Early on in OTA practices, Buffalo's tight ends are finally able to apply what they have learned about Greg Roman's offense on the playing field. Known for his heavy utilization of the tight end position, Roman has worked alongside tight ends coach Tony Sparano Jr. to help each player become comfortable with the position's unique responsibilities. New Bills tight end Charles Clay was coveted by both the front office and by Roman due to the versatility he demonstrated while in Miami. Now, even the adaptable Clay has been challenged by the mental capacity that Roman expects out of the position.
"There's a lot to learn," admitted Clay. "A lot of little minor detail things. It's tough and you need to spend time in the books because it's not something you'll pick up overnight."
Another new face at the position is sixth-round draft selection Nick O'Leary. A standout performer at Florida State, O'Leary is working to learn not only the complexity of the new offense, but also the ins and outs of the NFL. In a time full of change, the Palm Beach, Florida native has gravitated toward the veteran Clay.
"It's been great to work with him," said O'Leary. "I actually watched him play when I was a Dolphins fan back in the day. He's a real good player and I'm going to learn a lot from him."
Besides the tutelage of position coach Tony Sparano Jr., early OTA practices have had moments of constructive feedback between all members of the tight end group. Although just a rookie, O'Leary is not shy when opportunity arises to help a teammate. While Clay is Buffalo's most proven tight end, he has kept a watchful eye on O'Leary, and has been extremely impressed by his mental aptitude for the game.
"I got a chance to watch him at Florida State a good amount when I was in Miami," said Clay. "He has all the tools to play in this league for a long time. I'm learning from him every single day so it's kind of a two-way street. If he sees something he'll help me with it and I'll do the same for him."
Clay, like O'Leary was a sixth-round draft selection. Using his draft status as motivation, Clay became a dynamic offensive threat for the Miami Dolphins before signing a long-term contract with Buffalo this offseason. With an opportunity to set the standard for each tight end on the roster, Clay vows to never change his attitude and approach towards the game. The Little Rock, Arkansas native will always remember that he was once in a similar situation to O'Leary, a rookie tight end working to establish a name for himself in the NFL.
"I don't believe being in a new environment changes anything," said Clay. "I believe that no matter where you are you need to prove yourself. I learned early on in my career that every year is a new year. You can't dwell on what happened last year because the front office is always trying to find someone just as good or better. Regardless of the success I've had, I'm still going to come out and try and prove myself to these guys and earn their trust."