It was the first regular season practice for the Bills and their 53-man roster is set. That roster however, is missing one player that was supposed to be on it. Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters is still absent in the midst of a holdout. A handful of Bills players on offense were asked about how his absence could impact a season with high expectations.
"It's definitely a hit to our team," said Lee Evans. "To say that he's not missed would be ridiculous to say but there's nothing we can do about it. We can't sit here, wish, wait and hope. All we can do is play ball and play ball with the guys that are out here. If the time comes where he comes back, we'll welcome him back and move forward. Right now, he's not here and we've got a football game to play."
Buffalo's opener against Seattle sits less than a week away. The Seahawks defense is very underrated, but was weakened considerably Saturday when defensive tackle Rocky Bernard was suspended by the league for violation of the league's personal conduct policy. Teammate and nickel corner Jordan Babineaux was also suspended for the opener for violation of the league's substance abuse policy.
Still the Seahawks have a solid pass rush with defensive ends Patrick Kerney and Darryl Tapp and linebacker Julian Peterson as well as a steady secondary with Marcus Trufant and Kelly Jennings on the corners.
Fortunately for Buffalo the changes that have been made up front in light of Peters' absence have panned out rather well. Langston Walker has transitioned nicely to left tackle and Kirk Chambers is a scrappy and capable edge protector on the right side.
"I thought we played very well up front all training camp long and all offseason," said Trent Edwards. "Obviously, Jason is a great player, he's a Pro-Bowl caliber player and we would love to have him here, but again, I can't do anything about that. I can't go to his house and physically pick him up and bring him in here right now. I wish that I could, I wish that he could be here and help us out, but, again, I'm trying to focus on what is in my control."
Derrick Dockery, who has been in contact with Peters via text messaging, only asks how he's doing and doesn't delve into his contract dealings with the club. Though Dockery like every other player would prefer to have Peters on the field with them, they are confident in the group they'll be fielding on Sunday.
"I'm not worried," said Dockery. "This is a business. We understand that the guys that are here have to get the job done."
Perhaps benefiting the team is the fact that they have been preparing for the 2008 campaign the entire offseason without Peters. Ideally they'd like to have him, but he's been absent for so long that focusing on the opener has been that much easier for the men who will be suiting up on Sunday.
"I'm the type of person who's more concerned with what I can do personally to get better as a player, and considering his situation and thinking about that situation is taking away from my ability to get better and get this team better, so it hasn't really even crossed my mind," said Edwards. "I'm just trying to keep that to the side, and trying to focus on the Seattle Seahawks."
"It's an unfortunate situation," said Evans. "But what we have to do is focus on the guys that are here and do what we have to do to win football games."
"We have guys that have been working hard, that are preparing to play Seattle," said Dockery. "Those five guys that show up, suited and ready to play, we'll be ready."