledge of the system will help determine his long-term role with the team.
"I don't know where exactly right now, but I think he'll end up being a tackle," Gailey said. "The negative about playing tackle is he doesn't have that big, long reach that you would like, but he has great feet and a good understanding of the game. We'll see how it works out."
Wrotto played alongside current teammate Cordaro Howard, a rookie guard, during his senior year at Georgia Tech. He said Howard has helped him adapt during his short time in Buffalo thus far.
"You could say that," Wrotto chuckled as Howard joked with him across the locker room. "He brightens up my day. His talking makes my day a little bit brighter."
Wrotto said, aside from his ties to Gailey, D'Alessandris and Howard in college, he learned about being a successful pro from a legendary former teammate in Seattle.
"Being able to see arguably the greatest offensive lineman in NFL history, Walter Jones, I learned a lot," Wrotto said. "I learned how professional he was; I learned how much of a skillful, athletic freak he was; and most importantly, I learned how humble he was."
Jones played with Seattle from 1997-2008, making nine Pro Bowls, four Associated Press All-Pro teams and the NFL 2000s All-Decade Team. He announced his retirement April 29 after missing the entire 2009 season with knee injuries.
Wrotto's four starts in 2008 came after Jones sustained an eventual-career-ending injury on Thanksgiving Day in Dallas.
Even during the injury-riddled end of Jones' career, Wrotto learned a lot under his tutelage.
"When he started having injuries at the end of his career, he still stepped up and tried to as best as he (could)," Wrotto said. "He's a guy who would step up and play scout team when coaches needed him. That showed me how much of a professional he was and how much of a team player and a good man he (is)."
Wrotted reiterated the humility Jones exhibited has helped him during his recent career shake-up, adding he is now focused on helping the winless Bills improve.
"Everyone's surprised when they're let go. I was let go twice in a span of three weeks," he said. "That's the name of the business and you've just got to perform. Obviously I'm very appreciative of the Bills picking me up; it's a great organization. Every team needs to win, and I'm here to help this team win."