Tuesday, April 2, 2013
DE Williams upbeat arriving for Bills workouts
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Defensive end Mario Williams arrived for the start of the Buffalo Bills offseason voluntary workouts Tuesday pleased to learn he'll have one less burden to lug around this season.
The Bills are finally entering the digital age after each player was presented a brand new iPad, which will store the team's hefty playbook.
"It's pretty neat," Williams said. "You don't have to carry that big book around."
More intriguing for Williams is what that game plan will resemble with Mike Pettine taking over as defensive coordinator.
As part of rookie coach Doug Marrone's new staff, Pettine's preparing to bring to Buffalo the aggressive approach he was known for running during his previous four seasons with the New York Jets.
"He definitely has a very outstanding resume," Williams said. "I'm up for anything, anything that's going to put us in a better position to go out and be successful, and change our defense and get us in the right direction."
And if that wasn't enough, Williams learned shortly after finishing his workout that the Bills added depth to their defense by signing versatile free-agent lineman Alan Branch to a one-year contract.
"I'm excited," Williams said. "More power to us."
Williams has much to prove after failing to play to the high expectations he raised after signing a six-year, $100 million contract in free agency a year ago.
Hampered by a sprained left wrist that required surgery in October, he finished with a team-leading 10½ sacks. But he was part of a defense that was among the NFL's worst and contributed to the 6-10 finish that led to Chan Gailey being fired.
Chalking up last season's struggles to a "learning experience," Williams dismissed the perception that Buffalo finds itself in the midst of another offseason of transition.
"Everybody else is saying, `Ah, it's the same old Bills," Williams said. "We've all been down the road. This is definitely not a rebuilding season."
The Bills are an unknown quantity under Marrone, who was hired after spending four seasons turning around Syracuse's struggling football program.
On Tuesday, Marrone got a chance to address his new players in person for the first time since he was hired in January.
"It kind of reminds me of that first day of kindergarten a little bit," Marrone said. "When you go into that room, you're not really sure what it's going to be like."
After spelling out his ABCs to the players, Marrone was short on providing details on the status of Buffalo's QBs.
He declined to talk about the addition of free-agent quarterback Kevin Kolb because the sixth-year player had not yet officially signed a two-year contract he reached on Saturday. Numerous media outlets, including The Associated Press, reported the former Arizona Cardinals starter had agreed to a deal with Buffalo.
Though it's unclear when Kolb will sign, he will be competing with Tarvaris Jackson for the starting job that was left vacant after Buffalo released Ryan Fitzpatrick last month.
"Whoever comes in, what we're looking for is competition at that position," Marrone said. "And then at the end of the day we'll be able to make a decision on who gives us the best chance to win now."
Numerous Bills players credited Marrone and his staff for making a good first impression by having an upbeat approach.
"Yeah, there's a lot of excitement around here," center Eric Wood said. "First day back there is always going to be some new energy, but coach's enthusiasm, a lot of the vets back from Day 1, there's a lot of positive energy around here."
Also not lost among the players were a few cosmetic additions to the team's fieldhouse. The Bills, who haven't made the playoffs since 1999, have hung large banners on the walls of each end zone celebrating their four AFC championships and two AFL titles.
There's also a 20-foot poster of the Lombardi Trophy attached to one wall.
"I like it. A lot of Super Bowl aspirations," Wood said. "That's a good message to have around."
NOTES: Branch, listed at 6-foot-6 and 325 pounds, is entering his seventh NFL season after spending the past two as a starter in Seattle. He played four seasons in Arizona after being selected 33rd overall by the Cardinals in the 2007 draft. ... Last year, Gailey was intending to have the playbook stored on iPads for this season because the NFL was switching its game video to high definition. ... On Tuesday morning, Buffalo re-signed backup running back Tashard Choice, and tight end Dorin Dickerson has accepted the team's tendered contract offer.