The pads went on for Monday's long practice at Bills training camp bringing about some long awaited contact and both sides of the ball were ready to get after it. During the inside run game portion of practice the defense was the first to have the upper hand.
Keith Ellison knifed in off the edge to wrap up a ball carrier in the backfield. A few plays later John McCargo made an inside move and got in between the tackle and guard to disrupt a run play.
Kawika Mitchell and Chris Ellis both got penetration on one play as they were in position to register a tackle for loss.
And Paul Posluszny, Aaron Schobel and Bryan Scott all found their way into the offensive backfield as they seemed to be coming from all different angles on another play that earned praise from defensive coordinator Perry Fewell.
"It obviously steps the intensity up a lot more," said Kyle Williams. "We're pretty much full contact even when we don't have pads, but this just ramps it up just another notch where we can finish drills and things like that. This is how we're going to play so we've got to get used to it."
The offense would respond however, as there was one series where the offensive line had a good surge on a couple of plays driving the defenders back a couple of yards giving the backs good holes to run through.
"As much as we can, we like both sides to come off the ball aggressively," said Jauron. "Clearly we don't cut on offense. We don't cut our own players. We try to stay off the ground as much as we can, but that being said we go after it. And they're all very competitive guys. So if they get the upper hand on one play, you know that guy's coming a little harder the next play, and it can get carried away, but they've been good so far."
Marshawn Lynch had a good spring in his step as he bobbed and weaved through traffic on some of the inside runs.
Fred Jackson and Dominic Rhodes also appeared to read the holes well as running back coach Eric Studesville vocally approved of their decisions with the ball in their hands.
Levitre works with first team
Veteran Kirk Chambers has been manning the starting left guard spot since camp began, but much like he did in the spring practices, he began sharing the spot with rookie Andy Levitre after the second-round pick signed his contract on Sunday.
Levitre admitted it wasn't easy jumping into a pads practice cold when the other players had four practices under their belt already.
"Usually you get a couple days in shorts and a t-shirt to get your feet going," said Levitre. "It wasn't the greatest day for me, but I'm planning on doing a better job tomorrow and as long as I'm getting a little bit better every day I think things will come along."
The Oregon State product isn't too worried about the time he's missed feeling he can make up for it. Head coach Dick Jauron however, believes at this point there is still some ground to make up.
"Andy's a little bit behind and it looked it," said Jauron. "But he'll catch up pretty fast. He's a very, very smart guy, a very tough guy. We're happy to have him here. Andy's (Levitre) signing is good for us. Hopefully Eric (Wood) will follow again and follow Aaron (Maybin) quickly and Jairus (Byrd) will get the thing done."
Levitre got close to half of the reps with the first unit at left guard if not more in his first practice and held his own despite missing the first four practice sessions.
With the first pads practice comes the one-on-one battles between offensive and defensive linemen. Tight ends are also involved and rookie Shawn Nelson had a pretty good day. Going against defensive end Jermaine McGhee, Nelson effectively held his ground in pass protection showing some good potential.
"I'm pretty excited," said Nelson after practice. "This is my first day in pads going against competition on the professional level. Everybody is coming hard trying to look good and I did a great job. I'm not new to competition so I just want to come out and work hard and let those guys know I'm going to come out and bust a** just like everybody else."
Offensive linemen that had some good reps during this period were Jonathan Scott who was able to fight veteran Ryan Denney to a draw on a couple of reps. Brandon Rodd did a good job of riding Marcus Smith away from the pocket and winning another rep against him.
Levitre didn't have great technique, but was still able to hold his ground against fellow rookie David Lindquist on a pair of snaps.
Defensively, undrafted rookie Ventrell Jenkins made a nice swim move to get into the offensive backfield.
And John McCargo had a nice bull rush and pull by move to get behind his blocker.
Most of the younger players got the lion's share of the reps so the coaching staff can evaluate them more than the vets.
Terrell Owens got the hit parade started again with a 25-yard reception along the far sideline, which he promptly turned up the field for a 'would be' touchdown.
Derek Fine made a nice hands catch outside his body frame on a route headed for the sideline.
Fellow tight end Jonathan Stupar pulled in a well-timed pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick down the seam for a big gain.
Shawn Nelson wasn't as big a factor in the passing game. Though he only made a couple of receptions, he's getting consistent separation on his routes and just needs the quarterback to look for him more.
Josh Reed pulled in a nice grab on the run underneath over the middle, which only happened because Fred Jackson had a solid blitz pickup in the hole to protect Trent Edwards long enough.
And Owens made a nice effort on a deep comeback route to get a first down and more along the far sideline.
On defense George Wilson had a diving interception in 7-on-7 early in practice.
Ashton Youboty had a pair of pass breakups including one in the end zone to thwart a potential touchdown.
Aaron Schobel had a quarterback pressure during 11-on-11 as he clearly got into the offensive backfield long before Edwards delivered the ball.
John Wendling came off the edge on a blitz and had a 'would be' sack during red zone work.
The defense also had four different plays where their sound coverage forced Buffalo's quarterbacks to eat the ball, scramble or turn it into a dead play.
Buffalo's backs were also impressive with their blitz pickups in practice. Bruce Hall and Jackson had two of the better ones, but Marshawn Lynch and Xavier Omon also had some well read pickups.
Mr. Wilson on campus
Getting a nice ovation from the fans shortly after his arrival Ralph Wilson made his first appearance at training camp on Monday. He also addressed the team at the conclusion of practice. For Terrell Owens it was the first time he had the chance to meet his new boss face to face.
"It was definitely a pleasure meeting him," said Owens. "He's a nice guy and I was looking forward to it at some point. I think he was looking forward to meeting me as well, so it was a pleasure meeting him. I told him I'm looking forward to this opportunity that he's given me and I'm just going to give it my best shot."
Several other veteran players including Chris Kelsay, Marcus Stroud and Brad Butler stopped by to welcome him to camp and shake his hand.
Injury updateThe news was not good for defensive end Copeland Bryan, who got twisted up at the end of a run play and pulled his hamstring.
"We'll just have to wait and see how severe it was," said Jauron. "That's disappointing. He worked so hard. Just disappointing for anybody to get hurt, but a veteran like Cope who really worked hard at it for a number of years, it's a big disappointment for him and for us."
Steve Johnson's situation might be just as bad. After a solid day in both practices Sunday, Johnson was sidelined by damaged rib cartilage causing significant pain.
"It's not a broken rib, it's a cartilage injury between the ribs and it may keep him out for a little while," said Jauron. "Very sore and very tender."
TuesdayThe Bills hold their first night practice on Tuesday with an energetic crowd expected to be on hand. The players are scheduled to hit the field at 7:10pm.