The first day of training camp practice can often be disjointed at times and rough around the edges. There's often a feeling out process among the players on both the offensive and defensive units. That wasn't the case however, for Ryan Fitzpatrick and Stevie Johnson. Despite not having much time together on the field in the spring, they looked very much in sync during the team portions of practice Thursday.
"For a quarterback and his receiver to connect like that is a great feeling," said Johnson after practice. "I can sleep good and not have to worry about what happened on the field even though there were things that maybe the fans couldn't see that I'll be thinking about trying to get better on. It was a great day for everybody I feel."
Johnson unofficially had seven catches in the practice session and performed well in some tight coverage from the likes of Aaron Williams and Stephon Gilmore most of the afternoon.
Fitzpatrick made it clear that getting Johnson involved right away was at the top of his priority list earlier in the day following the morning walk-through.
"The biggest difference for me is (Stevie Johnson) is going to be on the field here at training camp," said Fitzpatrick. "He was not on the field for some of the spring stuff. I want to get him going a little bit to get that chemistry back on the field."
"Fitz just said he was going to test me and I was ready for it," said Johnson. "I told him I'm good and he asked me if I'm good three or four times after that. And he said, 'Okay I'm going to test you.' And I was ready for it. The defense did a good job at competing with us and we made plays on them."
Certainly an encouraging sign for the team's top passing tandem.
Rehab returnees limitedThree Bills are trying to return from offseason surgeries and lengthy rehabilitations. Terrence McGee, Torell Troup and Eric Wood all targeted training camp for their return to the field. All were suited up for practice, but Troup and Wood did not participate in any of the team portions of practice.
"He struggled through today," said head coach Chan Gailey of Troup. "He looked good (Wednesday) in the conditioning part of it. He struggled today. He's probably going to be one of those that we watch as time goes on."
Troup had two vertebrae fused in his lower back. Gailey initially felt he was the furthest ahead of the three, but Thursday afternoon he didn't sound quite as sure.
Wood is not scheduled to participate in any team portions of practice until next Tuesday at the earliest. Gailey said they're committed to an approach that is not going to push the envelope on their starting center. Kraig Urbik took the starting center reps in place of Wood.
McGee did more work in practice and participated on a limited basis in the team portions of practice. It was clear however, that the surgically repaired patellar tendon was weighing heavily on his mind during the practice.
Buffalo's coaching staff is willing to give McGee the time needed to get his mind right about the health and stability of his knee.
"I'm not (concerned)," said Gailey. "The trainers tell me he's good. He tells me he's good. I don't think he's 100 percent, but he's recovering and we're going to take our time with him. As I told him our objective with him is September 9th, not now, today or tomorrow."
HighlightsTo watch the most notable highlights from Thursday's practice go to the Media Center at Buffalobills.com.
Position battlesBuffalo's head coach cautioned not to read anything into who lined up where on the first day of practice, but make what you will of the lineups on Thursday.
Starting at left tackle with the first unit was Chris Hairston. Rookie Cordy Glenn ran with the twos.
Starting opposite Stevie Johnson at the other outside receiver position was Donald Jones as Gailey himself had indicated Wednesday.
Starting at right defensive end with the first unit was Mark Anderson. Chris Kelsay and Shawne Merriman are both expected to be part of what could be a daily rotation with the starting group.
Leodis McKelvin was the nickel corner lining up in the slot with the first nickel unit on defense.
Rookie watchTank Carder gets the nod for most noticeable rookie on the field Thursday. In a span of three plays the linebacker deflected a pass that was intercepted by fellow rookie Ron Brooks. Two plays later he jumped a route by tight end Kevin Brock to pick off another pass and head in the other direction.
Stephon Gilmore saw a lot of action Thursday as Stevie Johnson was often lined up on his side. Gilmore had tight coverage throughout most of the practice session, but Johnson still made plays. The Bills top pick was his typical physical self sometimes knocking Johnson around a bit more than is typically seen in practice, but the Bills top wideout sees a benefit in that.
"It goes both ways because it's getting us ready so I don't have a problem with it until somebody gets hurt," said Johnson who was taken to the ground a couple of times. "But I love his aggressiveness. I think he's going to be a great one like I've already said. He's getting me ready for the season. I love going up against him and I'm pretty sure he enjoys the competition with me going against him."
Other rookies besides Gilmore that saw first team reps in various base and subpackage units were T.J. Graham and Nigel Bradham.
Keep an eye onMark Anderson – the veteran defensive end lulls offensive tackles to sleep and then deploys a lightning quick move with his hands and he's suddenly around the tackle and into the backfield. He was successful with his hesitation move more than once on Thursday.
Arthur Moats - Though he's not running much with the first unit, Moats is factoring into a lot of subpackages defensively and was sprinkled in at times with the first team defense Thursday. He's mastering both strong side linebacker and middle linebacker in nickel packages.
Da'Norris Searcy – Much like Moats, it looks like the defensive staff is trying to create a role for the second-year safety on defense. He also got a few reps with the first unit here and there.
ScheduleThe Bills have a 3 pm practice on Friday.