On day two of Bills OTAs, following a one-on-one passing drill between receivers and cornerbacks, Roscoe Parrish was jokingly jawing with the defensive backs along the sideline waiting for their turn to step in. As the brief exchange finished Parrish was laughing on his way back to the line of scrimmage. It's a scene even the sixth-year receiver could not have envisioned happening for him in Buffalo again after the way his 2009 season unfolded.
Parrish not only had his already limited opportunities on offense scaled back last season, but he was taken off punt return duty despite being the league leader in punt return average the previous two seasons. The situation weighed heavily on Parrish making it difficult for him to enjoy the game he loves.
"I talked to a couple of guys during the season and they just told me to continue to work hard because you never know what tomorrow might bring," said Parrish.
In the end Parrish could not have asked for a better offseason. Blessed with a new coaching staff and a clean slate just seven months later without having to change his uniform, football is fun again for the elusive wideout.
"You look at it now and it's crazy," Parrish told Buffalobills.com. "I'm on the same field and I'm here, but the coaching staff is gone. In this profession you never know what's going to happen. Last year I just prayed and hoped the best would come. This offseason with Chan Gailey and a new coaching staff, it just made everything better. So much better."
The lesson Parrish took away from the setbacks of last season was not to feel sorry for himself and maintain a professional approach to the game. For the most part he did that save for perhaps one day when being inactive and unable to contribute on Sundays for a team that was struggling to find wins was too much for him to bear silently.
"You know what kind of guy I am when I'm out there," he said last October after a late fumble on a punt return in a home loss to Cleveland got him benched."I know I can help this team when my opportunity is given. I made a bad decision in the Cleveland game, but every guy makes mistakes. And the ones that make mistakes are the ones that try. That's part of the game and I only control what I can control. I just keep on working. Hopefully in the future if it's not here I'll get my opportunity."
Parrish genuinely thought he would be moved in a trade as rumors swirled for half the season that his days in Buffalo were numbered. Now seven months later he arguably has the best opportunity to contribute offensively than he ever has during his time with the Bills. It's served to re-energize Parrish in his desire to help make a difference for a team that has struggled offensively for several years.
"(I'm) real hungry, real hungry," he said. "I get up every morning and there's a smile on my face being that I get an opportunity to do what I've wanted to do ever since I've been in the NFL and that's make plays and get more snaps on offense along with special teams and being a returner."
What encourages Parrish the most about what could lie in store for him this fall in terms of a role offensively is the track record of his head coach. Chan Gailey is known for maximizing the talent of the players he has at his disposal and tailoring plays those strengths. Parrish has unique skills and most observers around One Bills Drive are of the belief that Gailey will make use of them offensively.
"You know that he's going to give you the opportunity to make plays," said quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick of Gailey. "You take a guy like Roscoe, a guy that last year was a little bit down in terms of playing time. All of a sudden you see his attitude and work ethic all offseason. He's a guy that knows he's going to get an opportunity just like everybody else."
"That's a blessing right there," said Parrish of Gailey's expertise. "I just have to continue to work hard myself. He's the kind of coach that gets the ball in playmakers hands. I have to do what I need to do, and that's get better each day and take advantage of all my opportunities."
With Josh Reed no longer ahead of him on the depth chart, Parrish has been the primary slot receiver in the early going of OTA workouts. At this point his spot on the depth chart means little to him. Having been disappointed before the shifty wideout is taking nothing for granted.
"A new coaching staff also means you have to prove yourself all over again and no one's spot is guaranteed," he said. "We've had guys that worked hard in the offseason. They've bettered themselves and they might bring more to the table than maybe they did last year. It's all competing, but it's fun at the same time."
Football and fun weren't synonyms for Parrish in 2009, but his football career has a new lease under Gailey and his offensive staff. Parrish just hopes that the slot receiver role is something he owns instead of rents come September.
"I have a brighter future and now I have to take advantage of everything," he said. "I still have to work and come out here and do what Roscoe knows how to do and that's make plays every time the ball is in my hands."