Monday, March 28, 2011
Newton in Buffalo; Ponder, Gabbert next
By Tim Graham
BUFFALO -- Cam Newton is in town to meet with the Buffalo Bills, but not before general manager Buddy Nix and head coach Chan Gailey spoke at a "State of the Bills" event for season-ticket holders at the Hyatt Regency downtown.
Nix revealed that the Bills will host Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert and Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder at One Bills Drive. No other quarterbacks have been scheduled, but Nix did say they've accounted for only 25 of their 30 allowable on-campus meetings.
"We might bring in a couple more," Nix said.
Nix admitted quarterback wasn't Buffalo's greatest need because they have reliable veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick. Even so, that doesn't mean there wouldn't be a monster payoff to picking up a future star.
Auburn quarterback Cameron Newton will be a consideration for the Bills, who hold the No. 3 overall pick in April.
"I think we've got a lot of needs," Nix told reporters after addressing the fans. "Let me just say this to you -- and try not to read anything into this and try not to connect the dots, now -- but if you wait until you do not have a quarterback to draft one, you're too late.
"Now our greatest need is not quarterback. It's definitely not quarterback. Invariably, if there's going to be a franchise guy there and one we deem as a guy that can go eight or 10 years, be the face of the organization and take us to the playoffs and win every year, you can't pass him up."
Gailey said he will be completely frank about Buffalo's quarterback situation when he speaks with Newton on Monday night and Tuesday. The visit will begin with a physical and then include meetings with the Bills' staff.
"I lay everything on the table with guys when they walk in here," Gailey said. "I try to get them to understand exactly who we are, what we're about, where we're going and how we plan to get there. And if we end up working together, this is how they might fit into the scheme and into the system."
The Bills also met with Newton at the NFL scouting combine in late February and had dinner with him the night before his March 8 pro day at Auburn.
Other notes from Monday night's event:
Bills chief executive officer Russ Brandon said new season tickets and renews were selling better than at this time last year.
Brandon reaffirmed the team's commitment to playing games in Toronto, stating their season-ticket base from Southern Ontario has grown 44 percent since the Bills started playing games there in 2008. The Bills are making $78 million off the series, which runs through 2012. Brandon suggested the Bills would be interested in extending after it expires.
Brandon conceded if a new collective bargaining agreement hasn't been hammered out by late June or July, then training camp at St. John Fisher College "could be in peril" because of the "operational and logistical" elements that must be addressed ahead of time.
Nix on talking about the draft at this time of year: "I want to make one thing clear. There's an unwritten rule that it's not a sin to tell a lie during pre-draft stuff. Everybody does it. It's accepted. So everything you hear or read or see, you need to keep in mind that about 10 percent of it's the truth."
Gailey on how he views himself: "I'm not very flamboyant. That's just not me. I'm not a comedian. I'm not a theologian. I'm not a philosopher. I just coach football. I want to coach your football team and get us to where we want to be, and that's be champions again and have things rocking and rolling out at Ralph Wilson Stadium."
Nix was pleased with in-season additions of offensive linemen Erik Pears, Mansfield Wrotto, Kraig Urbik and Chad Rinehart. Nix said Pears, a two-year starter for the Denver Broncos, could be the Bills' next right tackle, but added, "We also need another tackle. We need a tackle through the draft or through free agency -- if and when that happens."
Gailey reiterated the Bills will play a hybrid defense rather than a straight 3-4 or a 4-3. Nix noted his scouting department is focused on 3-4 players, but will not dismiss a player simply because he's not a perfect fit.
Nix will attend North Carolina's pro day Thursday to see defensive end Robert Quinn and Clemson's pro day Friday to check out defensive end Da'Quan Bowers, who reportedly has failed physicals because he hasn't recovered enough from knee surgery.
Nix on Bowers' workout: "It's big for him. I'm not sure that you'd write him off if he's not completely healthy Friday. But it's time for him to show he either is healthy or that he needs more work and more time."