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Friday, July 30, 2010
Wood has a blast on first day of Bills camp

By Tim Graham

PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- A goofy smile came over Eric Wood's cherub face.

Wood, the Buffalo Bills right guard who's returning from a Joe Theismannesque broken leg, got rolled up by a teammate in Thursday's training-camp opener.

Wood
Eric Wood has recovered from the leg injury that sidelined him in Week 10 of the 2009 season.
And it felt so good -- because Wood didn't feel a thing.

Wood's unsure who piled into him from behind on the first play of a nine-on-seven, inside run drill.

"I don't know if anyone was nervous, but a couple guys helped me up," Wood said. "It was kind of funny when I hopped up. Somebody said 'Well, that's it. Now you're good.' "

For Wood, it was a major mental milestone in his recovery. New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady went through a similar process last preseason, when he announced he was looking forward to getting whomped for the first time since his 2008 knee surgery.

"A lot of these guys have been really sympathetic of me and my injury the past couple of months," Wood said. "Now I'm just a football player again. I'm a teammate. I'm going against defensive linemen that are giving me full looks.

"Nobody's going to baby me. Nobody cares now. No one in the AFC East cares that I broke my leg. That's the way I've got to approach it, too."

Wood was the second of Buffalo's two first-round draft choices last year. The Bills obtained the 28th pick from the Philadelphia Eagles in the trade for Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters.

The Bills moved Wood, one of the top two centers in the draft, to right guard. He was having a fine season until Jacksonville Jaguars defensive tackle Montavious Stanley -- now with the Miami Dolphins -- inadvertently rolled into Wood's lower left leg while trying to sack Ryan Fitzpatrick in Week 10.

Wood's tibia and fibula snapped in a sickening way. He has a titanium rod and four screws in his tibia. He spent the first month of his recovery in a wheelchair then graduated to a walking boot before he could take -- gingerly -- his first running stride.

"He's had to come a long way, and that tells you a lot about Eric Wood's makeup," Bills coach Chan Gailey said. "He would have been out earlier if he could've. He's proven to be a fast healer. He's able to push throughout the tough times, which a lot of guys are not able to do. He's made an amazing recovery, and we're the benefactors of that."

Wood's goal is to take every first-team snap throughout camp but added the Bills want to be cautious with him. He noted Friday "will be a big morning. We'll see how I feel. If it's sore, we'll probably hold off because we have a lot of time before Miami" in the regular-season opener.

Wood guessed he's a half-step slower than he was before the injury but claimed he's a better football player, more mature, more aware.

He insisted heavy reps are the only way to get back to where he was last year.

"It's a violent game," Wood said, "and playing O-line or D-line in the league, there's nothing I can do in the weight room to replicate hitting Marcus Stroud. He's 300-some pounds, has long arms and you have to push as long as you possibly can for five seconds or the duration of the play.

"Just getting out here and working is good."