Bills fifth-round pick Ed Wang was presented with a less than ideal situation as he looked to make the most of his rookie season. The offensive lineman sustained a thumb injury that required surgery early in training camp and was given a two-month prognosis for recovery. A lot has changed over these past two months for Wang. His thumb is close to full strength and he's moved inside from tackle to guard.
"I've been playing guard right now, probably for three to four weeks," said Wang. "It is a little bit of a change, but if they see me better as a guard then I'll be more than happy to play guard."
The Virginia Tech product has been practicing with his teammates since the start of the regular season. In the beginning, Wang wore a giant club on his left hand to protect the surgically repaired thumb. That also prevented him from using his thumb the way a lineman needs to in order to be an effective player.
Over the past few weeks, Wang has shed the club for a smaller protective split-like device on his thumb, enabling him to perform more like a lineman needs to in the practice setting.
"I think it's getting there," said Wang of his thumb. "It's getting to that time for it to be fully rehabbed and healed. Just using my hands and being able to punch again. I feel like it's getting there."
Getting re-accustomed to having full use of his thumb has paled in comparison to getting used to playing guard on Buffalo's offensive line.
"I feel like I'm getting more comfortable out there every day," said Wang. "It's cool because it helps me learn the offense better too. When I first got here I was just trying to learn what the tackle was doing so now I'm learning what the guard is doing and I have a greater understanding of what the whole line is doing now. So I feel like it's helped me grow as a player and it never hurts to know more than one position."
Wang, though listed at 6'5" and 301 pounds, is thickly built and is more than capable of handling the bigger interior defensive linemen guards and centers typically face. At this point however, the rookie is simply adjusting to the tighter space that exists inside.
"Everything moves just a little bit faster at guard than it did at tackle," he said. "It's like when I moved from tight end to tackle things started moving faster in the trenches. Now from tackle to guard it moves even a little faster. So I've just got to get used to it. It's just less space in terms of where they can go, so it's more of a direct thing."
Wang has been more diligent in perfecting his hand placement and keeping his pad level low knowing consistent leverage is even more important inside against defensive tackles.
In addition to offensive line coach Joe D'Alessandris, Wang credits his teammates on the line for assisting him in this position shift.
"They've all been really helpful," said Wang. "They tell me what I should look for when I pull a certain way because I'm not really used to pulling. So they might tell me when I'm pulling one way I need to stay more flat or bend it a little more. Everybody has just been really helpful and staying tight like an O-line does."
"He's adapted pretty well," said guard Andy Levitre. "It is a little different (from tackle) in terms of the timing and the size of the guys you're playing against so it takes a little adjustment, but I think he's been doing pretty good so far."
Wang, who is considered by most to have pretty good feet and athleticism, seems like a good fit as a pulling guard. He's just working on maintaining his momentum through traffic, which can happen when working across the line.
"I pulled a little bit at tackle in college, but by the time you pull around from tackle everything is cleared up," he said. "Now at guard it is a little more congested. So I'm getting used to it."
With his thumb close to full strength, Wang is anxious to contribute on the field and play in his first NFL game after missing the entire preseason and being inactive for the first five regular season games. Whether that is a realistic possibility after the bye week remains to be seen.
"The personal goal is to get out there and contribute and help the team in whatever way I can," he said. "The thumb is getting there. It's reaching that timetable, the point of where they said how many weeks it would need to fully heal. We'll see how everything goes."