The odds are long to begin with for an undrafted rookie to stay on an NFL roster beyond early September, be it the 53-man roster or the practice squad. Those odds get even longer when you're a late training camp addition, as you have little familiarity with your new team's playbook and your new teammates. But Bills RB Andre Anderson obviously made a heck of a first impression.
Originally signed Aug. 16, in the wake of the injuries suffered by Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch in Buffalo's preseason opener, Anderson (6'0" 212) knew joining the Bills with a week left in training camp was not an ideal situation, but he was determined to make good on the opportunity.
"I was home for most of the summer and then I was called up late," said Anderson, who was signed by Oakland after the 2010 draft, but released in June. "My thing when I came in was to just show what I could do and make a good impression and hopefully make a name for myself somewhere. If I didn't get picked up by Buffalo for the regular season hopefully another team would pick me up."
That's exactly what happened. After rushing for 73 yards on 16 carries (4.5 avg.) in Buffalo's last two preseason games, Anderson was waived by the Bills during final roster cuts. With two veteran backs, C.J. Spiller and Joique Bell ahead of him on the depth chart at the time in Buffalo, Anderson was expendable.
Two days after being released by the Bills he was signed to Cleveland's practice squad. Anderson only spent a week with the Browns before he was released. He then spent a week at home before the Bills called and signed him to their practice squad.
"I was brought back here a few weeks ago and that was a blessing because it gave me a chance to keep working on this dream and trying to make it on the field and everything worked out," Anderson said. "I was glad to get another shot."
What made Anderson worthy of a return to One Bills Drive was his rapid retention of the offensive system in the limited time he was with the club in the summer.
"He's a very intelligent young man," said Bills offensive coordinator and running backs coach Curtis Modkins. "He picked things up very quick. He's studious. I see him in here in the evening time on his own studying film. He's really smart."
Anderson was a two-time Conference USA Academic All-American his last two years at Tulane as a computer science major, so the running back's studious nature came as no surprise. But there's talent there as well.
"He's not a juker and jiver," said Modkins. "He's one cut and go. I think he can do it all. He's a versatile kid. He's not a burner, but he's a strong runner, he can catch, he understands protection. He can do it all."
"I think I'm a get it done guy," Anderson said of his skill set. "Whatever it takes. If I've got to make one cut or break five tackles… I'll be a power runner. I'll do it all, whatever it takes."
"He's very similar to Fred (Jackson), a very similar back," said Gailey. "He's a glider type that can get to the edge if you're not careful, or can see a crease and dart into it. He's not nearly as big as Fred, but a very similar back to him."
That's why on the heels of the Marshawn Lynch trade Anderson was called up to the 53-man roster to serve as the team's third running back behind Jackson and C.J. Spiller.
"With Marshawn being traded it was kind of a blessing in disguise," Anderson said. "You've just got to fight through and I have to take advantage of my opportunities and control what I can control. I'm just happy and excited and ready to go out there and help the team win."
Anderson was active for last Sunday's game against Jacksonville, but did not see action. The last few weeks however, have been helpful in expanding his knowledge of Buffalo's offensive system.
"Now he's learning what everybody else does, understanding the whole thing," said Modkins. "He's caught up with that. Just seeing him run and move out there on the scout team he does a good job. He understands what I'm telling him, so I've been impressed with him so far."
"It's a similar scheme to what I ran in college," Anderson said. "Just some of the protections are different. That's what I really had to study hard with which way the call is going and where I'm going in protection and who I have to pick up. For the most part though, I've just been studying as hard as I can so I can be ready when they call on me."
And it doesn't appear as though the Bills offensive staff would shy away from making use of Anderson, should it become necessary.
"He wants to be good," said Modkins. "I think he's talented enough to help us."