The third and final week of OTAs began on Monday and while one prominent offensive player is a step closer to returning to the practice setting, a projected starter on defense will be taking a seat for a few days.
Top wideout Stevie Johnson continued his progress from last week when he began running some routes at half speed on his own with more of the same on Monday. He also did some work inside with the strength and conditioning staff. Johnson believes he'll have a chance to participate in the team's mandatory minicamp next week.
"I believe so," said Johnson. "I'll be out there and we'll see how things go, but as of now they're saying I'll be out there to get some reps. While those guys are out there I'm in here running. It's looking good. The progress has been real great."
"He's worked extremely hard to get back on the field," said head coach Chan Gailey. "I know he would like to get some reps with Fitz before we get through here. So hopefully if things continue to progress we'll be able to get him a few reps before all is said and done this spring."
Johnson said he's looking forward to going against some of Buffalo's young cornerback talent including top pick Stephon Gilmore.
CB Williams outSecond-year cornerback Aaron Williams looked to be struggling in practice the past few days, and on Monday onlookers found out why. Williams was pulled out of practice during a red zone team period due to a left knee ailment.
"He's had a recurring irritation in his knee," said Gailey. "We've had two or three guys with recurring irritations in their knees. He's been trying to work through it and we're going to shut him down for a couple of days here and let him rest. It's nothing major, it's just a little irritation in there and we'll see if we can't get rid of it."
Gailey said defensive lineman Spencer Johnson is one of those other players dealing with a similar condition.
Stepping in for Williams for most of the reps Monday was fourth-round pick Ron Brooks with Leodis McKelvin getting most of his work in the slot with Gilmore at right cornerback.
Strong day for LeodisMcKelvin was the headliner among the cornerback contingent as he unofficially had four pass breakups including a pair of plays at the goal line during red zone work.
During a two-minute drill series, McKelvin almost intercepted a pass over the middle by Fitzpatrick, but couldn't quite hold on to the high velocity pass attempt. The fifth-year corner has taken well to his time in the slot.
"It's just an opportunity for me to get inside," said McKelvin. "I'm getting an opportunity on the outside and an opportunity on the inside. We've got a lot of young guys coming around and just the competition level, if anything happens on the back end as far as me not winning a starting job on the outside I can also play on the inside.
"Last year I didn't play the nickel and I felt I should be on the field or I can play on the field. Now they're just trying to work me in. And I never had a chance to ever try to be in there out of the four years that I've played. It's just a chance to go inside and do what I do."
WR Jones has inside trackThe number two wide receiver competition is just getting started with a handful of candidates, but Gailey made it clear that last year's winner of the job is the clubhouse leader right now.
"It's too early and to be honest with you you can ask me the third week of training camp and I'll tell you it's too early," he said. "We'll know exactly where we stand. It all works itself out by the time we get to the first ball game. We've got three guys that have done a great job. Donald Jones is probably a little bit ahead of everybody at this point."
Other primary candidates considered to be in the mix are Marcus Easley and Derek Hagan.
O-line shufflingThe absence of starting right tackle Erik Pears for OTAs already had initiated a shuffle of sorts from the outset with Chris Hairston taking on right tackle duties while Cordy Glenn manned the left side. On Monday it was interior that saw some changes.
Second-year player, Colin Brown, who started at center in the season finale last year had been the starting center the first two weeks of OTAs in place of the rehabbing Eric Wood. On Monday offensive line coach Joe D'Allesandris move starting right guard Kraig Urbik into the pivot with Chad Rinehart replacing him at right guard.
On the second O-line Zebrie Sanders saw work at left tackle for the first time as a Bill. He had been exclusively seeing reps at the right tackle spot. Brown took reps at right guard with the second unit while sixth-round pick Mark Asper took second team center reps.
HighlightsThere were several highlights from Monday's action. To watch them all go to the Media Center at Buffalobills.com.
Non-participantsNew notables not participating Monday were Justin Rogers, Kirk Morrison and Kellen Heard.
ScheduleThe Bills have another practice session Tuesday at 12:35 pm.