It was a day when players had to shake the rust off. After nearly eight months away from organized team practices, the Bills looked good in some areas, but have some sharpening up to do in others. Head coach Chan Gailey provided his initial take on the play he witnessed in the first practice Saturday.
"I didn't know what to expect," said Gailey. "I've never been here before, so I didn't know what to expect. There were some things that I thought were better. I thought that our run fits defensively were ahead of the first practice last year even without OTA's and minicamp. I thought guys understood where to go. I thought our timing in the passing game, especially on the deep balls was not where it needed to be. We've got a long way to go there, but other than that it was probably a typical first practice."
Ryan Fitzpatrick and Levi Brown got almost all of the reps. Undrafted rookie Josh Nesbitt did some position work there as well. Free agent signees Brad Smith and Tyler Thigpen can't participate until the CBA is ratified. Fitzpatrick thought for a long layoff their play on offense was pretty good.
"It's different when you get out there and you're running against coverages with people getting jammed at the line," he said. "It definitely alters the timing. That's why you can only do so much when you're with each other and you're not playing against someone in a practice. Today went well. We had some good things happen. We missed some deep balls that were just a step or two long. You are going to miss some of that stuff on the first day of practice."
Fitzpatrick said that they didn't do a lot of installation on day one in an effort to keep everyone on the same page and he thought everyone on the offensive side of the ball handled things well.
Managing repsGailey spoke earlier in the week about easing his players into the demands of training camp practice having not had any contact work all offseason. His plan has been to limit the reps of everyone in the early going.
"Early in camp, the most anybody goes is three plays, and then as we go on it will be four plays, and then as we go on it will be five plays," said Gailey. "So we're trying to be smart how we practice these guys, to slowly work them in to playing shape."
"You can work out all you want in the offseason," said Shawne Merriman. "But it's nothing like playing football."
On the whole the players liked the approach.
"Everyone is still getting into game shape, but they didn't get overworked to where they couldn't go anymore," said Fitzpatrick.
Good first day for WilliamsFor second-round pick Aaron Williams it was a good day of work at cornerback. He played physical jolting more than one receiver back with his jams at the line of scrimmage. For the most part he ran well with receivers and he made his first interception on a Levi Brown pass intended for Donald Jones.
It was tough to tell, but it appeared there was a miscommunication between Jones and Brown on the play, but Williams read the pass and got to the ball.
"I did a pretty good job," said Williams, who also broke up another pass during team work. "I feel like I could have done a lot of things better that I can fix by watching the film and improving my technique. I come from Texas and I often played against big receivers. It helped me get to the point I'm at now."
Other newcomers that had a good first day were fifth-round pick Johnny White, who was explosive through the hole on run plays. He definitely showed a burst and his low, hard running style made him very effective in college at getting yards after initial contact.
Seventh-round pick Michael Jasper didn't always get to the quarterback, but he backed offensive linemen up during team work a fair amount of the time. Getting his hands up and using that 32-inch vertical should enable him to bat passes down at the line.
Undrafted rookie Domonic Cook was also around the ball a lot. He had his share of wins against Buffalo's receiving corps with a pair of pass breakups as he got a good number of reps for a player that might be lower on the depth chart. His best play was when he raked a ball out of the hands of Paul Hubbard on a play along the left sideline to force an incompletion.Momentary scareLate in practice there was a momentary scare as Marcus Easley stepped to the sideline to get his knee checked out by trainers after a play during 11-on-11 work. The athletic training staff was checking his surgically repaired knee for about five minutes.
He eventually returned to his position group, but did not take any more reps as practice ended a short time later.
Head coach Chan Gailey seemed to indicate that the knee was more of a mental hurdle than a physical problem.
"He tweaked it a little bit there in the end, but I think he'll be fine," said Gailey. "It was a normal, coming off an injury, getting back into full speed, making sure you get your feet under you type deal."
HighlightsStevie Johnson ran a great deep route during one-on-ones as he got behind Leodis McKelvin to pull in a bomb from Fitzpatrick. The crowd reacted when Johnson was able to shake McKelvin on the play.
McKelvin however, had an answer. A few plays later McKelvin deftly broke up a crossing pattern when he slid underneath Johnson to knock the ball away. McKelvin also broke up a pass for Lee Evans during 7-on-7.
Undrafted rookie LB Brad Jefferson had a pass breakup on a pass intended for C.J. Spiller in one-on-ones as well.
In 7-on-7 work Felton Huggins came back to an underthrown ball to pull it in for a 30-yard gain down the left sideline.
Marcus Easley ran a sharp sideline route to make first down yardage during 7-on-7.
C.J. Spiller showed some good patience on one running play where he waited for the hole to open and then burst through to the second level.
Defensively, Alex Carrington batted a pass down at the line of scrimmage.
Next practiceThe Bills next practice will be the first night session of training camp with the players scheduled to go from 7-9:15 pm.