Bills GM Buddy Nix said at the start of training camp that he was looking for a fourth safety to make the roster. He mentioned how the team would monitor the waiver wire, and they even brought in veteran free agent Jim Leonhard for a visit during training camp. Apparently the fourth safety they were looking for was on their roster all along in Delano Howell, who was named to the 53-man roster Friday night.
"It was a long day understanding that everything had to be done by 9 pm. I laid everything out on the field with all my effort, but all the waiting was definitely difficult," Howell told Buffalobills.com. "It was a process, but I'm definitely blessed and excited to be on this team now. I'm looking forward to what the future holds."
Howell had the odds stacked against him from the beginning. Not only was he an undrafted rookie free agent, but his late graduation at Stanford kept him from participating in any of the OTAs or spring minicamp practices. The rookie credited the veteran safeties with speeding up his learning curve.
"I felt that because of the environment I was in with some of the veterans and some of the coaching, the availability of the playbook and taking good notes and everything that I was able to catch up pretty quickly," he said. "I figured I was just in a very good position even though I missed out on spring ball and everything. I was in a great environment so it was quite manageable."
Howell was the team's leading tackler in the preseason for Buffalo with 21 total including 10 solo. One of those tackles went for loss. He also had a fumble recovery.
Head coach Chan Gailey has said that Howell has shown he can hit, but believes the young safety still has a lot to learn.
"I know I have a lot to learn," he said. "At the safety position you almost have to be perfect because you have to make all the calls and help with the communication and be a leader on the defense and so there's not a lot of room for error. I wasn't perfect during the preseason although I do believe I showed the coaches the potential that I do have.
"I think the biggest thing that I need to learn is how to be perfect because that's what you need to do at the safety position to make sure everyone is on the same page."
With tutors like George Wilson and Jairus Byrd and a veteran position coach in George Catavolos, the newest safety on Buffalo's roster is ready to take the next step.
"You can't just relax after you make the team," said Howell. "Every day is another opportunity to prove yourself and show that you belong so I'll definitely be taking advantage of that."