The progress has been steady for Bills top wideout Stevie Johnson, who moved another step closer to make a return to the practice setting Thursday. Johnson participated in some early warm-up work with his teammates. With mandatory minicamp targeted for his return to the team setting Johnson has set the bar high for himself knowing there are just three practices next week.
"The goal is to see if I can go full practice," he said. "I'll be limited for the most part, but the goal is to try to get a full practice in, my goal is to get a full practice before we break and go to this month offseason and get training camp going. For the most part just me being out there I think is going to be pretty good and it'll boost my confidence just to play against the guys that we have now and just that whole feel that we have now with the team."
Just jogging and catching passes in warm-ups with his fellow receivers gave him a good vibe Thursday.
"It feels good just being able to run routes and talk to my teammates and just feel like you're part of the team," he said. "I know I'm part of the team, but just sitting on the sidelines is something different than actually being in there. The groin is feeling fine. I'm getting better each week. It's pretty good right now."
Hidden benefitNot having Stevie Johnson on the field for team work has obviously robbed the offensive unit of some on field chemistry and timing in the passing game, but Ryan Fitzpatrick sees a silver lining from that situation.
"With Stevie not out on the field for these spring practices, it's been a little bit of a help because it's put a lot of guys on the field that maybe I'm not going to get as many reps with during the season," said Fitzpatrick. "There's always somebody that has to step up for someone that goes down to injury. Being able to work with everybody and establish that chemistry has been good."
Derek Hagan has been the main replacement in the lineup at Johnson's 'X' receiver position.
Urbik glad to get time in the pivotHe made five starts at center late last season in place of the injured Eric Wood, but up until the final week of OTAs Kraig Urbik had taken all of his reps in team work at his familiar right guard spot. The versatile interior lineman was glad to re-acquaint himself with the pivot this week knowing he's the most likely candidate to move inside should Wood go down during the season.
"You definitely want to get some time there especially with what happened last year with all the shuffling and everything," Urbik told Buffalobills.com. "It's always good to be prepared. It's good now to just get a sense of how our defense is playing so if I step in there in camp I have an idea of my footwork and have all that stuff down if I pop in there."
Buffalo's offensive line is expected to be largely the same with right tackle Erik Pears and Wood both expected back for training camp. Left tackle could very well be the only change. From guard to guard Buffalo has four players that have played together for the past two years making for some valuable continuity.
"We've played a lot of football together so far," said Urbik. "It took a couple of days to get our technique back, but ever since then we've been on the same page. Sometimes if we have to make a call and we don't we just do it automatically because we know what to expect out of the guy next to us. We don't have to really communicate that much because we all know what to do and we all know what's going on. So it benefits having the three or four of us playing a lot of football together."
HighlightsFor all the highlights from Thursday's practice just go to the Media Center at Buffalobills.com.
ScheduleThe Bills put a wrap on OTAs on Friday with a 12:35 pm practice. Mandatory minicamp starts the following Tuesday.