AFC East: Buffalo Bills

Bills Camp Report: Day 33

August, 21, 2014
Aug 21
PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Buffalo Bills training camp:
  • We've reached the end of training camp. The Bills held their final practice at St. John Fisher College on Thursday morning, moved up from the afternoon because of rain the forecast. It was closed to the public.
  • The practice was stopped early on after a few small scuffles broke out. Coach Doug Marrone had his players line up on the sideline, lit them up with some choice language, and then had players run sprints. Marrone and defensive end Jerry Hughes exchanged words at one point during the discipline session, with Marrone suggesting that Hughes and other players should head for the locker room if they wanted to fight.
  • Wide receiver Sammy Watkins upped his participation -- slightly. He took part in routes-versus-air and then headed for a side field to continue an individual workout. He did not participate in team drills and has not been cleared to play in Saturday's preseason game. At this point, his chances of suiting up before the regular season opener look slim.
  • Defensive tackle Kyle Williams (leg) sat out, although he was on the sidelines and spoke to Hughes at one point. Tight end Tony Moeaki (hamstring) continues to be sidelined and his time to make the roster may be running out.
  • The Bills will have a walk-through Friday -- closed to reporters -- before heading back to Ralph Wilson Stadium for Saturday's game, their first home contest of the preseason.
PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- At some point, enough was enough.

Following an intense fight near the end of Wednesday's practice, a few small scuffles broke out early in the Buffalo Bills' morning practice Thursday. Coach Doug Marrone quickly put an end to it.

Marrone lined players up on one sideline and ripped into them for fighting. At one point, defensive end Jerry Hughes talked back to Marrone, leading to more shouting from Marrone in Hughes' direction, questioning him about whether he wanted to stay on the team.

Players then ran sprints across the field in an apparent act of discipline.

After practice, Marrone said the fire was directed at all players, not just Hughes.

"No, that was directed to anyone that doesn't want to be a part of the team," Marrone said.

Marrone spent time with the defensive line group immediately after practice ended. He said that any discipline would be handled in-house.

"I'm going to say it again, and I'm not going to answer another question on it: We're responsible for the integrity of the game," Marrone said, with an increasingly stern tone, following practice. "Can you figure it out? Figure it out. We're responsible for the integrity of the game.

"There is no use for fighting in the game of football. Period. End of discussion. Move on."
PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- Buffalo Bills defensive tackle Kyle Williams sat out Thursday's practice with a leg injury.

Williams watched the practice from the sideline, so the injury does not appear to be serious. Williams, 31, is a team captain and periodically receives rest days.

In his place, the Bills used Corbin Bryant next to Marcell Dareus at defensive tackle with their first-team defense. Stefan Charles and Landon Cohen were the pairing on the second team.

Meanwhile, cornerback Leodis McKelvin sat out Thursday's practice after leaving Wednesday's session with a groin injury. Doctors have yet to clear McKelvin to play in Saturday's preseason game.

Tight end Tony Moeaki (hamstring), cornerback Mario Butler (ankle), cornerback Bobby Felder (groin), and safety Jonathan Meeks (neck) also sat out Thursday's practice.
PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- Buffalo Bills wide receiver Sammy Watkins (ribs) has not yet been cleared to play in Saturday's preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Team doctors told coach Doug Marrone that if the game was Thursday, Watkins would not play. The Bills have an off day Friday before Saturday's game, giving doctors another chance to evaluate Watkins' ribs.

Watkins ramped up his participation slightly in Thursday's practice, taking part in routes versus air after sitting out that portion of practice Tuesday and Wednesday. When the Bills broke into full-team drills, Watkins moved to a side field for a workout.

If Watkins doesn't play Saturday, the Bills are expected to use Mike Williams, Chris Hogan and Robert Woods as their top three receivers with EJ Manuel and the first-team offense. T.J. Graham also could see time with that group.

Bills Camp Report: Day 32

August, 20, 2014
Aug 20
PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Buffalo Bills training camp:
  • Another day, another practice where receiver Sammy Watkins suited up but wasn't a full participant. Watkins was in full pads, taking part in warm-up drills and stretching before watching the rest of the practice from the sideline. Coach Doug Marrone said the Bills' medical staff hasn't made a decision on Watkins' status for Saturday's game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. At this point, it doesn't make sense to play Watkins unless he's completely healthy. The opener in Chicago is most important.
  • Tempers flared for some of the players who did practice. The highlight (lowlight?) of practice was a brawl in the end zone during a goal-line drill. Center Eric Wood, a team captain, and defensive end Bryan Johnson, an undrafted rookie, were at the center of it initially before it spilled off to the side. At one point, tight end Scott Chandler had to be restrained from Johnson. The language used between some of the players wasn't too family-friendly.
  • Cornerback Leodis McKelvin had just seemed to ramp his participation up to normal levels this week when he left Wednesday's practice with a groin injury. It's unclear if McKelvin will be available for Saturday's game. It has to be frustrating for McKelvin, who has taken several months to recover from offseason hip surgery and also dealt with a hamstring injury early last season. However, the Bills have some depth at cornerback to withstand any long-term blow.
  • It was another sharp day for quarterback EJ Manuel, who has been running against the scout team defense this week in practice. He went 11-for-15 in full-team drills, delivering his passes on-time and accurately on mostly shorter routes.
  • After Jeff Tuel received 26 snaps and Thad Lewis saw nine reps Tuesday, the two backup quarterbacks switched Wednesday. Lewis was the first to replace Manuel and finished practice with 25 snaps (compared to 33 for Manuel). Tuel had nine. Coaches are still giving both players a chance to win the backup job, but Tuel appears to be the front-runner. It wouldn't be surprising if he saw more reps Thursday.
  • Linebacker Stevenson Sylvester (torn patella) was placed on injured reserve, and cornerbacks Mario Butler (ankle) and Bobby Felder (groin), as well as safety Jonathan Meeks (neck) were held out of practice. Tight end Tony Moeaki (hamstring) continues to be limited; he spent team drills working with trainers on a side field.
  • The Bills will wrap up training camp at St. John Fisher College with a practice Thursday afternoon. They are off Friday before playing the Buccaneers on Saturday.
PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills placed linebacker Stevenson Sylvester on injured reserve Wednesday, the team announced.

Sylvester has a torn patella tendon in his left knee, per a source. He had been out of practice since Tuesday.

The fifth-year pro, who spent his first four seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers, was competing for a spot on the 53-man roster. He was among the candidates to replace linebacker Nigel Bradham in the starting lineup for Week 1, when Bradham will sit a one-game suspension.

The Bills may now turn to rookie Preston Brown alongside Brandon Spikes and Keith Rivers for that game.

Sylvester's injury also thins out the depth at linebacker, where the Bills have already lost Kiko Alonso (torn ACL) for the season.

No decision on Sammy Watkins' status

August, 20, 2014
Aug 20
PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- Buffalo Bills wide receiver Sammy Watkins (ribs) was limited in Wednesday's practice.

For a second consecutive day, Watkins was dressed in full pads but only participated in warm-up drills and stretching. Coach Doug Marrone said the Bills' medical staff hasn't made a decision on Watkins' status for Saturday's preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

"They told me they have not made a decision on him yet," Marrone said. "I'm kind of like you [reporters]. I ask the same questions."

Watkins watched team drills from the sideline Wednesday.


Bills Camp Report: Day 31

August, 19, 2014
Aug 19
PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Buffalo Bills training camp:
  • Sammy Watkins returned to practice in pads, although his participation was very limited. He took part in warm-up drills and stretching and then watched the remainder of practice from the sidelines. Watkins said afterwards that he could have practiced and could play in a game, but coach Doug Marrone took a more cautious route when speaking about Watkins' status for Saturday. The key is having Watkins healthy for the season opener, not the remainder of the preseason.
  • Marrone and quarterback EJ Manuel said after practice that it was more of a regular season-style practice. While there isn't likely much game planning for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Bills' first-team offense ran against a "scout team" defense that included mostly third-team defensive backs. It wasn't too surprising, then, that Manuel went 15-for-15 in full-team drills. Here's how his completions broke down: Marquise Goodwin (4), Scott Chandler (3), Robert Woods (2), Mike Williams (2), Fred Jackson (2), C.J. Spiller (1), and T.J. Graham (1). His second-to-last throw was a deep ball down the left sideline to Graham, while one of his completions to Goodwin and both of Williams' catches were more downfield throws. The rest were flares, hooks, and shorter crossing patterns.
  • Given it was a "regular season" practice, it wasn't surprising that Manuel took the first 11 snaps of team drills, followed by eight snaps from Jeff Tuel. That's an indication that Tuel could be the first backup after Manuel comes off the field Saturday. Overall, Manuel took 29 snaps, Tuel took 26, and Thad Lewis took one set of nine. After Lewis' rocky outing last weekend, it's not a stretch to say he's fallen behind Tuel in the race to be the No. 2 quarterback, which could put his roster spot on uneven footing.
  • Couple of roster moves from the Bills on Tuesday, as they waived wide receiver Kevin Elliott and offensive lineman Edawn Coughman to bring their roster to 88 players. It's likely the case of the Bills wanting to give both players a chance to hook on with another team before the end of the preseason. They were a notch above the inexperienced players on the bottom of the roster but not within range of making the 53-man roster.
  • Not practicing Tuesday: linebacker Stevenson Sylvester (knee), Mario Butler (ankle), Jonathan Meeks (neck), and Bobby Felder (groin). In addition, tight end Tony Moeaki seemed to be limited in team drills as he recovers from a hamstring injury.
  • The Bills will practice again Wednesday morning before wrapping up training camp Thursday afternoon.
PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- Speaking to reporters for the first time since May, Buffalo Bills defensive tackle Marcell Dareus said he has not yet spoken with the NFL about a possible suspension following two arrests this offseason.

"When I talk with them, when I hear with them, that’s when I’ll have a better understanding with what’s going on," Dareus said.

Dareus was arrested May 5 in Alabama on two felony drug possession charges. In July, he entered a pre-trial intervention program that could lead to those charges being dropped.

Additionally, Dareus was arrested May 30 in Hamburg, New York, after an alleged street race with teammate Jerry Hughes. He turned down a plea deal for misdemeanor charges and is next scheduled to appear in Hamburg Town Court on Sept. 9.

A spokesperson for the Bills said Dareus was unable to answer "legal" questions Tuesday.

Dareus failed his conditioning test upon reporting to training camp last month.

“With that whole issue, it wasn’t anything about the physical. It was just more mental for me," he said. "It was just a hurdle I had to get over. Mentally I got over it, got over everything else, so it was just when I did the conditioning test two days later -- I don’t know, getting in shape, finishing the conditioning test -- it was just a million things for me.

"And I got over it, moving forward, just ready to put everything I have into what we’re trying to do here.”
PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills took the Ice Bucket Challenge as a full team following Tuesday's practice, accepting a challenge from the New England Patriots last week.

Bills CEO Russ Brandon then turned the tables on ESPN NFL host Chris Berman.

"Nobody circles the wagons like Chris Berman," Brandon said.

PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- Buffalo Bills wide receiver Sammy Watkins (ribs) returned to practice Tuesday, taking part in individual drills before watching the remainder of practice from the sideline.

It was an apparent step forward for Watkins, who was in pads Tuesday after spending part of Monday's practice on an exercise bike.

"I'm fine, I could go out there and practice if I need to," Watkins said after Tuesday's practice. "But the thing is doing it without pain, but I could play a full game right now. It's just being safe."

Coach Doug Marrone did not indicate whether Watkins will play in Saturday's preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

"Obviously he wasn't fully cleared today," Marrone said. "I appreciate the player saying that, but I'm going to watch the tape and see what we see. We'll go from there. That's normally what we do with anyone."

Watkins said it was an "awkward hit" from Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier in last Saturday's preseason loss that led to him exiting the game with what the team initially called a rib contusion. He deferred his status for the Buccaneers game to Marrone.

"I don't know if I'm going to miss the game or not," Watkins said. "I might play and I might not, that's up to the coach."

C.J. Spiller latest on ESPN Top 100

August, 19, 2014
Aug 19
PM ET is ranking NFL players and counting them down (follow on Twitter @ESPNNFL) from No. 100 to No. 1 on both offense and defense, 10 per day for 10 days. The top 10 on both sides of the ball will be revealed Friday, Aug. 29.

The rankings were based off votes from 90 ESPN NFL experts.

After linebacker Brandon Spikes was unveiled as the No. 98 overall player on defense Monday, another Buffalo Bills player made the cut Tuesday. Running back C.J. Spiller was ranked No. 89 on offense.

It's a bit of a drop for Spiller, who came in at No. 58 last season. His total yards dropped from 1,703 in 2012 to 1,118 last season, although part of that was tied to his early-season ankle injury.

2014 Bills ESPN NFL Rank results:
LB Brandon Spikes -- No. 98 (defense)
RB C.J. Spiller -- No. 89 (offense)

2013 Bills ESPN NFL Rank results:
DT Marcell Dareus -- No. 100 (defense)
DT Kyle Williams -- No. 82 (defense)
WR Stevie Johnson -- No. 76 (offense)
RB C.J. Spiller -- No. 58 (offense)
DE Mario Williams -- No. 38 (defense)
S Jairus Byrd -- No. 26 (defense)
PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- As roster cut-down dates approach, one consideration when cutting ties with veteran players is their contracts.

The Buffalo Bills signed defensive tackle Alan Branch to a three-year extension last December, but he appears to be on the roster bubble as the preseason winds down. Branch skipped voluntary OTAs and then failed the conditioning test to begin training camp. He has played sparingly in the preseason, lining up late in the game alongside much younger players.

If the Bills were to release Branch, they essentially would be throwing away the $3.1 million signing bonus they paid him in December. However, that would be the extent of their financial hit from Branch.

Here is how his contract is structured:

2014 season:
Base salary: $1.8 million ($875k guaranteed for injury only)
Signing bonus proration: $775,000
Workout bonus: $100,000

2015 season:
Base salary: $1.7 million
Signing bonus proraton: $775,000
Roster bonus: $250,000 (if on roster fifth day of league year)
Workout bonus: $100,000

2016 season:
Base salary: $1.9 million
Signing bonus proration: $775,000
Roster bonus: $250,000 (if on roster fifth day of league year)
Workout bonus: $100,000

If Branch is released before Week 1, his base salaries from 2014-2016 would all vanish, as would his workout bonuses (since he wasn't at the facility this offseason, he likely did not receive that bonus). His roster bonuses in 2015 and 2016 would also be null.

The only charge against the Bills' cap this season would be his $775,000 signing bonus proration. Since the release would fall after June 1, his 2015 and 2016 signing bonus prorations would count against the 2015 cap, so the Bills would have $1.55 million in "dead money" next season.

Overall, the Bills would free up $1.9 million against their cap this season by releasing Branch.

Bills Camp Report: Day 30

August, 18, 2014
Aug 18
PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Buffalo Bills training camp:
  • Day 30? Wow. The NFL's longest training camp rolled on with a night practice Monday. The biggest news was the absence of wide receiver Sammy Watkins, who rode an exercise bike at one point during practice and watched from the sidelines later. Before practice, Bills coach Doug Marrone did not reveal the results of X-rays on Watkins' ribs and declined to give a timetable on his return. While the team officially said Watkins had a "rib contusion" after Saturday's game, they are now simply calling it a "rib injury."
  • There was plenty of shifting on the offensive line as left tackle Cordy Glenn returned to team drills for the first time. That had a trickle-down effect on the rest of the line, with Seantrel Henderson moving to first-team right tackle and Erik Pears moving to right guard. In our view, that puts the Bills' best five offensive linemen on the field. Kraig Urbik, who started at right guard last season, was the second-team center, flanked by Doug Legursky and Cyril Richardson at guard. That could lead to a battle between Urbik and Legursky to crack the 53-man roster.
  • More shifting came in the secondary. Leodis McKelvin participated in team drills, lining up across from Stephon Gilmore in what will be the Bills' opening-day look. Nickell Robey remained the slot cornerback, with Corey Graham moving to safety. The Bills tried different combinations at safety, mixing Aaron Williams with Graham, Duke Williams, and Da'Norris Searcy. The Bills said in the spring that Graham could see time at safety and it may finally be coming to fruition.
  • Marcell Dareus did not take part in team drills Monday. In his place, the Bills used a combination of Landon Cohen, Corbin Bryant, and Stefan Charles. They're likely looking for the best options to back up Dareus and Kyle Williams. It's possible that the Bills keep all three of those reserve options on the roster, although they could choose two of the three and move on from the third. As for Dareus, Marrone briefly came over to the sideline later in practice to talk to Dareus, prodding at his left elbow as if it were injured. Something to monitor.
  • On the heels of his 77 percent completion rate in Thursday's practice, EJ Manuel topped it with an 81 percent night Monday. He went 17-for-21 in team drills, completing four passes to Fred Jackson, four to Robert Woods, three to C.J. Spiller, and one to Mike Williams. Nothing was too deep -- it was a heavy dose of short hooks and flare passes to the running backs -- but his accuracy was on point and he didn't throw any interceptions. It was a good night of practice for Manuel, without Watkins.
  • The Bills will be back on the practice field Tuesday afternoon. They'll practice again Wednesday and Thursday before breaking camp.
Spikes is ranking NFL players and counting them down (follow on Twitter @ESPNNFL) from No. 100 to No. 1 on both offense and defense, 10 per day for 10 days. The top 10 on both sides of the ball will be revealed Friday, Aug. 29.

The rankings were based off votes from 85 ESPN NFL experts.

The first Buffalo Bills player to land on the Top 100 list is linebacker Brandon Spikes, who came in at No. 98 on defense with an average score of 6.25 (on a scale from 1-to-10).

Spikes, a newcomer to the Bills this season, wasn't ranked last season.

2014 Bills ESPN NFL Rank results:
LB Brandon Spikes -- No. 98 (defense)

2013 Bills ESPN NFL Rank results:
DT Marcell Dareus -- No. 100 (defense)
DT Kyle Williams -- No. 82 (defense)
WR Stevie Johnson -- No. 76 (offense)
RB C.J. Spiller -- No. 58 (offense)
DE Mario Williams -- No. 38 (defense)
S Jairus Byrd -- No. 26 (defense)